Disease warning as figures show 20,000 dogs rehomed from Romania

Animal lovers have been warned that rehoming dogs from abroad could bring a risk of disease, as figures show around 20,000 were brought to the UK from Romania last year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Dogs Trust charity warned that rehoming animals from overseas risks importing canine diseases not commonly found in the UK.

Figures from the Animal and Plant Health Agency show that in 2019 a total of 44,563 dogs were legally brought into the UK from overseas.

In total, 19,487 – or 44% – came from Romania, more than the rest of the top five countries combined.

The next highest number of imported dogs came from Ireland, with 7,368 rehomed, 4,891 from Spain, 3,457 from Cyprus and 2,604 from the United States.

The animals were imported to the UK under the Balai Directive, which covers all commercially imported dogs, including commercial puppies, rescue dogs, research dogs and unaccompanied pets.

SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacKiskill said the numbers are “surprising and concerning”.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “Romania’s not top of anyone’s list, either at Crufts or when buying a dog.

“If it is strays, issues are raised about who is bringing them and why, as well where they’re going.

“Animal welfare must be paramount but simply relocating strays from Romania to become strays in the UK would be unacceptable. Some drill down on what and why is needed.”

A spokeswoman for the Dogs Trust said the numbers are on the increase and warned of disease and behavioural risks.

She added: “There continues to be a large number of stray dogs in many overseas countries, and the number of dogs imported into Great Britain from EU countries such as Romania has been on the rise over the past few years.

“As dog lovers, we understand how heart-wrenching it can be to see dogs abandoned or mistreated abroad; however, rehoming them from other countries is not without risk.

“There are a number diseases found in mainland Europe that we don’t have in the UK and which are not subject to testing or management under the rules of pet travel.

“Additionally, a large number of these dogs are free-roaming or strays, meaning they can struggle to adapt to a UK home environment and which may result in challenging behavioural issues.”

A Defra spokesman urged potential dog owners to rehome from reputable UK-based organisations.

He added: “The UK has some of the highest animal health and welfare standards in the world and we are committed to making sure the nation’s much-loved pets get the right start in life – so we urge any prospective owners to consider rehoming from a reputable UK organisation.

“Pet buyers should always see a puppy with its mother and any litter, and, if possible, in the location it was born.”

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