One hour after the new regime came into force, Frodo Baggins (pictured on the right), a five-year-old pug sailed into Dover, southern England, by ferry from the French port of Calais to a celebrity's reception. But Claude, the dog who inspired the scheme, missed out on the occasion after swallowing his lead. Instead of joining Lady Fretwell, his owner, 16 other dogs and a cat called Heloise, the basset-hound was recovering after an emergency operation in a central London veterinary clinic.
Lady Fretwell, who led the battle to introduce pet passports, said yesterday: "It is very sad. Claude has been the campaign's Naomi Campbell, so often photographed in aid of the cause. Tomorrow was to have been his big day and I am very upset that he is missing it."
His place is being taken by Denis, a labrador belonging to Emma Plumridge, Lady Fretwell's daughter. The animals' arrival marks the easing of anti-rabies controls, which separate owners from their animals at a cost of between £1,500 and £2,000 a time.
From February 28th pets can go to Europe without going through quarantine.
At MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, etc) Nick Brown is fed up with the French tweaking his nose over British Beef. Deciding he needs positive publicity, he gave pet owners good news by lifting quarantine from February 28th 2000 for pets going to and from certain countries in Europe.
Countries Covered by the Scheme:
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway (not Spitsbergen), Portugal, San Marino, Spain (including Canaries but not Ceuta and Melilla), Sweden, Switzerland and the Vatican.
What about other countries?
You will have to wait until they are deemed to be rabies-free, or until MAFF can be certain that vaccination is 100% effective.
But I have a guide dog. Canít I take him on holiday to Florida?
Not unless you want to put him in quarantine on his return. Assistance Dogs and Rescue Dogs used to search for survivors in the Turkish Earthquake, etc. will still have to go in to quarantine for six months if they travel outside the designated countries.
Why are MAFF so concerned about Rabies?
We all should be. Once you have caught rabies, probably from a bite or saliva from an animal incubating rabies, there is no cure. You die a horrible death. However, dogs and cats properly vaccinated and blood-tested should be immune from catching and passing on the disease.
So what do I do if I want to take my dog/cat abroad?
Visit a recognised Veterinary practice for:
If OK the Vet will sign papers and that is the petís "passport".
If the blood sample is negative then the vaccination and sampling has to be repeated.
Book your trip with one of the recognised carriers. There will be a limited amount of space to start with, so it will be first come first served.
Canít I just turn up on spec?
No, unfortunately your pet wonít be allowed to travel without a prior booking.
What happens if my petís passport isnít in order?
This is unlikely - Vets are well-organised and can check if your petís chip is in place which is crucial for passport identification. If your pet has an old chip which canít be read by MAFF approved machinery, then you can bring your own reader, or (probably simpler) have the pet chipped again.
Yes, the MAFF has dictated that pets will have to be inspected for ticks and parasites by an approved Vet 24 hours before the return trip. In practice this will mean when you book your tickets your carrier will give you a list of English speaking Vets who can give your pet a quick "once-over" 24 hours before you arrive at the Channel.
I live in the North. Why canít I travel via a port nearer home?
This is only a trial, and MAFF have decided to start with the most popular services. Once they are seen to work, then the scheme will probably be extended.
If I have any more questions, whom do I ask?
Go to the Government Website: http://www.maff.gov.uk or ring the PETS Helpline: 0870 2411 710 ( UK 8.30-5pm Mon to Fri) for fact sheets and information. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or fax: 020 7904 6834 (UK).