Animal welfare campaigners have warned the public against buying easily purchasable puppies and kittens as gifts this Christmas as they can carry a risk of health problems.

Campaigners from PupAid say people interested in buying an animal need to ask “Where’s Mum?”, as often puppies and kittens purchased without their mother being seen first have been born hundreds of miles away on puppy farms in either south Wales or – following relaxation of pet travel scheme rules – from an increasing supply imported from eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine.

PupAid founder and vet Marc Abraham said: “Where you buy your pet from is extremely important, especially because of recent cases of rabies confirmed in France and the Netherlands; meaning animals brought into the UK through the Channel Tunnel have an extremely high chance of being infected with the deadly virus, which can be transmitted to anyone – including your kids – who are at a higher risk than adults. False paperwork and animals too young means any rabies vaccination claimed is meaningless.

It’s all a bit too close for comfort. The risk of infected puppies and kittens entering the UK from countries where the disease is on the rise is huge; so when buying a pet we must find out as many details about the animal’s background as possible.”

Under the old system, dogs entering the country had to be microchipped, blood-tested, and vaccinated against rabies, with a quarantine period of six months. Now, however, animals no longer require blood tests and are only held for 21 days following their vaccination, but with the incubation period for rabies possibly going beyond three weeks, a dog or cat infected with the disease could easily be allowed into the country.

If members of the public want a dog, said Marc, they should adopt from rescue centres or contact The Kennel Club for details of responsible breeders.

These should be the only two options,” he said.

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