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Health and Consumer Protection

Press releases

Brussels, 3 October 2000

Travelling with pets in the EU made easier

Pet owners will be able to travel more easily within the European Union with their domestic pets, especially cats and dogs. The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a regulation harmonising the health requirements for pets moving from one EU country to another. The proposal reinforces health requirements for pets coming from third countries. The new system will require identification of cats and dogs via electronic microchips or tattoos, obligatory vaccination against rabies and, where necessary, additional checks on the immune response to this vaccination. It will come into force as soon as adopted by European Parliament and Council.

"I am sure these harmonised rules will make travel and holidays abroad much more attractive for those citizens who don't like leaving their cats and dogs behind. They will remove one of the last major barriers to the free movement of not only pets but also of their owners. So far, each Member State has different rules that need to be respected. European citizens will benefit from having the same set of rules applying in the entire EU. I myself am looking forward to travel with my two dogs more easily", said David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

The new rules are valid only for pets travelling in the company of their owner or another responsible person for non-commercial purposes, i.e. they cannot be sold. They must have :

- a clear identification either through a clearly legible tattoo or an electronic microchip

- a proof of vaccination against rabies

Harmonisation of health rules for the travel of cats and dogs has become a possibility because significant progress has been made over the past ten years in eradicating rabies in the EU. This was achieved by vaccination campaigns of foxes in regions where the disease occurs. Rabies cases among household pets in the EU consequently dropped from 499 in 1991 to 5 in 1998. Rabies is not only a threat to pets but also potentially fatal for humans. The EU needs therefore common safeguards to protect public health throughout.

Cats and dogs travelling within the EU

Cats and dogs travelling within the EU must carry proof of vaccination against rabies. If their country of destination is Sweden, Ireland or UK, additional proof of an anti-bodies test may be required because these countries have long been rabies free. All cats and dogs on a trip abroad within the EU must bear non-removable identification, either a clearly legible tattoo or an electronic microchip. The anti-rabies vaccination certificate must refer to the animal as identified by the chip or tattoo. The vaccination certificate must have been issued by an authorised veterinarian more than one month and less than one year before travel in case of a first vaccination, or less than one year before travel in case of a booster vaccination. Anti-bodies tests, if required, must be done in authorised EU laboratories more than six months prior to travel and more than 30 days after vaccination.

The UK, Irish and Swedish authorities may on the other hand waive any requirements on pets moving between their countries. Cats and dogs are for example free to travel between the UK and Ireland. Cats and dogs travelling to Ireland will no longer be required to pass through the UK, as is currently the case.

Cats and dogs travelling from third countries

Simultaneously, health checks on cats and dogs coming from third countries where rabies is still widespread are being reinforced in order to preserve the progress made in the EU. Cats and dogs coming from such countries must also bear identification and have undergone both vaccination and an antibodies test, as recommended by the International Animal Health Code of the International Office of Epizootics. Authorities in the UK, Ireland and Sweden may nonetheless require a quarantine period for pets coming from third countries with a rabies risk.

Pets coming from third countries where rabies does not occur or is sufficiently under control need identification and a vaccination certificate only except if they travel to the UK, Ireland or Sweden where an anti-bodies test may be required. The list of third countries to which this regime would apply is still to be completed. For the moment it includes, for example, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Between historically rabies-free counties, such as for example Sweden and Norway, free travel may be allowed, as has been the case so far.

Rabbits, Ferrets, Hamsters, Guinea Pigs, Turtles, Spiders, Reptiles, Insects, Birds, Fish and other pets

Pet reptiles, rodents, fish, birds, amphibia, arachnida and insects species are not affected by rabies or of no significance to the spreading of rabies. They may travel with their owner or another responsible person between EU Member States without health certificates or special identification. The same rules apply if they come from certain countries such as Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Special rules for these types of pets coming from other third countries are to be defined in co-operation with the Member States. Rules for other pet species will also be elaborated at a later stage.

The proposal for a regulation is subject to co-decision by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

Released on 3/10/2000


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