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Pet animals can be brought into the UK from Member States through two different schemes, one is for travel of owners with pets and the other for the commercial imports of pet animals. Under the EU Pets Travel Scheme or PETS, vaccinated and microchipped dogs, cats and ferrets are allowed to travel between EU countries for non-commercial reasons as long as they have a pet passport and have complied with all the requirements of the scheme, which include a rabies vaccination.

The PETS scheme is designed to allow a maximum of five pets to travel with their owner, rather than for the commercial movement of animals intended for sale as pets. Under the scheme, pet owners must fill in a declaration confirming that they are not going to sell or transfer the ownership of the pet. An approved transport company must be used for the travel of pets unless travelling between the UK and Ireland, where a private boat or plane can be used.

The Balai Directive sets out the requirements for the commercial import and export of animals being moved in or out of EU Member States. It includes more stringent requirements for pet exports, including that they be exported from premises which are registered or approved by the country of origin and a fitness to travel examination by a vet for each animal up to 48 hours before travel.

Campaigners such as the Dogs Trust, RSPCA and SPCA are concerned about evidence that the PETS travel scheme is being abused to commercially import very young puppies illegally for the UK pet trade. They have raised concerns about the welfare and health of the animals being imported. In addition, there is evidence from border checks and seizures that puppies are being hidden and smuggled into the UK. In response, there have been calls from these charities to address the issue and strengthen the requirements for travelling with pets once the UK leaves the EU.

The Government has set out measures it has taken to address concerns, including contacting Member States with their concerns and proposed a ban on commercial third-party sales of puppies in July 2018. The Government announced in December 2018 that it would be introducing a ban as proposed.


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