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Brussels, 16 June 2009

Travelling with pets: Commission proposes to extend transitional measures in five Member States until end 2011

What is new from the Commission regarding the Pet Regulation?

The European Commission adopted today a proposal according to which transitional animal health requirements applicable to the movement of pet animals travelling with their owners to Finland, Ireland, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom are to be extended until 31 December 2011. The proposal will be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council, with a view to formal adoption through the co-decision procedure.

What do the rules currently in force provide for?

In accordance with the current rules laid down in Regulation (EC) 998/2003 (known as 'the Pet Regulation'), pet dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owner for non-commercial movements to another Member State must be accompanied by a passport, or when imported from a third country by a certificate, providing proof of a valid anti-rabies vaccination (the "general regime'."

The Regulation also grants a transitional period expiring 30 June 2010 to Finland, Ireland, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom to make the entry of pet animals into their territory subject to compliance with certain additional requirements in relation with rabies, the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis or ticks (the "transitional regime").

What is the basis of the Commission's decision to extend the transitional period?

In order to determine the regime to be applied with effect from 1 July 2010, the Commission carried out an impact assessment based on various recent consultations and on the report that was adopted on 8 October 2007 that took into account the recommendations made by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

EFSA identified that in 2005 certain Member States had a non negligible prevalence of rabies in their pet population, which is related to the rabies situation in wildlife (foxes are the main reservoir of rabies in Europe). However, the data available did not allow EFSA to demonstrate a particular status of the Member States applying the transitional regime with regard to certain ticks and the tapeworm Echinococcus and to quantify the risk of pathogen introduction through the non-commercial movement of pet animals.

Did the Commission ignore EFSA's views?

No it did not. The Commission's impact assessment takes into account EFSA's opinions. However, it also highlights that the rabies situation in the EU has improved continuously and very significantly over the last two decades, as a result of the EU-supported programmes of oral vaccination of wildlife. Thanks to these programmes the incidence of this disease in pets is now minimal. In fact, the general regime - including individual identification of pets and compulsory anti-rabies vaccination - applied by most of the EU Member States has proved its safety, while it has facilitated the movement of the citizens who wish to travel with their pets.

The Commission considers that the conditions for moving to a fully harmonised set of rules throughout the EU that would avoid unnecessary burden for travellers are almost entirely fulfilled.

If the situation regarding rabies has improved, as the Commission says, what's the purpose of prolonging the transitional period?

In order to ensure that the rabies situation in the EU improves even further, the Commission proposes to prolong the transitional period for Finland, Ireland, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom until 31 December 2011. Continued support by the EU for vaccination to control rabies in wildlife in certain Member States and neighbouring countries will maintain and ensure for the future progress towards a negligible prevalence of this disease across the EU.

This would also give confidence and sufficient time to the Member States applying the transitional regime in relation to rabies to adapt to the general regime. In the meantime (as from 3 July 2011), electronic identification of pet dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owner will become mandatory, as already established in Regulation (EC) No 998/2003, making identification of these pets in accordance with the "general regime" safer.

What does the proposal foresee for Echinococcus and ticks?

In this case the transitional regime would also apply until the end of 2011. However, the proposal foresees that special measures could be adopted by the Commission under the comitology procedure if a Member State demonstrates that they are necessary to effectively protect itself against the introduction and spread of disease agents that do not occur in their territory.

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