Quarantine, Pets and the UK

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Until recently, bringing a pet dog, cat and other classes of animal to the UK could have resulted in a mandatory internment or “Quarantine” for the pet of no less than six months. Practically, this made it impossible to take pets on holiday to the continent and Britons who had lived or worked in Europe or abroad would not be able to bring their pets home, unless of course they were prepared to be separated for a whole half year. 

Naturally, for many pet lovers this would have been a serious problem.  But the reasoning behind all of this was a desire to keep Britain a country free of the terrible disease, rabies.  Rabies is a viral infection that causes an inflammation of the brain.  Most notably, it is almost always fatal in humans following the onset of symptoms, such as an irrational fear of water known as hydropohobia. 

Rabies is a global disease and very few countries, mostly isolated island ones such as the United Kingdom, are entirely free of it.  By far the most common vector is infection via a bite or scratch from an infected animal and, for humans, this most commonly comes from dogs.   Western Europe is largely free of the disease. But countries such as India, where there is a huge population of stray dogs, have a huge problem with the virus.

Nevertheless most mammals can become carriers of the virus which, as part of the infection, makes victims hyper sensitive and aggressive and so more likely to bite, scratch and spread the disease.  This makes the virus a direct threat for wild mammals such as bats, foxes and badgers that can all become infected and dangerous.

Historical Laws

Britain first enacted Quarantine laws against dogs in 1897, with cats following in 1928 and Ferrets added in 2004.  This meant that pets entering the United Kingdom had to be locked away under observation for six months.  Nevertheless, the law was effective with only 24 human deaths from the diseased in Britain since 1902.  The last case of an indigenous British animal being infected was in 1922. 

However, in 2011 the United Kingdom changed its laws to be inline with the European Union rules on the travel of pets between countries.  While this doesn’t mean entire freedom for pets, it does make it much easier to move them from country to country.  For example, you can now freely move pets into the UK from EU states provided several requirements are met including:

  • The pet must be microchipped
  • The pet must have received a rabies vaccine 21 days prior to travel
  • The pet requires a pet passport with proper veterinary authority.

This is by no means exhaustive, and there are further requirements such as blood tests, that much be taken if the animal is travelling from countries outside of the EU. 

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