Illegal pet travel heightens disease risk
Academics and trading standards officials have warned of disease risks as more pets illegally enter the UK following Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) changes.
Vets were told to be alert and make more of an effort to report pets that have entered the country illegally to the authorities at a recent PETS symposium.
The symposium was organised by Dogs Trust and attended by various representatives from other animal welfare organisations, official agencies and veterinary practices.
In January last year, changes to PETS came into force in order to increase the mobility of pets around Europe, however as a result, the risk of veterinary and zoonotic diseases entering the UK has increased.
Defra reported that there was a 61 per cent increase in the number of pets coming into the UK in 2012, and Dogs Trust conducted a survey among 121 vets and 1,005 owners.
The survey found that 57 per cent of vets had clients with a foreign dog in 2012 – five per cent of which they suspected had a disease from abroad. Only around three quarters (77 per cent) of vets said they would contact Defra when faced with a false pet passport.
Furthermore, Dogs Trust found that less than 50 per cent of vets had discussed zoonotic implications of diseases during travel consultation with pet owners.
The intention of the symposium was to gauge how significant the foreign veterinary and zoonotic disease risk is following the PETS changes.
"Owners are incredibly reliant on vets and the advice vets give them, therefore as a profession, we really have an obligation to deliver that information," said Canine Epidemiologist David Argyle.
"I'm concerned from the survey that there is a gap in our understanding… as a profession we have an obligation to close that knowledge gap."