The way forward!
Nick Brown unlocks new Quarantine rules
A major overhaul of Britains quarantine laws was announced today by Agriculture Minister Nick Brown who said a pilot vaccination-based scheme would be introduced within 12 months.
The announcement follows a report by a panel of experts last September and overwhelming public support for change in the consultation which followed. Under the new system, pets vaccinated against rabies and meeting certain other conditions could travel freely to and from Britain, the EU and other specified rabies free countries. Quarantine would remain for animals from other countries. Checks on the pets would be carried out by ferry companies, train operators and airlines, under government supervision. The new system will be introduced fully within two years.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Brown said:
- "When we came to office, we saw that the quarantine laws were in need of review. Since the quarantine system began nearly 100 years ago, veterinary science has advanced, and travel patterns have changed. To provide a modern response to these challenges, my predecessor, the Rt Hon Member for Copeland, set up an expert Group, chaired by Professor Ian Kennedy of University College London, to look at whether we should modernise the system.
- "Professor Kennedys Group reported in September 1998. It recommended radical changes. The Government said that it was sympathetic to change, and sought views from the public.
- "There has been a big response to the Governments consultation letter. The overwhelming majority of the more than 3,700 replies supported the Kennedy proposals. I am placing a list of the respondents, and a summary of responses, in the Library of the House.
- "The Government believes that, in the light of the Kennedy Groups analysis, it is desirable to move as quickly as possible to a system under which dogs and cats coming from European Union and certain other European countries, and rabies-free islands could enter the UK without quarantine. The system would also cover UK resident dogs and cats which had been abroad temporarily in these countries. Pets from other countries would continue to be subject to quarantine, although we are looking again at the position for the USA and Canada as recommended by Professor Kennedy. The responses to our consultation have shown that most people would support change on these lines.
- "Our objective is to bring new arrangements into operation throughout the United Kingdom by April 2001. This respects the Kennedy Group recommendation that there should be a sufficient lead in time to allow a smooth and orderly transition to new arrangements. We also plan to launch a pilot scheme - or pilot schemes - within the next twelve months.
- "I remain determined that the UK should be properly protected against rabies. The new arrangements are being designed with this in the forefront of our minds.
- "We are pushing ahead with the technical work necessary to put an alternative to quarantine in place. We have approached other countries about providing the necessary health certificates for dogs and cats, and which islands outside Europe we could safely regard as rabies free. We are pressing for international standardisation of rabies blood tests and have invited laboratories in Europe to participate in a testing scheme.
- "Essentially, the plan is as recommended by Kennedy. Animals resident in a qualifying country and whose owners want them to travel, will need to have been:
- microchipped with an electronic chip
- vaccinated against rabies using an inactivated vaccine
- blood tested at an approved laboratory
- issued with an official health certificate recording details of the animal, its chip, its vaccination and its blood test; and treated against exotic infections not present in the UK
- "Transport operators are being asked to carry out pre-entry checks on pets to ensure that they meet these conditions. There will also be random spot checks on animals after they arrive in the UK.
- "We are looking at the practicalities of identifying pets by means of electronic microchipping. Department of Health experts are considering what measures need to be taken against certain dog and cat parasites exotic to the UK, which can infect humans or transmit infections to humans.
- "The new arrangements for checking dogs and cats whose owners wish to bring them into the UK from abroad will have a cost. The Government believes that in principle this cost should be met by pet owners, as the cost of quarantine is now.
- "We believe the way forward is for ferry companies, train operators and airlines to carry out pre-entry checks on pets. The Government would approve companies transporting pets and would audit and inspect their operations to ensure that the pre-entry checks continue to be carried out properly and with 100% coverage. These arrangements could in principle be put into effect by means of a Statutory Instrument.
- "There will be no compulsion on transport operators to carry pets under the new arrangements. We believe that many will want to take up this opportunity to provide a new service to their customers. We have begun discussions with the companies and trade associations concerned. We shall in addition make a thorough assessment of the legal and practical aspects and the impact on business. The new schemes will be required to provide a level of protection against rabies which matches that of the current quarantine system.
- "There is still work to be done to make sure that the new system will operate smoothly. We are now set on a course to implement Kennedy-style arrangements, and hope to have pilot schemes in place within 12 months. As soon as the specific arrangements for these schemes have been established, I will report again to the House, because I know there is a high level of interest in this subject."
- The responses to the consultation letter may be examined in:
- Ministry Library
- 3 Whitehall Place
- LONDON SW1
- For the background to this see the earlier MAFF press release.