Pets face longer EU rabies controls

BRUSSELS Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:03pm BST

A dog and its owner arrive for the Crufts dog show in Birmingham, in this file photo from March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

A dog and its owner arrive for the Crufts dog show in Birmingham, in this file photo from March 5, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Five EU states should be allowed to apply their tougher anti-rabies controls on cats, dogs and ferrets entering as passport-carrying pets for a further 18 months, the EU's executive arm said Tuesday.

Britain, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden are currently allowed to keep stricter pet entry requirements than other EU members until June 2010, to check for rabies, tapeworms and ticks. The European Commission wants that date extended to the end of 2011.

This is to "ensure that the rabies situation in the EU improves even further," the Commission said in a statement.

"The Commission considers that conditions for moving to a fully harmonised set of rules throughout the EU that would avoid unnecessary burden for travellers are almost entirely fulfilled," it said. EU ministers will now debate the proposal.

Under the EU's pet passport law agreed in 2003, dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owners between EU member states will have to be electronically identified from July 2011.

The pet passport replaced a veterinary certificate that showed the animal had been vaccinated against rabies. Foxes are the main reservoir of rabies in Europe.

Before then, many owners chose to leave their pets at home when they went abroad because variations in national rules across the EU made travelling with animals too complicated.

The Commission said rabies had declined significantly across the EU in the last two decades, mainly thanks to oral vaccination of wildlife, and that rabies in pets was now minimal.

(Reporting by Jeremy Smith; editing by Kevin Liffey)