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‘Missing’ microchip costs dog’s owners
£1000 quarantine!


A DACHSHUND was quarantined for three weeks at a cost of almost £1,000 because a scanner failed to read the pet’s identification microchip on returning from a holiday in Europe.

Jennie and Hugh Godfrey, who are planning to sue the manufacturers, related how the authorities in Dover said that their seven-year-old dog, Cleo, would have to be taken off the boat into quarantine after its ID number could not be read.

Mrs Godfrey, of Stowlangtoft, Suffolk, thought that she had the red tape involved in taking pets abroad under the PETS Travel Scheme sewn up when she returned from a Continental holiday last month.

“We have been to Europe under the pets passport scheme at least 10 times and have never had any trouble until our last trip,” she said. “When the authorities at Calais failed to read the chip, we had to get an emergency import licence to return to Britain.”

The Godfreys and their pet waited at the docks for more than four hours while paperwork and telephone calls were exchanged. On arrival at Dover, Cleo was taken into quarantine and stayed there for three weeks while the microchip problem was resolved.

The microchip, supplied by Animal Care Ltd of York, had to be taken out of the dog and sent to the manufacturers in Spain to be unscrambled and read. In the meantime, the Godfreys visited Cleo in quarantine at kennels in Mildenhall, Suffolk, at least once a week.

“I had never been parted from my dog and she had never been in kennels in her life before,” said Mrs Godfrey. “Three weeks on, and luckily the numbers were readable and I am now reunited with my Cleo. But this has cost me nearly £1,000 and if I don’t get the money back for my aggravation and trouble, I will sue the manufacturers.”

Mrs Godfrey said she contacted Passports for Pets, the organisation that campaigned to abolish Britain’s strict quarantine laws, but because she was not a member, she claimed the organisation refused to help her.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the incidence of faulty chips was rare and had “hardly ever” happened before. “If they can’t scan the chip, they have to find a way of checking it.”Andy Pound, the marketing manager at Animal Care, whose company has sold 1.2 million chips, said the case was a “very rare occurrence”.

Faulty

Last year the same kind of problem was highlighted with the case of ‘Harvey’, an eight year-old Dalmatian whose chip was found to be faulty. However, in Harvey’s case, the fault was discovered before Harveys owners James Handley and his French-born wife Joelle of Godalming, Surrey travelled. The couple had a microchip inserted by local vet Philip Underwood in September 2000, in order that the dog could accompany his owners on trips to France.

However, in February 2001, when Harvey attended the vets to be treated for lameness, Mr Underwood conducted a routine scan to show the Handley’s how effective the microchip was, only to find there was no reading on the scanner. Two other scanners also failed to show a reading.

Fearing that the microchip may have migrated in the dog’s body, Mr Underwood x-rayed Harvey, but found that the chip - a Swiss-made ‘Tracer’ marketed by the Bayer animal health company - was still in place between the dog’s shoulder blades.

Mr Handley immediately contacted the Ministry of Agriculture who insisted that Harvey should be fitted with another microchip, but also re-vaccinated and blood tested to comply with the scheme. Bayer agreed to pay the costs of the procedure.

Bobby Flight, a product manager for Bayer confirmed that Harvey’s chip had failed but made the rather bizarre claim that it had been damaged by a heavy blow - even though Harvey showed no signs of injury.

The Pet Travel Scheme has proved its popularity amongst pet owners beyond all doubt. In the first 11 months of the pilot scheme more than 12,500 cats and dogs have entered the UK under PETS and this number increased markedly in the year ahead, especially when the scheme was extended last year to cover other parts of the world, including Australia and Japan. A significant proportion of the animals entering the UK are, in fact, owned by UK residents, and have accompanied their owners on trips - mainly holidays - abroad.

Failure

There have been few problems reported with the scheme. The largest failure rate for animals entering the UK - currently somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent - is due to incorrect documentation, or the failure and/or loss of microchips.

As around 400 British pedigree dogs are set to compete in shows overseas in the coming weekend, utilising the PETS scheme for travel, owners are being urged to ensure that their dogs’ microchips are functioning correctly by undergoing regular test scans.