BVA launches resource to clarify and aid reporting of suspected illegal pet imports in England

Posted On: 
29th November 2019

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is calling on vets to report any suspicions about illegally imported pets to relevant local authorities.

In partnership with the National Animal Health and Welfare Panel (NAHWP) and with support from Dogs Trust, BVA has launched a handy compliance flowchart designed to help vets in England know when and how to report suspected cases of illegal pet imports to relevant authorities. The flowchart and supporting guidance document outline what vets should consider when a client presents an animal with a pet passport and aim to help them navigate client confidentiality, how to report concerns of illegal imports, and an overview of how local authorities are likely to respond.

In BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession surveys in recent years, vets have mentioned finding it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to report concerns to Trading Standards. Other concerns included breaching client confidentiality, a lack of proof or sufficient evidence to investigate, a perceived lack of interest from local authorities if a case was reported, and uncertainty about whom to contact and how to report suspicions.

Findings released by Dogs Trust earlier this week show broadly similar concerns about reporting suspected illegal pet import cases.

BVA and NAHWP have issued the following advice for vets: 

  1. Report any suspicions that the animal in your care does not comply with Pet Travel Scheme requirements to your Local Authority Animal Health Function – either Trading Standards or Environmental Health Services.
  2. Find out how to contact your local authority via a pre-agreed number for your practice. Find a direct contact number for your local Trading Standards or call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06, who will refer you directly to the relevant local authority.
  3. Note this number down on the joint BVA and NAHWP compliance flowchart and put up the poster in visible locations around your practice for staff to refer to.

BVA is also in talks with local authority forums in Wales and Scotland and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland to launch similar guidance and compliance resources for vets in the devolved administrations.

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“Veterinary teams can often be the first to suspect that an animal may have been illegally imported when an owner takes their pet for its first check-up. But our surveys have identified a compelling need for clearly defined routes and mechanisms for vets to more easily report suspected cases of illegal import.

“Our flow chart and supporting guidance aim to empower vets to report any such cases, thus helping to tackle the scourge of illegal importation and protecting animal welfare, both of the imported dogs and the larger canine population in the UK.”

“I would encourage veterinary teams to put up the poster in their practices and use it to help report any suspicions to relevant authorities with ease.”

NAHWP Contingency Planning Lead John Chaplin said:

“Vets are often in the front line when it comes to identifying suspect illegal imports and the recent BVA survey has highlighted a lack of clarity on how any concerns can be reported.  Local authorities are tasked with responding to potential breaches of the pet passport rules and work closely with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to quickly respond to all suspect cases.

“Dealing with a client whilst trying to understand the rules can be a difficult and complex process, however the guidance and flowchart formulated in partnership with BVA will provide a useful tool to enable vets to quickly identify and report concerns.”

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director Paula Boyden said:

“It’s clear from our recent research with vet professionals that reporting dogs suspected of being illegally imported into the UK is not as straightforward as it seems. From finding the relevant contact to supporting heartbroken owners at the sharp end of the problem, vets can encounter many struggles along the way.

“More needs to be done to break down the barriers they face and build confidence among vets in the reporting process, so when they report a suspected case, they feel assured it will be handled promptly and consistently.

“It is clear that an improved protocol, starting with BVA’s new flowchart for vets around reporting, needs to come hand in hand with greater public awareness of the illegal importation of dogs and we will continue to work with our contacts at Trading Standards to ensure this is acted on.”

The flowchart is available as a pull-out poster in this week’s Vet Record and can also be downloaded along with accompanying guidance notes here.