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Dogs: Quarantine

Volume 498: debated on Monday 2 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations his Department has received on proposals to exempt search and rescue dogs from quarantine when they enter the UK from search and rescue missions in parts of the world where mammals are required to be quarantined. (296377)

[holding answer 29 October 2009]: The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) raised the case of the rescue dog Darcy with the Secretary of State, and we have subsequently received a number of representations about this case.

The Government recognise the excellent work carried out by search and rescue dogs in responding to overseas disasters, such as the recent earthquake in Indonesia, and their rapid and valuable response to such emergencies.

We also appreciate the difficulty the current quarantine requirements cause for owners of these rescue dogs, particularly the rule requiring that dogs coming into the UK from certain countries, including Indonesia, are placed in quarantine on their arrival. This long-standing rule is in place to protect the UK from the incursion of serious diseases such as rabies.

DEFRA officials are discussing the specific case of Darcy the search and rescue dog with representatives from the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. We are considering within the current requirements how to minimise the burden our quarantine our quarantine rules place on these animals, particularly on their training programme, but the requirements are important and need to be observed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 October 2009, Official Report, column 1157W, on dogs: quarantine, how he defined formal representation in that answer; whether he has received any representations on the search and rescue dog Darcy since the date of that answer; and if he will bring forward legislative proposals to ensure that search and rescue dogs do not have to enter quarantine on return from missions abroad. (296944)

At the time the parliamentary answer of 16 October 2009, Official Report, column 1157W, was drafted, the Secretary of State had not received any formal (i.e. written) representations on the search and rescue dog Darcy. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) has raised the case with the Secretary of State, and we have subsequently received a number of parliamentary questions and letters, including one specific request from the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

DEFRA has discussed the case of Darcy the search and rescue dog with representatives from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. Although the rabies quarantine legislation does not provide for an absolute exemption from quarantine to be granted in these circumstances, the Government are hopeful that we will be able to find a training regime which proves an acceptable compromise between the needs of these dogs, and the requirement that we protect the UK from devastating diseases like rabies.

The Government will pursue this approach and has no plans to amend the law, although discussions with the European Commission and other EU member states are continuing about the overall future of the UK’s pet movement rules.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many rescue dogs there are in quarantine following their deployment on missions overseas. (297006)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many representations he has received requesting special dispensation to enable Darcy, the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service rescue dog, to be released from quarantine; and if he will make a statement. (297007)

Six parliamentary questions have been asked by two Members of Parliament this month on the quarantining of rescue dogs. To date we have received eight letters from Members, two letters from people directly related to this case, and five specific representations from members of the public. DEFRA has also received 172 declarations of support for the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service “Free Darcy” campaign.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will amend the policy of quarantine for animals entering the UK to exclude rescue dogs attached officially to recognised Urban Search and Rescue organisations; and if he will make a statement. (297008)

The Government recognise the excellent work carried out by search and rescue dogs in responding to overseas disasters, such as the recent earthquake in Indonesia, and their rapid and valuable response to such emergencies.

We also appreciate the difficulty the current quarantine requirements cause for owners of these rescue dogs, particularly the rule requiring that dogs coming into the UK from certain countries, including Indonesia, are placed in quarantine on their arrival. This long-standing rule is in place to protect the UK from the incursion of serious diseases such as rabies.

DEFRA has discussed the case of Darcy the search and rescue dog with representatives from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. Although the rabies quarantine legislation does not provide for an absolute exemption from quarantine to be granted in these circumstances, the Government are hopeful that we will be able to find a training regime which proves an acceptable compromise between the needs of these dogs, and the requirement that we protect the UK from devastating diseases like rabies. Darcy will also be able to travel from the UK to any other country to help with search and rescue if there were to be another emergency.