Fur flies over MAF bid to rejig cat, dog imports

Importers who want to bring pet cats and dogs into New Zealand have challenged biosecurity officials trying to toughen up the import health standards for pets coming from Britain, while reducing quarantine requirements for pets coming from other parts of the world.

The new standard proposed to be introduced this month for cats and dogs being brought to New Zealand "will not be issued as anticipated because there has been a request for independent review", the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) said today.

New Zealanders and immigrants import about 2000 cats and 3100 dogs annually from about 40 countries, most of them from Australia (60 percent), Britain (23 percent) and the United States (8 percent).

Under current rules, many cats and dogs are allowed to come from Britain or the Irish Republic without being quarantined, as long as they have resided in one of those countries for the previous six months.

A pet travel consultant, Catherine Allaway, told MAF that "New Zealand has not had a quarantine period before for pets from the UK" and that her clients "will, understandably, be quite opposed to the idea".

"Although only 10 days is proposed, clients are incredibly 'anti' quarantine," she said.

Cats and dogs from Australia will have the easiest path across the border, without even a 10-day quarantine required of other pets for external parasites such as disease-carrying fleas, lice and ticks.

At present, many pets coming from other countries outside Britain or Ireland had to undergo a 30-day quarantine.

Planned changes included no longer requiring post-arrival quarantine to check on rabies infection.

Other checks being rationalised or dropped included those for transmissible venereal tumours in dogs, heartworm, and for Babesia gibsoni -- which causes red blood cell destruction in dogs such as greyhounds and pit bulls as well as humans in many other countries -- and a dog disease, Ehrlichiosis, transmitted by ticks.

However, an independent review would considerably delay the new standards, MAF said today.

There was now no date set for the new requirements to come into effect, and importers needed to make their applications under the old rules, which permit some cats and dogs to come from Britain or the Irish Republic without being quarantined there.

MAF warned that the delay might cause anxiety and stress and apologised for the "confusion and uncertainty that this process has caused pet owners".



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