Select Committee on European Scrutiny Third Report


COM(00) 529

Draft Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.

COM(01) 349

Amended proposal for a Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.


Legal base: Article 37 and 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated: (b) 21 June 2001
Forwarded to the Council: (b) 25 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: (b) 16 October 2001
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EMs of 25 June and 26 October 2001
Previous consideration: (a) HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 12 (1 November 2000) and HC 28-iv (2000-01), paragraph 4 (24 January 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


4.1  According to the Commission, measures need to be adopted at Community level to ensure that the animal health rules applicable to the non-commercial movement of pet animals in the Member States are consistent, but previous attempts at harmonisation have come to grief over the widely divergent ways in which the problem of rabies has been approached. However, as a result of vaccination campaigns over the last decade, the number of cases in dogs and cats dropped from 499 in 1991 to five in 1998. This enabled countries such as the UK and Sweden, which had previously insisted on quarantine, to accept an alternative system of electronic identification and vaccination (backed up by a blood test) for animals imported from Member States, and ultimately certain third countries, where rabies does not exist or is under control.

The current proposal

4.2  These considerations led the Commission to put forward in September 2000 a proposal (document (a)) for a Community-wide Regulation applicable to pet animals (defined as those not intended for trade), which it says is based largely on the UK approach to Member States "historically free of rabies". Different rules would apply according to the type of animal and its country of origin, as follows.

4.3  In the case of dogs and cats:

    —  movement between Member States or from designated third countries would have to be accompanied by a certificate issued by an authorised veterinarian to the effect that the animal was identified by a clearly readable tattoo or electronic identification system, and had been given an inactivated rabies vaccine between one month and a year prior to importation. A number of third countries are designated, but the proposal appears to envisage the addition of other, as yet unspecified, countries;

    —  the UK, Ireland and Sweden may also require certification that such animals have undergone a satisfactory blood test six months before entry; and, subject to the view of the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC), this last condition may also be imposed by other Member States if it is justified by the rabies situation in the exporting country;

    —  however, the UK, Ireland and Sweden may waive any requirement relating to rabies for movements between each other or from the third countries listed in the proposal; and

    —  animals from third countries not listed would have to meet all three conditions provided for (that is, identification, vaccination and blood test), though, where they are imported directly into the UK, Ireland or Sweden, the authorities there may require them to be subject to quarantine.

Any additional requirements applying to cats and dogs would be adopted by the SVC.

4.4  In the case of other species listed in the Directive (spiders, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters):

    —  there would be no animal health requirements in respect of movements between Member States or the third countries covered by the Directive; and

    —  imports of these species from other third countries, and the certification to accompany them, would be determined by the SVC.

4.5  In the case of all other species, namely those not specifically referred to in the Directive, the necessary requirements would be laid down by the SVC.

4.6  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 17 October 2000, the then Minister of State (Lords) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman) said that the Government believed the proposal would reduce the risk of rabies being imported into the Community from third countries; that it therefore accepted the need for harmonised Community rules; and that it welcomed the proposal. However, she also said that the Government had some practical concerns about the detailed provisions of the proposal relating to the use of tattoos as well as microchips to identify cats and dogs; the position of animals from the candidate countries of central and eastern Europe, where there is a higher incidence of rabies than within the Community; and the treatment of ferrets (which, although carnivores for which no rabies vaccine and no blood test are available, would not be subject to the Directive).

4.7  In their Report of 1 November 2000, our predecessors noted the Government's view that a harmonised scheme would reduce the risk of rabies being imported into the Community from third countries, but that it had a number of concerns about what was proposed. They therefore said that, before considering this document further, they would like to know whether and how those concerns will be met. In addition, they outlined a number of points of their own on which they asked the Government to comment.

4.8  In a letter of 16 January 2001, the Minister said that there had not yet been any discussions on the proposal in the Council, but that, as regards tattoos, animals from central and eastern Europe, and ferrets, she was confident that the UK's arguments had the force of good science behind them, and hoped that it should be possible to persuade the Commission to accept them.

4.9  The Minister's answers to the questions put by our predecessors are set out in paragraphs 4.9-4.12 of their Report of 24 January 2001. These left two outstanding concerns. First, although the proposal enables requirements to be laid down subsequently for the intra-Community movement of animals not currently listed, there seems to be no such provision for comparable third country imports. The UK would be seeking to establish whether this is an accidental omission or not. Secondly, although the proposal would allow the UK to continue to require quarantine for animals entering directly from third countries not free of rabies, it was not clear whether it would still be possible to impose quarantine if such animals entered after having first spent some time in another Member State, or whether the rules applicable to intra-Community trade would then apply. The Minister said that she was not convinced that the proposal provided the necessary assurances against increasing the risk of importing rabies, the implication being that animals entering the UK from a third country via another Member State may not be quarantined. She added that this would not give the UK the necessary protection, and that she would therefore seek to have the text amended to meet this point.

4.10  In the light of the Minister's response, our predecessors said that, since this was an important proposal, they would like, before taking a final view on it, to know of any developments on those points over which uncertainties still remained. These include the Government's own concerns (paragraph 4.6 above), the provisions in paragraph 4.9 above regarding the subsequent extension of detailed requirements for animals imported from third countries, and the position of animals imported from third countries via another Member State. In the meantime, they were not clearing the document.

Explanatory Memoranda of 25 June 2001 and 26 October 2001

4.11  On 25 June 2001, the Minister now responsible for this subject — the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) — sent us an Explanatory Memorandum describing the amendments which the European Parliament had proposed at its first reading of the proposal on 3 May 2001. However, as it was not clear which of those amendments were acceptable to the Commission, we decided to await its amended proposal before considering the matter further. That proposal is now set out in document (b), for which the Minister has provided a further Explanatory Memorandum of 26 October 2001.

4.12  It would appear from these that the problem over tattoos has been resolved by an amendment allowing Member States currently requiring identification by microchip to continue to do so, but that the problem over the position of ferrets still remains. This still leaves a number of other areas of uncertainty. First, it is not clear whether the apparent lack of powers to lay down requirements for the importation from third countries of animals not currently listed has been rectified. Secondly, as regards animals imported from a third Country via another Member State, the Minister says that a blood test must have been carried out on a sample taken in one of the Member States at least six months previously, but it remains unclear whether a county such as the UK could still insist on quarantine. Thirdly, the Minister says in his earlier Explanatory Memorandum that the Commission has confirmed that the proposed Regulation would provide for animals from the candidate countries to be quarantined on arrival in the UK. However, whilst this is reassuring so far as it goes, it is not evident whether, and how, this interpretation is borne out by the actual wording of the proposal.


4.13  We are grateful to the Minister for this further information. However, before we clear the documents, we would be grateful for his further comments on the three points above. In particular, on the position of animals coming from the candidate countries, we would like to know whether he considers that a simple confirmation by the Commission that quarantine is required would be a sufficient safeguard against a legal challenge from an aggrieved exporter or importer.

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