Research commissioned by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has revealed a concerning lack of awareness from pet owners about the potential health pitfalls of travelling abroad with their pets. Changes were made to the Pet Travel Scheme in January 2012 which has seen a more relaxed approach to allowing pets into the UK from the rest of the world. There has been a 61% increase in people travelling with their pets since 1st January 2012.
The recent survey * revealed that:
· Since the changes to the scheme last year, 45% of vets have seen an increase in issuing pet passports to clients
· Of the 130 responding pet owners who had travelled with their pet in the last year, 11% had a vet’s confirmation that their dog had brought a disease from abroad back to the UK.
· The majority of these cases were transmitted in areas frequented by sand flies. The disease Leishmania is potentially zoonotic. This means that it can be transmitted from animals to humans.
· Apart from rabies, there is a low awareness amongst pet owners about travel related diseases.
· With limited appointment times, only half of the vets surveyed discuss the zoonotic implication or susceptibility to non endemic disease as part of their travel consult.
· Fake pet passports are dealt with by Trading Standards, not Defra. Many vets are unsure who to report a suspect passport to.
72% of pet owners would rely on the advice of their vet, most frequently the first port of call, for information about travelling abroad with their pet. In addition, 60% of responding vets had clients who had rescued a dog from abroad in the last year, 49% of these dogs came from Spain. This is a worrying trend due to the widespread prevalence of Leishmania.
Worryingly, with demand for designer breeds so high and the growing trend of online shopping, there is a marked increase in litters of puppies being smuggled into the UK for sale to unsuspecting potential dog owners. People are not aware of the dangers of buying puppies in this way and should always see the puppy interacting with its mother which is not possible online.
Dogs Trust recently hosted a seminar: The Pet Travel Scheme and the risk of new diseases entering the UK to review and discuss the facts. The aim is to collectively develop a resource which will hopefully become a central information tool for both vets and pet owners on this issue. In the meantime, information can be found on http://www.bva.co.uk/ or the Defra website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, says:
“We were very concerned about the lack of awareness of the implications of changes to the Pet Travel Scheme with the inevitable increase in movement of animals into the UK. We felt that we needed to highlight the risk of disease entering the UK should pet owners and vets not receive the correct information on this issue. Our aim is to have a resource where all pet owners, vets and people working with the movement of animals or animal welfare can go to access reliable and up to date information. We hope that this initiative will reduce the risk of new diseases becoming endemic in the UK.”