What should the British bulldog do and what will happen to the resources? Do we get to keep our own bones or do we have to hand them over to Europe?
Regardless of your opinion on the European Union referendum next week, the fact remains that leaving the European Union may have major effect on the ease of travel using the Pet Passport and on dog welfare, with potential changes to import and export restrictions. According to government figures for 2015, just under 92,000 Britains left and returned to Britain with one or more dogs, the vast majority having been on holiday. Of course there are also unrecorded numbers of dogs entering illegally, mostly traded as puppies. A Dogs Trust report (The Puppy Scandal) states that between 2011 and 2013 the number of dogs entering the UK legally from Lithuania increased by 780% and from Hungary 663%.
Already vets in Eastern Europe (and possible elsewhere) have colluded with dog dealers and issued pet passports with falsified data, including puppies not seen, under age puppies, dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act and dogs with false
vaccination stamps indicating that rabies vaccinations had been administered. As the Dogs Trust wonders, will a vet who is prepared to falsify rabies vaccinations bother with tapeworm treatment or measures to prevent other diseases? Echinococcus multilocularis is a cyclophyllid tapeworm that is endemic in some countries that are parts of the PETS travel scheme. It is zoonotic, often asymptomatic for several years and can be fatal if untreated. It is already increasing in urban areas, largely due to the spread of urban foxes. Dogs Trust and journalists including Sam Poling have provided evidence revealing ineffective controls at UK border ports enabling puppies to enter the UK illegally virtually unhindered. There are no Animal and Plant Health Agency staff or Trading Standards personnel on duty at the main ports of entry at the weekend and puppy transporters are rarely stopped even during the week. Not all ports have a continual presence of officers, including the major port of Dover which just has APHA staff on call to respond to reported welfare concerns. There is no penalty if they are caught travelling with incorrect paperwork and the likelihood of paperwork being questioned or their vehicle searched is low. They can declare up to five puppies and smuggle in any number of puppies hidden in their vehicle which will remain unchecked. There is little or no sharing of intelligence amongst key agencies.
The Dogs Trust filmed 15 dealers who sold underage puppies ranging from 7 -12 weeks and who stated how easy it is to bring banned pit bulls into the UK and four vets from Lithuania and two vets from Hungary who admitted falsifying pet passports. They purchased pet passports from a vet that recorded false birth dates and vaccinations, including rabies, for fictitious puppies. They purchased a puppy from an online advert that had been brought into the UK from Lithuania at just ten weeks old without a rabies vaccination and two puppies in Hungary from a breeder who provided passports with false dates
of birth and fake rabies vaccination details which they subsequently rehomed in Hungary.
The Dogs Trust has called for the European Union to manage the spread of canine diseases across member states including requiring inspections of all puppies and dogs at member states’ borders. They are also calling for EU-wide improvements in breeding standards and mandatory identification and registration across all EU Member States. There is a the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, but Britain is not a signatory. Leaving the European Union may make it harder for dogs to be imported from unscrupulous people in member states but it will also be much harder to achieve the spread of effective welfare legislation. In the meantime, diseases have no respect for national boundaries, even on islands.
One would hope that no one would make such a vital decision based on the effects on dogs alone, but there is plenty of food for thought there nonetheless.