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The Pet Travel Scheme came into force in 2000 as a control measure to prevent rabies, certain tick-borne diseases and tapeworm from entering the UK via the importation of pets. The scheme requires pets to meet certain animal health requirements, such as being vaccinated against rabies, before entering the UK.

Changes to the scheme were introduced in January 2012. The changes for travel for EU Member States included the removal of the need to have the dog treated for ticks, reducing the length of time after vaccination that a dog may enter or return to the UK from six months to 21 days, and a change in requirement for tapeworm treatment to be administered between 24 hours and 5 days before travel, which needs to be certified by a vet, and lastly the removal of the requirement to blood test the dog before travel.

From December 2014, new requirements on the Pet Travel Scheme were introduced, including a requirement that dogs must be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated against rabies for the purposes of pet travel.

Furthermore, travel to the UK from certain countries outside the European Union requires a blood test to be carried out after vaccination and a further waiting time of three months from the time of the blood test, instead of the previous six months after the blood test.

Since the Pet Travel Scheme's introduction, there has been an increase in the number of illegal pets being brought in to the country. However most of the non-compliance is due to the public not being aware of the exact treatments needed and the timing of them. Nevertheless, there has also been a criminal element to puppies being brought in illegally for sale to the public.

The Kennel Club firmly believes that whilst the Pet Travel Scheme was originally set up to protect human health, it is also vital to ensure that owners continue to protect their dogs' health by taking all precautions, such as carrying out treatment for ticks.

Non-commercial transportation of pets

In 2010, the European Commission outlined concerns that the non-commercial transportation of pets was being used as a disguise for commercial movement of pets. As a consequence, the Commission adopted a new Regulation which states that the number of pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) that can be moved between EU Member States is limited to five per person accompanying them, unless they are taking part in a competition, show or sporting event.

Dogs being transported for the purpose of a show, or to participate in dog-sledding or other competitive sports events, require a specific health certificate issued by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency. Applications for the certificate should be made at least 10 working days prior to the date of travel. The certificate will be issued direct to a person's nominated veterinarian for completion within 10 days of the travel date.

Each dog travelling requires a completed and valid pet passport and to follow the Pet Travel Scheme entry rules. The health certificate is not evidence in its own right that the animals meet these rules.

The Kennel Club remains concerned at the extent of the requirements and will continue to lobby the EU for change - in particular it would seem sensible to put a lower age limit such that adult dogs (which are not the area of concern) should be allowed to be transported in larger numbers, while limits on the number of young dogs under a specific age (i.e. one year) should be retained.