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U.S. Pets Traveling to U.K. Must Still Be Licensed Into Quarantine

By Maj. Michele DeWerth, USAF
National Guard Bureau

RAF MILDENHALL, England, Jan. 6, 2003 – Currently, cats and dogs coming into the United Kingdom from the United States must still be licensed into quarantine, according to officials at the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The U.K. government extended its Pet Travel Scheme Dec. 11, 2002,to include the United States. This means owners in the future who follow all the PETS procedures for preparing and documenting their animals may be able to avoid or shorten the United Kingdom's normal six-month pet quarantine.

However, DEFRA officials acknowledged that initially, when official certification is not available and there are no approved air routes and carriers, all cats and dogs must first be licensed into quarantine. Owners who prepared their pets according to Pet Travel Scheme rules can then apply for early release.

"We're extremely pleased that the British government has now included the U.S. in the PETS," said David Feehan, chief of international law at Third Air Force Headquarters here. "This can significantly reduce the time that owners are separated from their pets, as well as significantly reduce the out-of-pocket expense incurred by the traveler."

Although a cat or dog still has go into quarantine now, it could be for as little as five days if all the procedures have been followed. One Department of Defense civilian recently took advantage of this opportunity.

"The recent news (about the Pet Travel Scheme) warmed my heart -- I was so excited," said Pat Miller. A personal financial consultant, she's the newest member of the RAF Alconbury family support center staff and "mom" to Mili, a seven-year-old cocker spaniel.

Miller, anticipating the United States would be added to PETS, had started Mili on the Pet Travel Scheme process on May 23, 2002, because she knew the process would take nearly seven months to complete.

The process includes microchipping first, followed by a rabies shot and a blood test 30 days later. Six months after a blood test with successful results -- and once PETS is in full swing -- the animal can leave the United States and enter the United Kingdom without spending six months in quarantine.

Because PETS is a new process to Americans, Miller cautioned pet owners to be careful and "fully understand what they are doing before putting their kitty or puppy on a plane." Otherwise, she said, they may end up with extended separation time and added expenses that may not be reimbursable.

"The best advice I can give to anyone beginning this process would be to do your homework -- bookmark the Web site and check it daily, become well-versed in the requirements and remain flexible," she explained.

Miller discovered it's best if pets do not arrive on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. Additional fees could be levied during these times.

As a personal financial manager, Miller also has advice on planning for the costs involved. Although expenses are less than for a six-month quarantine, they're still significant. Miller said Mili's five-day quarantine came to more than $800.

"It's not free, but it was well worth the money spent as far as we are concerned," she said. U.S. military members can recover some of the costs as moving expenses and as a refund of the British Value-Added Tax.

Above all, Miller stressed, "start early" -- if you think you may get an assignment to the United Kingdom, get the family pet into line with DEFRA's PETS requirements.

"If you don't get the assignment you will not have done anything that will harm your pet. If you do get the assignment, you won't be scrambling to meet all requirements at the last minute. Early planning can mean the difference," she reasoned, between a short or lengthy separation.

PETS Web pages:

(Maj. Michele DeWerth is the chief of public affairs at Third Air Force Headquarters, RAF Mildenhall, England.)

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