Adopting Pets From Abroad
In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of pets, dogs in particular, being “rescued” and imported from abroad, especially from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Greece.
It is very understandable for us all to want to help these pets by giving them a loving home,
given the appalling conditions they have often come from. In many cases, this can be hugely rewarding. However, rescuing any dog or cat comes with challenges but this can particularly be the case with pets from abroad.
Many rescue dogs have spent their lives in kennels or on the streets, so they may arrive frightened and poorly socialised. This can result in nervousness and aggression towards other pets and people and also separation anxiety problems which can make adjusting to life in the UK very difficult.
Apart from behavioural issues, there are also potential disease problems. Simply because these pets have come into the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme doesn’t guarantee that they are free from disease. They are only required to be vaccinated against rabies and dogs must have tapeworm treatment against Echinococcus multilocularis. There are however many other diseases that the travel scheme does not cover.
We are very privileged that we have relatively few serious parasitic diseases affecting dogs and cats in the UK. imported dogs may have already been infected with diseases such as heartworm or Leishmania which can result in significant ongoing vet bills as well as risking introducing these diseases into the UK.
Compulsory tick treatment for imported dogs was removed in 2012. This has allowed a variety of tick-borne diseases to potentially come into the UK with imported dogs, including Babesia and Ehrlichia, both of which can cause serious illness in dogs and may even be fatal. Such diseases also usually involve considerable expense and heartache.
The ESCCAP UK & Ireland website offers more information on the parasitic risks associated with importing pets from abroad.
We're not saying you shouldn't rescue a dog from abroad, but we do recommend that you go into it having weighed up all the pros and cons. There are lots of unwanted pets in the UK desperately in need of a good, loving home and many of these are likely to come with less risk of disease and behavioural problems.
There are strong arguments for dogs to be rehired in their own countries and for more effort and funding to be directed towards improving the conditions and attitudes towards dogs and cats in those countries. Offering financial help to rescue charities operating in those countries, getting involved with their work and raising awareness on social media can help to tackle the problem of unwanted dogs in those countries.
If you do decide to adopt from abroad, we recommend that you use a reputable charity which ensures that imported pets have already been health checked, fully vaccinated, treated for parasites and have legal passports. Ideally, you should have them checked by your UK vet as soon as possible after you get them.