New Quarantine Rules
by Nick Mays
Following on from the proposal to align all regulations relating to the import of animals into a single piece of legislation, MAFF has issued proposals to update the UKs quarantine rules to ensure best modern practice in the countrys 61 quarantine kennels, with the emphasis firmly on animal welfare.
Specific standards will need to be met at all quarantine premises. New requirements include the provision of a staff changing area, a cold water supply to each block of animal pens and larger pens for giant breeds of dog. Gravel floors will no longer be permitted.
A separate animal care room will also have to be provided, with a washable table for examining animals, a hot and cold water supply, power supply, lockable cupboard, first aid kit and a detectable light source.
The new legislation will also enforce a number of requirements which are at present contained in a voluntary code of practice for quarantine premises. These include: minimum pen sizes for small, medium and large breeds of dog, minimum pen size for cats and minimum space requirements for any animals sharing units. Sleeping areas will need to be heated to a minimum temperature of 7oC, as will vehicles used for transporting animals.
Operators of quarantine premises will have to meet a number of requirements listed in a schedule to the legislation:
* Produce and implement a written training plan for staff
* Produce written guidance for staff on the dangers of rabies and necessary precautions
* Ensure all staff wear protective clothing
* Agree procedures with the District Veterinary Manager (DVM) on biting incidents and basic safety
* Advise staff of their duty to ensure the welfare of animals in their care
Minimum visiting times will also be made available to pet owners of two hours a day between the hours of 10.00 and 17.00 weekdays and four hours at weekends.
Operators would also need to appoint a veterinary surgeon to act as official Quarantine Veterinary Surgeon (QVS).
It will be the responsibility of the QVS to ensure that all animals have clean water available at all times, cats were provided with at least one litter tray per pen which would be cleaned out each day, and that dogs were provided with an object to chew.
The QVS would also liaise with the operator to set minimum feeding frequencies of once in 24 hours for dogs and twice in 24 hours for cats. Also, the operator would be told to advise owners within 24 hours if their pet showed any signs of ill health.
Another key requirement is that QVS should also co-operate with a vet nominated by the owner of a quarantined animal to give a second opinion of that animal. In such cases, the QVS would supervise the visit by the nominated vet.
With regard to the frequency of visits to quarantine premises by QVS, it is proposed that QVS should make FEWER visits to quarantine premises than are currently required, but perform MORE duties on each visit.. The QVS would be required to attend the premises three times a week with no more than a 72 hour interval between visits.
Another key requirement of the new regulations is that animals be treated against tapeworms and ticks if a QVS was not satisfied that this had been done in the 48 hours prior to the animal entering the country, as required under the PETS scheme. Similarly, if the QVS doubted that the animal had been adequately vaccinated against rabies and blood tested, then the QVS would have to vaccinate the animal within 72 hours of its arrival in quarantine.
The cost of implementing the necessary structural and administrative changes to quarantine premises will vary according to the size and existing arrangements in place at the UKs quarantine establishments.
MAFF estimates that the new requirements will cost quarantine kennel operators between £500 and £5,000 per premises to implement.
The implementation of the PETS scheme has, in any event, led to a 60% fall in business for quarantine kennel owners, and the closure of several of the 61 premises nation-wide is predicted. MAFF states that the Government has given the quarantine industry clear notice of the changes, but is adamant that compensation for loss of business or the cost of making improvements will not be paid.
However, the quarantine kennel owners are jointly seeking a legal ruling on the question of compensation, pointing out that the Government wishes to abolish fur farming and is prepared to compensate all fur farms closed in the pursuit of this aim, therefore apparently taking the view that quarantine kennels are worth less than fur farms.
As far as Government costs are concerned, MAFF estimates that the cost of implementing the new re-authorisation procedures for QVS and operators would amount to an additional £60,000 in the first year and £30,000 a year thereafter.
* MAFF is seeking comments on its proposals by Mach 19th, 2001. Copies of this consultation document can be obtained by contacting the PETS Helpline on: 0870 241 1710 or from MAFFs website at: www.maff.gov.uk/animalh/quarantine