To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment she has made of the prevalence of rabies in puppies imported from Eastern Europe using false documents; and what steps she is taking to tackle the risks posed by such illegal importation.
12 October 2015
There has been no EU Member State to EU Member State transmission of rabies by any pet moved either legally or illegally since the EU pet travel scheme began in 2004. Over the last 20 years the level of rabies across the EU has decreased dramatically through targeted vaccination campaigns. This has resulted in many EU countries becoming free, or nearly free, of the disease.
We take the illegal importation of animals, including dogs and puppies, very seriously. We are aware that some unscrupulous individuals are importing pet animals, particularly puppies, under the cover of the EU pet travel scheme but with the intention of selling them on arrival in the UK. Our actions to tackle this illegal trade are focused on three areas which taken together are helping to address the supply of, and demand for, these puppies.
Firstly, responsibility for stopping the illegal movement of puppies begins in the country where they are born, where the authorities have a duty to ensure that the welfare of pets intended for sale is safeguarded and that EU pet passports are issued correctly. Where there is evidence that veterinarians in other Member States are prepared to falsify pet travel documentation, the UK Chief Veterinary Officer will raise this with officials in the country concerned as well as the European Commission. Intelligence collected in the UK by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, local authorities and animal welfare organisations has resulted in investigations in other EU countries and action has been taken where individuals have been found to be at fault.
Secondly, we will maintain effective border controls. The UK carries out more checks on pets at the border than most other EU Member States and stringent penalties are in place for breaking the rules.
Thirdly, the illegal trade is driven by demand for cheap pedigree puppies. We have published guidance on the steps pet owners can take to avoid buying an illegally imported pet: https://www.gov.uk/buying-a-cat-or-dog. We are also working with the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, which has developed minimum standards for online pet advertisers that have led to the removal of over 130,000 problematic adverts in the last year.