Bichon detained after World Show
A TOP winning Bichon Frise which competed at the recent World Dog Show in Sweden was unexpectedly slammed into quarantine by DEFRA officials upon his arrival back in the UK, despite possessing a valid Pet Passport, much to the horror of his distraught owner.
The reason given for this action was that the dog’s microchip had been replaced by the owner’s vet after his anti-rabies blood test, and the details did not tally with DEFRA‘s records, which meant that the whole anti-rabies vaccination and blood testing process would have to be taken again! DEFRA also refused to accept the dog’s tattoo registration number as valid proof of his identity, as they do not recognise British tattoos as valid proof of identification.
Pauline John’s Bichon, Ch Manoir’s Shot In The Dark JW, (Bullet), is just under two years of age but has had a phenomenally successful show career. He has already been awarded his UK Championship, winning six CC’s, five Best of Breeds, a Group placement, CAC at the World Dog Show Stockholm, CAC at the Swedish Toy Dog Association, and is currently the top winning Bichon in the UK this year.
Bullet was prepared for possible travel overseas some months ago; he was microchipped and then vaccinated against rabies as required for his Pet Passport under the PETS Travel Scheme. When he returned to the vet for his titre blood test five weeks later, despite an extensive examination by the vet, his microchip could not be found. He was re-microchipped by the vet.
Seven months later, Pauline decided to enter Bullet into the World Dog Show in Stockholm. He underwent a second blood test to comply with Swedish animal entry requirements and this too was successful. As far as Pauline and her husband were concerned, everything was correct in place for Bullet to enter Sweden and return to the UK.
Pauline takes up the story: ‘After the World Show we drove happily back to Calais, proudly sporting the two CAC’s that Bullet had won. At Animal Control we were shocked to be told that his Passport was not in order. It never occurred to us that, if a microchip goes missing, a dog should be vaccinated again albeit only five weeks after receiving the original rabies vaccine! We knew of a Finnish Bichon whose microchip was discovered to be missing at Animal Control in Calais: his Finnish ear tattoo was accepted as evidence of ID and he was even re-microchipped in France before continuing his journey into the UK to compete at Crufts.
‘In view of this we pointed out that Bullet has a clear and legible tattoo, with the number recorded in his Passport in the allocated space. Our vet faxed to DEFRA all his paperwork referring to his Pet Passport process, including the number of the missing microchip. We were able to provide his KC Registration with his tattoo number recorded on it. This documentation cross-referenced my dog’s identity to his current microchip, vaccination and blood tests.
‘We were shocked to be told that a British tattoo is not recognised by DEFRA,’ continued Pauline. ‘To add insult to injury, if he had a tattoo from France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark or Poland my dog would have been free to come home, but British tattoos, put in place by the UK’s own National Dog Tattoo Register are not accepted by the UK authorities! I was distraught when DEFRA pronounced that Bullet would have to go into quarantine.
‘I accept that a strict process should be followed provided that there are no flaws in that process. Microchips are flawed as we learned to our peril.’
Thankfully, Pauline was given some leeway in choosing which kennels Bullet would be quarantined in, so her immediate choice for was Ryslip Kennels owned by Liz Cartledge. The journey back to the UK for Pauline was harrowing, particularly at the moment when she had to place her dog into a secure cage in a van before she and her husband were allowed to drive off the ferry.
Three days after his arrival in the UK, Liz Cartledge and her staff examined all Bullet’s paperwork and expected him to be released the next day as common sense told them that, based on all the evidence, there was no doubt of the dog’s identity, and no question of him being a rabies risk. However, she was as shocked as Pauline to be told that DEFRA would not change their decision. Bullet was given another rabies vaccination - even though both titre tests taken previously proved he was already vaccinated.
Pauline adds: ‘My vet was advised by DEFRA that I could make an ‘unofficial’ appeal on the grounds that Bullet could be deemed by a DEFRA vet to be totally clear of rabies. Logically and medically he had to be; his implanted microchip linked to his titre blood tests proved beyond doubt that he had been vaccinated successfully so we were once again hopeful. Their promised 24 hour decision took 3 days.’
When the long-awaited answer finally came back from DEFRA’s Animal Health agency’s Divisional Office in Chelmsford, it was brief and unequivocal. The letter, written and signed by Divisional Veterinary Officer Mr P Thomas stated; ‘Regrettably in this instance we are unable to offer a derogation of the quarantine requirement. We note Bullet has a tattoo; however, as stated on our website, only countries with recognised databases is there a different system of preparation. As identification by microchip is a legislative requirement we do not have any discretion in the matter’.
