The one-in-four Europeans who own a pet once faced obstacles in traveling across borders with it. Rulings on pet heath differed, and many countries required quarantines of up to six months for entering pets. No more. A Pet Passport scheme now permits an accompanied animal to travel almost as easily as its owner.
An owner may cross a border with up to five pets, each with a Passport of uniform design, with the number of an implanted microchip or readable tattoo identifying it. In most cases, the Pet Passport essentially is a certificate of successful vaccination against rabies by an accredited veterinarian. A microchip is small, about the size of a large grain of rice, implanted under the skin of an animal using a hypodermic needle. Microchips and scanners that read them are standardized by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and are readily available worldwide, as they are used for identification by pet owners, kennels, breeders, humane societies and others.
As of this year, the procedures for preparing animals to be issued Passports are fairly uniform throughout Europe. But there are some exceptions. Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom (UK) do not accept tattoo identification and admit only microchipped animals. Many countries have laws that prohibit dangerous dogs, which are defined as animals that get dangerously out of control in public places. For instance, the UK and some other countries ban four dangerous breeds: Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro as well as cross-breeds of them. Apparently the guideline here is, when in doubt, leave the dog home. Some countries require that a pet have a valid tapeworm treatment, tick treatment and/or vaccination against leptospirosis and distemper. After an animal is vaccinated, Ireland, Malta, Sweden and the UK require an antibody titration test to see if the vaccination has been effective. Accordingly, the Passport has spaces for veterinarians to enter the details of the relevant treatments. A vet issuing a Pet Passport always will ask about the countries to which the animal is to be taken, so it may fulfill the destination country requirements.
The scheme has been place long enough to function smoothly in most cases. But it isn’t error-free. An owner who loses a Pet Passport may apply to the vet who issued it for a replacement, which may be inconvenient if the loss is first noticed upon crossing a border between countries. Worse yet, an implanted microchip may fail, so it cannot be read by a scanner to identify an animal. A vet can remove a failed microchip and send it to the manufacturer to find if it can be read. If so, the manufacturer can issue a confirmation of the reading that can be entered in the Pet Passport along with the number of the new replacement chip. If not, the passport application procedure must be repeated anew, which may involve putting the animal in quarantine, just as in the days before the Pet Passport scheme came about.
The guideline is “Regulation (EC) 998/2003”, downloadable from the Europa Portal at http://europa.eu (selectable in 23 languages); click on “Legislation and treaties”, then “Search by number of document”, then “Natural number”, then in the search screen on “Regulation” and enter the year 2003 and the document number 998, then the Search button, which brings up the document header; click on your preferred format, HTML or PDF to download the document.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 11784/11785 microchip standards are available online from national standards organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) at http://webstore.ansi.org.
The World Health Organization Collaboration Centre for Rabies Surveillance and Research in Wusterhausen, Germany provides updated rabies information at http://www.who-rabies-bulletin.org.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) publishes clearly-written details for pet owners on its website at http://www.defra.gov.uk.
Info for pet owners outside Europe
The Pet Passport is available throughout Europe but not elsewhere. If you live outside Europe and wish to travel with your pet in one or more European countries, you should go to a veterinarian accredited to certify pets for international travel – in the USA by the USDA and in Canada by the CFIA. The vet will prepare the animal and fill in a Veterinary Certificate in accordance with EC regulation 998 of 2003. Sometimes treatments in addition to those required in Europe may be involved, such as for the Hendra virus treatment of cats from Australia. Once in a European country with your pet and its Certificate, you may be allowed to apply for a European Pet Passport. But as the rules on the rights of non-residents vary from country to country, it’s best to check in advance.
M. Michael Brady lives in a suburb of Oslo, where he works as a translator. A natural scientist by training, Brady vacations in France. Dateline: Europe appears monthly in MG.