Dogs Rescued From Abroad Put Uk At Risk

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Dogs rescued from abroad put UK at risk
7th September 2018

By Karen Pickwick

Kind-hearted dog rescuers are risking harming UK dogs and owners by bringing dangerous exotic diseases into the country, vets have warned.

Well-meaning animal lovers are inadvertently putting the health and welfare of millions of the UK’s animals and people at risk by importing ‘Trojan’ rescue dogs from abroad, they say.

Now, the British Veterinary Association is urging prospective owners to protect the domestic dog population by rehoming dogs from within the UK instead.

More than nine out of 10 companion animal vets (93%) in the country are concerned about the import of rescue dogs from abroad, with three-quarters feeling the numbers have increased over the last year, according to figures from BVA’s latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.

LIFE-THREATENING

Stray dogs in some European countries and other parts of the world may have unknown health histories and could harbour undetected and potentially life-threatening exotic diseases not traditionally seen in the UK, such as leishmaniasis, rabies, canine babesiosis and heartworm, without showing any outward clinical symptoms.

When imported into the UK, such chronically infected ‘Trojan’ or carrier dogs risk passing on the infections to susceptible pets and, in the case of some diseases, to humans as well. These infections can be difficult to detect or successfully treat in such carrier dogs.

BVA’s survey shows that 40% of companion animal vets have seen new or rare conditions in their practice over the last year that are associated with dog import, with the potentially fatal zoonotic disease leishmaniasis emerging as the most common one, mentioned by more than a quarter (27%) of the vets surveyed. Vets also report seeing cases of other exotic conditions such as ehrlichiosis and heartworm.

ANIMAL LOVERS

BVA president John Fishwick said: “We are nation of animal lovers, and so the desire to rescue stray, neglected or abused animals from other countries and give them loving homes in the UK is completely understandable. Unfortunately, the hidden consequence of this can be disastrous for the health and welfare of other pets as well as humans here.

“As vets, we are extremely concerned about the risks posed by rescuing dogs with unknown health histories from abroad and, while it may sound harsh, we believe that the wider consequences for the UK dog population must outweigh the benefit to an individual animal being imported.

TREATMENT

“With thousands of dogs needing homes within the UK, I would urge anyone looking to get a pet to adopt from a UK rehoming charity or welfare organisation instead. If you already own a rescue dog from abroad, approach your local vet for advice on testing and treatment for any underlying conditions.”

The relaxation of pet travel rules in 2012 has led to an increased risk for non-endemic and potentially zoonotic diseases in the UK, vets say.

As part of its recently launched pet travel position statement, the BVA is recommending that the government impose strict restrictions on the movement of stray dogs from countries that are endemic for diseases not currently considered endemic in the UK and introduce testing in stray dogs for any such diseases as a mandatory requirement before travel to the UK.