The BVA has warned against widespread “concern and panic” after press reports that there will be a significant threat of rabies to the UK when rules for pet travel are harmonised across Europe.

The BVA has warned against widespread “concern and panic” after press reports that there will be a significant threat of rabies to the UK when rules for pet travel are harmonised across Europe.
 
BVA president Bill ReillyThe statement follows a letter published in the Veterinary Record, in which Paul Burr and his colleagues at the Biobest Laboratories (which carries out serology tests for rabies) warned against any relaxation of the current rules for animals entering the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).
 
Extracts from the letter were published in a number of national newspapers and on their associated websites, including the Daily Mail, Express, Telegraph and the Sun.
 
In response, BVA president Bill Reilly claimed it was “very important that the British public was not unnecessarily concerned or alarmed” by Dr Burr’s comments.
 
He said: “Last week the European Parliament voted for an extension to the existing arrangements which allow the UK to apply stricter controls on animals entering the country until the end of 2011 […] This allows us additional time to fully assess the risk that harmonisation of the rules on rabies poses.
 
“However, we do know that the incidence of rabies has been reducing significantly in mainland Europe over the last 20 years due to a very successful vaccination programme. Therefore the threat posed to the UK by animals coming into the country from other member states should certainly not cause any panic.”
 
BSAVA junior vice-president Andrew Ash claimed measures currently in place were “sufficient to protect both animal and human health” but said: “It is regrettable that this concern has been raised ahead of other issues such as the risk posed by tapeworms (the parasite Echinococcus multilocularis) which the BVA and BSAVA believe could have a far more serious impact on animal and human health.”

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