Current import checks for rabies-susceptible animals entering the UK from outside the EU are being reviewed.

DEFRA, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, are consulting on the way import checks are conducted on rabies-susceptible animals, including commercial consignments and unaccompanied pets.

On arrival into the UK, rabies-susceptible animals are securely transported to quarantine premises where they undergo a six-month programme of veterinary inspection and monitoring.

The European Commission is recommending that this system is changed so that these consignments of animals are checked at the border before being transported to the quarantine premises.

Animal Health Minister Jane Kennedy said: “We have effective measures in place to ensure that Britain remains free of rabies – and that’s borne out by the fact that we have had only four cases of rabies in this country since 1969 – all in quarantined animals.

“We ask all those that may be affected for their views on whether the existing practice of moving rabies-susceptible animals immediately to a quarantine facility should be changed, so that an entry check is first instead carried out at border inspection posts before movement to a quarantine facility.”

In the UK the last human death from indigenous rabies was in 1902, and the last case of indigenous terrestrial animal rabies was in 1922. The most recent case of an animal in quarantine with rabies was in April 2008 when disease was detected in a puppy imported from Sri Lanka.

Comments are invited on any aspect of the options laid out in the consultation paper . Consultation closes on July 20.

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