Britain’s Inhumane Treatment of Animals

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Suppose for a moment that you are a member of the military, but that you are also an animal lover. Due to this love of animals you decide to get a few pets while you are stationed on Peterson Air Force Base here in Colorado Springs. As it turns out you get a dog and a cat. Five years after these pets have become a member of life and your daily routine depends on what time you have to get home to feed them. Then, all of a sudden, you get your orders to transfer to an air force base in England. What do you do? You only have a few options.

Give the dog and cat away friends, possibly to separate ones and risk having these animals get so upset that they do not get over the separation. Give the pets up to the humane society hoping that someone falls in love with them. Or do you decide to take them to England with you? The problem with this last solution is the strict laws that are associated with bringing dogs and cats into England. Even though the laws were put into place for justifiable reasons, over the years the laws have come to be viewed as cruel, inadequate, and inhumane treatment of our very loved family pets.

Just a few years ago any cat or dog entering Great Britain was subject to a mandatory six month stay in quarantine. The justification for this quarantine was to keep Britain as the rabies free country it had become in the mid-1970s. Quarantine supporters state that a reason for state that a reason for maintaining the current system of complete and arbitrary detention of pet animals is that it is “simple. ” Even without including the impact on children, lower income families, elder pet owners or those dependent on guide dogs, quarantine does not appear to be “simple. The process pet owners must go to just get their pets into Britain so that they can spend their mandatory six months in quarantine is enough to make a person scream. First, the pet owner must contact a British Embassy or The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) to acquire various leaflets regarding the quarantine and importation process. Once these materials have been received, the owner must contact the various quarantine kennels to obtain information such as kennel sizes, visiting policies, prices, and dates of availability.

The MAFF unreassuringly advises: You should note that all quarantine premises are privately owned and that the Ministry is only responsible for ensuring that disease security and isolation requirements are met. Premises do vary in the level of comfort and care provided for your animal and it is in your own interests to ensure that the welfare needs of your animal are adequately covered. We do recommend that, in making your choice, you should compare brochures and visit the premises wherever possible (UK Rabies Quarantine Policy… . After requesting, receiving, and reviewing brochures from various quarantine facilities and carrying agents, and visiting them as well if neither time nor money is of any concern, a cattery or kennel and transporter must be chosen. Once chosen, the kennel normally requires that a contract be signed and a deposit given before it will even consider taken your beloved pet under its wing. Most contracts with define every possible situation and what recourse the owner may have.

For instance, kennels spell out the fact that although they will provide the best possible care for the animal the facility is normally not held responsible for any illness, loss, or damage to any animal or possessions caused during the stay. The contracts also indicate that the kennels shall not be held liable for the depreciation in value, loss, escape, injury, illness or death of any animals. The contracts explicitly state that pets are boarded at the sole risk of the owner (UK Quarantine Policy… ).

With all of these clauses built into the contracts what pet owner would not feel the least bit worried about leaving their pet in a kennel for one night let alone six months! Once a quarantine premises and carrying agent have been found, the “Application for a License to Import a Dog or Cat for detention in quarantine (UK Quarantine Policy… ),” may be submitted to t he Ministry. The application form requires a description of the pet, the owner’s addresses at home and abroad, and proof of quarantine arrangements.

Again, the importation of the pets is at the risk of the owner. If the animal were to die during quarantine then the vet used by the kennel is told to decapitate the pets, have their bodies cremated, and forward their heads and necks to be analyzed elsewhere to make sure that rabies had not been on the premises. All of this to be done without reference to cause of death. So had one’s beloved pet who may be known to have accidentally choked to death on a piece of food is, according to Ministry’s guidelines, to be hacked up, studied for rabies, burned, then tossed away.

If the pet owner obtains the necessary information, completes the required forms and all are received in good time, an import license will be issued and sent by the Ministry to the carrying agent specified on the owner’s application. As soon as a pet’s airline, flight number and arrival time have been established, this information should be forwarded to the carrying agent, as many require one or more weeks notice prior to a pets prescribed arrival date. Some agents even levy surcharges when ample notice is not provided.

A certificate of the pet’s health, signed by a veterinarian before departure, may also be required. After landing at an authorized airport, pets are transported by a Ministry licensed collection vehicle to either the airline’s animal holding facility or the Animal Quarantine Station. Customs papers are processed and the pet is handed over to the previously designated Ministry-approved carrying agent. Given the technology of the new millennium this all seems a bit drastic. This may be why Britain has agreed to start their Pet Passport Scheme.

In fact as of August of 1999 Great Britain introduced a pilot program that is to allow cats and dogs certified rabies-free to be brought into the country without quarantine. Instead of having to go through six months of quarantine, the new program will allow cats and dogs traveling from countries deemed rabies-free may avoid quarantine if they have documents showing they’ve been vaccinated against rabies and identification microchips embedded under their skin. A month after being vaccinated, the animals must get blood tests at an approved laboratory to prove the rabies vaccination has worked.

If it has, the pets will be issued passports signed and stamped by veterinarians. Pets, however, must also be treated for lice and ticks within 48 hours of leaving for Britain (Pet Passports to Ease… ). Currently 37 countries can participate in the pet passport program, including European Union countries and any island nation that has been proven to be free of rabies. Other coutries will be considered for inclusion in the pet passport program in the near future, including the mainland United States (Britain to Expand Pet Passport… . Britain hasn’t had a rabies scare since 1969, and successive governments have credited the tough quarantine laws for that. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals applauds the changes: “This heralds an era of moving away from the outdated system of quarantine to one based on science and technology… It means that pet owners will be able to travel about more freely with their animals, but we will retain a safe and effective protection against rabies(Pet Passports to Ease… ). ”

Many pet owners have found the quarantine practice costly, financially as well as emotionally. The six-month enforced separation can cost about $3,200, and many of the animals, accustomed to lots of attention, have pined for their owners and fallen ill. Conversely, owners sometimes become distressed because they have to travel miles to out-of-the-way kennels to visit their pets in quarantine. The first animal to be exempted from quarantine since 1901 has recently entered Britain. Cassis, the pet dog of a 15-year-old boy with cancer, was allowed into the country earlier this month.

The dog was allowed in from France after her owner wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair to ask for a waiver (A Sick Boy’s Dog… ). Proponents of the new pet passport program argue that tough measures are out of date in a world where rabies is treatable and the disease is relatively rare. The change in the quarantine rules means British pet owners will be able to take their animals with them without having to worry about putting them into quarantine upon returning home. This also means that pet owners from qualifying countries can travel to Britain with their pets as long as they can prove the animals are free of rabies.

For a long time, the six-month quarantine law was defending in farming, medical and veterinarian circles-and, of course, by the owners and operators of Britain’s numerous quarantine kennels. Supporters argue that Britain has been rabies-free for the past 30 years. Other arguments for the status quo include assertions that the rabies vaccine had been known to fail; that Britain, with its huge urban fox population, risked having any infected foxes pass on rabies to dogs; and that other European countries were less stringent about vaccination and certification standards than Britain.

The pressure for change, however, proves to be too powerful and the pro-quarantine lobby will dwindle, citing scientific advances as the reason for their change of heart. By the end of the year-long pilot program, campaigners hope to see it extended to include other pets and other countries. So for the military personnel/pet may be an alternative to giving up your pets or putting them in quarantine soon to come. As can be seen quarantine has been proven to be the cruelest treatment of pets that just want to stay with their owners.

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