Vets are warning of the dangers of “Trojan” dogs bringing deadly diseases to the UK, as the number of foreign rescued strays soars.
The British Veterinary Association is calling on political parties to make compulsory health checks at borders part of their election manifestos, to protect pups on our shores.
Daniella Dos Santos, BVA President, said: “Adverts for organisations that rehome European dogs are often only a couple of clicks away.
“But in reality these Trojan dogs often have unknown health histories and may pose a risk to the native pet population and even humans if they bring in new diseases.”
Imports of dogs through the Pet Travel Scheme have doubled from 150,000 in 2013 to just over 300,000 last year, Defra has revealed.
It is thought the popularity of rescuing a stray from abroad has been fuelled by well-meaning celebrities.
Actor Orlando Bloom rescued a dog, Sidi, from the streets of Morocco.
Tennis legend Sue Barker adopted hers from Romania. Ricky Gervais is also patron of a charity that brings rescue dogs to the UK from Romania.
Daniella added: “We would always advise people to look at rehoming dogs already in the country. There are so many here who deserve a loving home and don’t pose a potential health risk.”
Vets are particularly worried about potentially fatal leishmaniasis.
It is common across Europe and can cause skin infections, eye and spleen problems and weight loss.
They have also reported seeing cases of other exotic conditions such as ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and heartworm.
Daniella added: “If you already own a rescue dog from abroad, ask a vet for advice on testing and treatment.”
Designer breeds and cross-breeds bred abroad in unsafe conditions can also bring diseases to the UK.
A Defra spokesman defended checks already in place at borders, saying: “Every dog must have its microchip and passport checked, which helps make sure puppies entering the country are properly vaccinated.”
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