THE NEW EURO Pet Passport, designed to eventually replace the British Pet passport and the PETS Travel Scheme has been delayed from its planned start date of July. The scheme has now been put back to October 1st, although it understood that even that date is considered overly optimistic by EU insiders.
The UK Pet Passport system introduced under the PETS Travel Scheme will be replaced by a new European Pet Passport under a new EU Directive that was due to come into effect on July 3rd this year.
Although the UK has been granted special dispensation by Brussels to retain its six months ‘house quarantine’ following an anti-rabies vaccination blood test for all animals travelling to the UK from abroad, this system will eventually be ‘harmonised’ into a ‘one size fits all’ European Pet Passport system which will allow dogs, cats and ferrets to travel across Europe – including the UK - without the need for a blood test.
In September 2000 – the same year that the UK’s quarantine regulations were relaxed and the PETS Travel Scheme started up, the European Commission tabled a draft resolution on the unrestrictive movement of ‘non-commercial’ animals (i.e. pets) within the EU. After discussion by Member States, the directive EC 998/2003 became law in July 2003, and is due to come into effect across the EU – including all the ‘new’ EU countries – from July 2004.
Essentially, the Commission required all animals to move freely between member states by use of a EU-wide Pet Passport. This was designed by consultation with all Member States, each country being responsible for issuing its own language version of the document.
The passport itself is slightly larger than a human passport, is coloured blue with the logo of 15 gold stars embossed on the front, with the country’s own identity alongside. The passport will contain standard information, printed in five languages, including English, and will contain details of the pet owner’s identity, the pet’s identification details, such as microchip and/or tattoo number, details of an up to date rabies vaccination and details of any other vaccinations that the pet has had.
However, as the UK’s DEFRA are at pains to point out, national rules on the passage of pets will still apply for a transitional period of five years, so all animals travelling to the UK will still need details of current tick and tapeworm treatment contained within the passport. Article 16 of the new regulation makes it clear that this will be the case for a ‘transitional period’ of five years. After this time, the EU may the UK to retain its requirement for tick and tapeworm treatment, subject to requirements. If EU research decides that cross-infection of parasites not resident within the UK are no longer a viable concern, then this requirement will be dropped from the EU Pet Passport.
Mike Parrish of Par Air Services is, like many pet shipping agents, gearing up for the change in regulations and the introduction of the European Pet Passport. However, he has serious misgivings.
"Personally, I can’t see it working," commented Mr Parrish last month. "First, you have to educate all the pet owners in Europe, and then you have to make sure there are adequate border checks. But you can drive across Europe nowadays and nine times out of ten there are no border checks. There are checks at airports where there are customs and animal information officers, but not on road borders. I can just see pets being taken across Europe with virtually no kind of restraint or restriction whatsoever – and we are already getting plenty of falsified veterinary certificates from some countries under the PETS Scheme. I can only see it getting worse under the European Pet passport scheme."
The delay is allegedly due to the inability of all 25 nations that make up the EU to agree on the rules governing the system, the bulk of the objections emanating form many of the new, East European countries that joined the EU from May 1st.
DEFRA’s website carries a simple notification about the delay of the implementation of the new passport, which says: ‘EC Regulation 998/2003 on non-commercial movement of pets.
The European Commission (EC) in Brussels has decided that the implementation date of this Regulation will be put back from 3 July 2004 to 1 October 2004.
‘For the UK, this will mean that existing national rules on the export of pets to the Community and the import of pets into the UK (the Pet Travel Scheme) will remain in place until 30 September.
‘UK quarantine rules will continue to apply for those animals which cannot enter the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme because they do not fully comply with scheme rules or are not eligible.’