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Quarantine in the United Kingdom

‘Your papers please sir.’ This dog stretches his legs amongst the cargo
whilst his carrying agent checks everything is above board.

In February 2000 the entire world of quarantine as we knew it in the UK changed. This was brought about by the introduction of the Pet Passport Scheme which allowed pets to enter the UK without going into quarantine, provided they complied with the travel scheme requirements.

Within a very short time of the scheme beginning, the number of animals coming into full quarantine dropped considerably. This resulted in many of the large quarantine kennels either reducing in size or closing completely. However, even taking into account the large numbers of animals travelling under the auspices of the Pet Passport Scheme, there is still a need for a certain amount of animals to be quarantined because they come from countries which are not approved under the Schemes regulations.

The procedure can be very complex for an owner to do themselves, however, most quarantine owners are happy to assist in completing the paper work. The first thing an owner should do is select the quarantine kennel they wish to use. Having done that, telephone, fax or email the kennel to check on availability. I would strongly advise anyone that either they or a person acting on their behalf then visit the kennel to ensure they are satisfied with the facilities available for their pet. If you visit the quarantine facility yourself, much of the paper work can be completed at that time. Most kennels will require a deposit to secure the booking. This will vary from one kennel to another.

You will be asked to complete a form relating to the import of your pet. This form requires, amongst other things, a full description of the pet and also the overseas address to which the permit will be sent. Most quarantine kennels will submit this application on your behalf.

The permit comprises two parts:

1) The boarding document and the red label which must travel with the pet. This is sent to the overseas address and the airline or ferry company will need sight of this before the pet is allowed to travel.

2) The import document which has to be presented to customs in the UK upon arrival. This document is sent directly to the authorised quarantine carrying agent, which is usually the quarantine kennel which will be looking after the animal.

There are other forms which need to be completed if the animal is arriving from outside the EU. First, a Customs C.S form declaring the value of the animal, how long you have owned it etc. This goes, with the import document, to customs for clearance by them. Most kennels will require you to read and sign an acceptance of their conditions and terms.

If you own up to three animals which you wish to share a kennel, you will be asked to complete a sharing certificate. This also has to be countersigned by the veterinary superintendent of the quarantine kennels.

The carrying agent (this is the agent whose vehicles have been licensed to carry animals governed by quarantine regulations) has to complete a form guaranteeing that the animal will be carried to the kennels under quarantine regulations. Once all the above procedures have been completed it should not be long before you receive all your paper work.

When the quarantine kennels have received all the required forms, they will send them to whichever handling agent they use at the port or airport of entry ready for when the animal arrives. With regard to the arrivals procedure, advance notice must be given to advise the time and date of arrival i.e. the flight number or ferry company. If the animal is travelling by air, an airway bill number must be supplied. To simplify this, a ticket number is given to any animal travelling as cargo. Under existing quarantine regulations, you are not allowed to bring a dog into the UK as excess luggage.

On arrival in the UK, the carrying agent will collect the animal from the airport or port of entry. If the animal is being collected from a ferry, the owner will be asked to stay on board. The carrying agent will drive onto the boat to collect the animal. If arriving at the airport, the procedure is very different. A clearance release note has to be obtained from the airline by the carrying agent. It can sometimes be several hours before this release note is obtained.

If the animal has had a very long journey, it will automatically be placed in the Animal Reception Centre (ARC) at the airport. This allows the animal to be let out of its crate whilst awaiting clearance. The carrying agent will then collect the animal from there. However, there is quite a substantial charge for this service which has to be paid for by the owner. Very occasionally, if the crate is considered to be too small or if the animal is showing signs of distress, the animal may be sent to the ARC and the same charges will apply.

When the animal arrives at the quarantine kennel, it is examined by the veterinary superintendent. This is a veterinary surgeon who is authorised by the Ministry to supervise the kennel by carrying out visits on 6 days of every week. On arrival at the kennel, the animal is given a rabies vaccination, a health examination, weighed, wormed and sprayed.

However, there is an exception, and this, I’m afraid, could cause confusion. If, for example, a dog has started its pet passport but still has several weeks or months to complete the full passport, it may come into quarantine for the remaining time. It would enter in exactly the same way as a dog under full quarantine but it would not be required to have another rabies vaccination provided the blood test result was at an acceptable level. The Ministry would issue and early release form, giving the date of release as earlier than the full six months.

Many people whose pets comply with the pet passport regulations, who cannot go to collect, or travel with their pet, will book their pet into a quarantine kennel. The pet is collected under quarantine regulations by the carrier and taken to the kennels. Once there, the ‘tick and tape’ treatment is administered by the vet. This would not be done if the treatment had been carried out prior to the animal travelling to this country. All paper work is then submitted to the Ministry for authorisation to release the animal. This authorisation is usually completed within 24 hours.

Visiting hours for pets in quarantine varies from kennel to kennel and you must establish the visiting times when making your booking. Many people ask, “How often should I visit?” My answer is always to the effect of what best suits your pet but I do ask that, whatever you decide, make sure the visit is regular. Do not visit every day but then decide to have a holiday. It is far better for the pet if you visit once a week or even once a fortnight. The important thing for your pet is consistency.

I know it seems very hard for a pet to be confined for six months but believe me, and I speak from many years of experience, you suffer far more than your pet does. Pets love routine and, provided your quarantine kennel staff practices this, your pet should have no problems during its stay in their care.

So, in conclusion, whether your pet has to undergo the full six months confinement or just a few days or weeks, remember to prepare well in advance thus giving your pet the opportunity to stay in accommodation which is not only suitable for him or her but convenient and satisfactory for you.

Quarantine is still a legal requirement at the moment so any pet that does not qualify for the Pet Passport Scheme must serve six months in quarantine.