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(updated 2/2/01)

French hotel cashes in on pet passports!

A FRENCH hotel has increased business by offering British animal lovers a bed, breakfast and vet package to help to cut pet passport red tape.

Managers at the Copthorne Hotel in Calais cheefully say they will have every reason to celebrate on the first anniversary of the pet passports scheme next month. Business is booming thanks to the hotel’s “doggie service” and the bureaucratic obstacles that have infuriated British anti-quarantine campaigners.
When guests arrive at the hotel, a vet is waiting, ready to administer tick and tapeworm treatments and fill in forms. Thierry Alexandri, the hotel’s manager, said: “For us, it’s great. It’s a market niche that we didn’t have before.” Mr Alexandri said that bookings at the Copthorne had risen by up to 20 a month since the scheme began. Pet passports replaced quarantine for dogs and cats entering Britain from much of Europe last year. On Wednesday it will be expanded to cover entry from 28 rabies-free islands.
Mr Alexandri said that the regulations insist on treatment for ticks and tapeworm within a strict ‘window’ of between 24 hours and 48 hours before travel to Britain. Guests therefore book in to the hotel because they want to avoid having their animals treated at a distant holiday resort and then having to dash to reach Calais to meet the 24-48 hour deadline.

Some pet owners arrive at the hotel at short notice after being turned away from ferry and Channel Tunnel terminals. Although they have ensured that their dog or cat has received all the right treatments, their paperwork is considered to be unsatisfactory. Many foreign vets who are unfamiliar with pet passports fail to use the correct certificate of treatment and write on headed notepaper instead.
John Noulton, the director of public affairs at Eurotunnel, said that almost 2,000 Shuttle customers had been caught out in this way. He said: “They have to go into Calais to a vet. The Calais vet doesn’t treat the animal in any way. The details of the treatment are just copied onto the proper form.”

He said: “Then the customers return and we let them in. Meanwhile they have missed their departure and are mystified that they have been put to this inconvenience. That is the blemish on an otherwise very popular scheme. It would be difficult to think of a more convoluted arrangement. Each country has its own slight variant on the official certificate.”

He said: “I don’t know why MAFF [The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food] doesn’t have one single, multilingual form that can be picked up from your vet before you go abroad - or they should let us accept forms on vet’s letter heading.”

A ministry spokesman said the latest figures showed that more than 14,500 animals have entered Britain on pet passports. The figures proved that the scheme worked, she said, adding that the 24-48 hour window and certificates were important public health safeguards.