RABIES PREVENTION policies in the UK - including pets' passports and six-month quarantine - are to be reviewed.
Since 2000, dogs and cats have been allowed to enter the country under the PETS Travel Scheme without quarantine, provided certain conditions are met.
But ministers are under pressure to relax controls further by 2008 to come into line with the rest of the EU.
The UK has been rabies-free for decades and the disease has been virtually eradicated from pre-2004 EU member states.
The Department for Food Rural Affairs and Agriculture (DEFRA) said it believed quarantine for most rabies-susceptible animals was still the best and cheapest way to deal with the rabies threat in the UK.
It said potential EU-driven changes would make it much easier for animals from high-risk third world countries to enter the UK without quarantine.
But the UK would still need a strong argument to retain a different approach to the disease to other EU member states.
And its import controls should be proportionate, balanced and based on risk assessments and scientific evidence.
All options - including whether the UK should concentrate on containing any disease outbreaks rather than preventing their introduction - will be considered during the two-month review period.
DEFRA has written to interested parties, providing them with an opportunity to comment on and influence the future direction of policy.
Animal Health and Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "It is now over five years since the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme which allows pet dogs and cats to enter the UK without quarantine, if certain conditions are met.
"Now is a sensible time to take stock of our experience under the scheme, and ensure that our rabies controls for pets and other rabies-susceptible animals are proportionate and sustainable."