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CNN Today

Pet Passports: U.K. Adopts More Humanitarian Approach to Rabies Prevention

Aired February 28, 2000 - 1:57 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: For 100 years, people bringing pets into Britain had to place them in quarantine for six months. Animals and owners were kept apart while doctors checked for rabies. Well, British officials are now bending the law a bit so that Fido won't always be forced away from his owner.

We get the story from CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These springer spaniels are about to change almost a century of a tradition that has helped keep rabies out of Britain. Microchips buried beneath their skin link rabies vaccinations and other health checks to their own unique identification number, meaning they will not have to go through six months of quarantine.

LADY MARY FRETWELL, DOG OWNER: The last time I was here in France I had my dear basset hound and we got on a boat. He was in a cage amongst the lorries. He was taken off to a quarantine kennel for six months and I felt I had absolutely abandoned him.

ROBERTSON: Since the turn of the century, animals traveling to Britain were forced into lengthy isolation while vets tested for rabies. The killer disease never made it to the British shores, and the government wanted to keep it that way.

Now that more effective vaccines are available, the government is taking a more humanitarian approach to rabies prevention.

BARONESS HELENE HAYMAN, BRITISH AGRICULTURE MINISTER: We have blood tests to make sure that those vaccinations have taken on the particular dog or cat. So I hope that we will achieve a great deal of happiness for a lot of pet owners and no diminishing in the protection for public health.

ROBERTSON: For pet-loving Britons, the new rules mean some freedom in taking their animals abroad.

(on camera): However, it is only valid for cats and dogs traveling from Western Europe and guide dogs coming from Australia and New Zealand. Pets arriving from America and other parts of the world will still be expected to spend six months in quarantine to prove they are rabies-free.

(voice-over): Even with new vaccines, government scientists say pets traveling outside Western Europe could still become infected with rabies. Allowing those pets in without quarantine is still too much of a risk.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Calais, France.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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