RESTRICTIONS on pets travelling within the EU are to be eased with new regulations cutting administrative problems while tightening up health requirements.
The changes come after the success of the Pet Passport scheme that has been running for the past decade in vastly reducing the incidence of rabies. There is now only an average of one rabies case a year in the EU.
This has allowed MEPs to ease the rules and allow pets to accompany owners if they carry a microchip “passport” or, in some cases, a readable tattoo. Owners must ensure vaccinations are still valid.
The clearer rules on pet passports, rabies vaccinations and identification documents will also allow young animals – from 12 to 16 weeks – which have been vaccinated but not yet reached immunity, to travel.
MEP Horst Schnellhardt said: "There are 64 million cats and 66 million dogs in the EU. One household in four has a pet. In future, travelling across borders with pets will involve far less administrative hassle. We have eased the rules, and this should have a direct impact on citizens."
The rules create a clearer definition of "owner" or the person authorised to do the transport; the provision that certain acts (implanting microchips) can only to be performed by a vet; a clearer distinction between vaccination and immunisation and a new rule for animals that are too young for vaccinations
Previous restrictions of a maximum of five animals being transported are to be lifted, as long as the animals are not being transported for commercial purposes. This change is intended to allow owners to take part in competitions or shows.
The changes – which will come into force in 18 months - have been approved by the EU parliament after being agreed by EU ministers.
British Liberal MEP Chris Davies said the changes “will simplify the life of people with pets” and “ferrets, cats and dogs can now travel across Europe”.
He added: "The misery of quarantine restrictions for both pets and their owners has come to an end, and cases of rabies have been held in check.”