DEFRA has suspended commercial movements of animals from Romania, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland until October 29th 2022, the third such extension. According to Defra’s website, commercial imports are classed as being the sale or transfer of ownership of pet animals, so this includes rescue animals, including those brought to the UK by charities. The suspension does not apply to pet animals, and in part the decision has been taken because quarantine facilities are limited and officials are keen to prioritise the pets of refugees coming to the UK.
In a statement on the GOV.UK website, Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) said: “We have concerns around the commercial movement of animals, between or from Ukraine and neighbouring countries and the health risk that presents. The movement of large numbers of rescue animals who are entering Great Britain from high-risk rabies countries, without the correct health preparations, presents serious risks to biosecurity and public health. There has also been a number of serious instances of non-compliant imports, including those under falsified paperwork. To ensure we continue to prioritise those fleeing Ukraine with their own pets, all commercial imports of dogs, cats and ferrets from Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Romania have been temporarily suspended for one month.”
Normally, pets imported into Great Britain for rescue or rehoming must be moved in compliance with health and safety rules on the commercial movement of dogs, with conditions such as having a valid pet passport - health certificate approved by Vets.
Whilst this is deeply disappointing for those who seek to rescue animals in Eastern Europe, the threat of importing diseases such as rabies, babeseosis or distemper concern not only the UK’s dog and cat population, but also humans who can become infected. This move was agreed in consultation with Vets.
Unfortunately, this approach, albeit disappointing, appears to be the best way to prevent illegal trafficking of animals imported to the UK from these countries, mitigates exposure to potential disease outbreaks in native UK populations from infected animals, and ensures those with pets are able to flee together.
On one hand, the UK Government appears to be concerned with disease exposure from animals imported from Eastern European, while on the other we now have an uneven approach to animal and food security that risks diseases such as salmonella or African Swine Fever being imported into the UK.
With a new UK Government in place and a new DEFRA Minister Thérèse Coffey MP, the SNP will continue to advocate for a fair and balanced approach that enables homeless animals in Eastern Europe to be rehomed in the UK whilst also ensuring necessary protections remain to safeguard native species from potential disease exposure.
SNP MPs will continue to work hard to encourage the UK government to ensure commercial animal imports reconvene at the earliest and safest opportunity, whilst we continue to call for reduced red tape, less bureaucracy for refugee assistance, and a more evened-up streamlined approach to disease prevention in our animal and food imports.