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Imports - Trade in Illegally Imported Cats and Dogs

Trade in illegally imported cats and dogs

We know that some people are buying and selling dogs and cats that have been imported illegally from abroad. This trade puts the health of the animals, and the general public, at serious risk from diseases including rabies.

The UK has been free from rabies for many years. However rabies is still present in many countries across the world. This is why the UK has importation controls for pet animals. These controls are designed to stop rabies and other exotic diseases from being introduced into the UK.

All dogs and cats must first be microchipped and then vaccinated against rabies before entering the UK. Rabies vaccines are not effective in very young animals and this is why, with effect from the 29 December 2014, the European Commission have introduced a 12 week minimum age for rabies vaccination in pet animals. In addition, all dogs must be treated for the tapeworm (echinococcus multilocularis)

Help to fight the illegal trade in pet animals

The trade in illegally imported pets is driven by consumer demand; you can play a part in fighting this illegal trade in pet animals by following some simple guidelines.

If you are planning to buy a cat/dog or puppy/kitten the Scottish Government recommends that you seek out as much information as possible about your new pet.

It is equally important whether you are buying a pedigree or a cross bred animal that as a minimum you:

  • View the animal and its documentation before you buy - if it was born outside the UK it must have either a pet passport or a third country health certificate.
  • Its documentation needs to confirm the microchip number, that it was vaccinated against rabies at no less than 12 weeks of age and for third country imports, had a subsequent blood test 30 days after vaccination.  For dogs, it should also show that it has been treated for tapeworm.
  • Check the animal's history by speaking to a previous owner - if you are buying a puppy or kitten, you should always ask to see it with its mother and the rest of the litter.
  • Never buy a puppy younger than 8 weeks old.

In addition you should:

  • Buy your animal from a reputable supplier - advice on buying a dog or cat is available from a range of organisations, such as the Dog Advisory Council, Scottish Kennel Club, the Dogs Trust and the SSPCA. If you have doubts about an animal speak to your vet before agreeing to buy it.

If your new pet is found to be illegally imported and non-compliant with disease control rules, then you may find yourself having to pay for costly quarantine and veterinary bills. If you are unable to meet these costs, this may leave the local authority with no option other than to euthanase (put down) the animal.

Additional advice on buying a new pet can be found through the following link: Guide - Buying a new pet