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UK may scrap pet rabies test

End of EU opt-out could ease burden on expats

CHANGES to European Union rules on pet transport come into force at the end of this year, which should mean that owners will no longer need to get a rabies blood test for their pets and wait six months before travelling.

Pets will also no longer need tick and tapeworm treatments before travelling to the UK.

However, the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has not yet decided how it will approach the change, which marks the end of the UK's opt-out of the EU harmonised pet travel scheme.

If the UK decides to abide by the new regime, pet owners will be able to enter the UK from the EU 21 days after a rabies vaccination and with just a valid pet passport and microchip.

The European Commission says the rabies situation across Europe has "improved continuously and very significantly over the past two decades, as a result of the EU-supported programmes of oral vaccination of wildlife".

It says the incidence of rabies in pets is now minimal and the rules on pet identification and compulsory anti-rabies vaccination had eased citizens' movements throughout the community.

A Defra spokesman said: "The UK's derogation from the EU's harmonised pet travel scheme is due to finish at the end of 2011. To ensure UK controls remain effective, we are now considering how to approach this issue."

Up to December 31, pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) being taken into the UK need to have a valid pet passport and the pet must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and blood-tested.

They must also be treated against ticks and tapeworms in the 24 to 48 hours before travelling.

The UK has had an opt-out from the 2003 Regulation (EC) No 998/2003 to allow a change from the "general regime" for pet transport within the EU, which asks only for the identification of the pet and valid vaccination against rabies.

This dispensation allows the UK to demand the rabies test and a six-month delay to show that the pet does not have rabies. It also allows mandatory tick and tapeworm treatments.

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