Pauline continued: ‘This answer was even more frustrating as we were not asking for Bullet to be identified only by his Tattoo.’
Pauline’s next course of action was to try to get Bullet placed with friends outside the UK, as she did not want him confined in quarantine for six months. She was inundated with offers of a place for Bullet to serve out his ‘home based quarantine’ period before returning to the UK, as stipulated in the PETS Travel Scheme.
‘I was overwhelmed with kind offers from many countries to home Bullet outside the UK,’’ says Pauline. ‘With great sadness we arranged for Bullet to ‘serve his time’ with friends in the USA. Although a quarantine kennel is not the place for a show Bichon to stay for nearly seven months, I cannot speak highly enough of Ryslip Kennels. Their professionalism, care and kindness are second to none. I am deeply grateful to Liz Cartledge and her team for all their help, compassion, and determined efforts to see Bullet released.
‘The past ten days have been an emotional roller coaster of shock, panic, hope and finally despair. My dog does not deserve to be separated from me for seven months and be forcibly placed in kennels or banished from the UK due to a flaw in the microchip system. I hope no one ever again has to go through this horrendous experience’
The situation faced by Bullet raises several issues concerning the pet passport scheme, namely:
1.Failed microchips are not uncommon and have been known to come out of the animal’s body, yet DEFRA are not prepared to accept tattoo evidence of identity, unless the tattoos from France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden or Poland.
2.Why is a tattoo on the British National Tattoo Register not a form of ID recognised by DEFRA in its own country?
3. it should provide a process of appeal against a quarantine decision, with three obvious lines of enquiry. Is the animal medically proven beyond all reasonable doubt to be safe from rabies? Is the identity of the animal established beyond all reasonable doubt, taking into account the tattoo if necessary? Has any dishonesty or deception been used?
4. If this situation has served to tempt one person to bring in a dog illegally for fear of a failed microchip or an unwitting breach of the Pet Passport rules, then DEFRA’s decision has surely placed the UK at more risk than allowing a dog with a successful titre, linked to its current microchip, to enter.
Jill Christian of the National Dog Tattoo Register told OUR DOGS: ‘This is a ridiculous situation; owners should not be being encouraged to take their animals abroad unless there is a cast iron certainty that the dogs are going to be able to get back into the UK. Some owners may not be aware of the problem of microchips failing, and would find the cost of quarantine impossible.
‘Apparently foreign tattoos are recognised by DEFRA, so why not the homegrown variety? If documents are available that match the tattoo number in the dog’s ear, what is the problem?
Last year, the NDTR sent a letter to DEFRA via Jill’s MP Douglas Carswell enquiring whether people with dogs previously tattooed could rely on the tattoo should the microchip fail, and thus allow the dog back into the UK. Jill adds: ‘To date I have never received the reply from DEFRA that my MP should have sent to me. It was not enclosed along with his letter although he said it was. Repeated enquiries to Mr Carswell and DEFRA have been ignored.’
Jill adds: ‘The British courts have recognised the UK dog tattoo on a couple of occasions. On another occasion, a case of fraud going through the courts in New Zealand required copies of original paper work i to prove the case.
‘So British tattoos are good enough for the courts, but apparently they are not good enough for DEFRA.’
DEFRA told OUR DOGS: ‘It appears that the microchip was lost and that the vet failed to reprepare the animal following the required procedure. Once an animal's identity (the microchip) is lost, there is no evidence to connect it to any documents and thus give conclusive proof of its identity. The animal must therefore be re-prepared, starting with a vaccination and subsequent blood test.
‘It is only France (dogs and cats), Denmark (dogs only), Sweden (dogs only), Belgium (dogs only) and Poland (pedigree dogs only) where we accept a tattoo. This is because these countries apply a national mandatory identification and registration system. Animals must have been prepared under national rules applicable before EC Regulation 998/2003 on the movement of pet animals came into effect. In addition, in all cases, animals are not permitted to enter the UK without also being identified by a microchip.
‘The UK does not permit the entry of animals only identified by a tattoo (which can easily be changed by further tattooing). They can also fade or become unreadable over time. In addition, there is no international control on tattooing that avoids the risk of duplication.