Vets need to be more alert to pets illegally entering the country and make more of an effort to report cases to the authorities, say academics and trading standards officials.

Vets need to be more alert to pets illegally entering the country and make more of an effort to report cases to the authorities, according to academics and trading standards officials.

The comments were made at a Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) symposium which took place in London on January 23, 2013. The event was organised by Dogs Trust, with speakers and delegates from a variety of welfare groups, official agencies and veterinary practices across the country.
PETS changes saw a 61% rise in animals entering the UK
It aimed to gauge how changes to PETS, which came into force in January 2012, have increased the risk of veterinary and zoonotic disease transmission through increased pet mobility around Europe. According to DEFRA, 2012 saw a 61% increase in the number of pets coming into the UK.

Last year (2012), Dogs Trust surveyed 121 vets and 1,005 owners to get a snapshot of views to PETS. It found:

  • 72% of owners saw their vet as first point of advice.
  • 57% of vets had clients with a foreign dog, most from Eastern Europe.
  • 5% of vets suspected a disease from abroad.
  • Less than 50% of vets discussed zoonotic implications of diseases at travel consults with owners.
  • When faced with a false passport only 77 % of vets would contact DEFRA with the information.

Canine epidemiologist David Argyle was worried by the lack of veterinary impetus on PETS issues.
He asked delegates: “Is this just the tip of the iceberg?”

“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. 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.”

Later in the day Vetsonline spoke to Neil Martin of Dorset Trading Standards.

He said his team had only seen five suspect cases of illegal entry picked up by just one vet practice in his region in the past year, a number he thinks is surprisingly low.

“It would be unfortunate if they were the only practice in all of Dorset to see such cases,” he told Vetsonline.

“We did a blood test on the latest animals which showed it was unlikely it had even been vaccinated in the first place.”

Mr Martin concluded: “There is definitely room for vets to be more vigilant here. I always suspect the vast majority [of cases missed by vets] are going to be through polite ignorance rather than actually turning a blind eye.”

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