Have passport, will travel

IN keeping with the Royal events of the week, I have been searching for a regal connection in this week’s diary and I have to admit the result is perhaps a little tenuous.

In recent years, documentaries seem to have concentrated more on Her Majesty’s passion for horse racing than her love of that other four-legged friend, the corgi.

However, it is with these canine companions that I am going to concentrate my efforts.

On the whole, corgis are pretty uncommon in Northumberland and a quick search of our database revealed only a couple of registered dogs.

However, one of them, a seven-month-old red and white Pembroke corgi called Meg has been backwards and forwards to us a few times recently and her story will make a neat link.

Thankfully Meg has not been ill, on the contrary, she is the picture of good health. The reason that we have seen her so frequently is because she has been going through the process of gaining a pet passport enabling her to embark on royal trips of her own. I warned you it was tenuous!

With Royal fervour on a high it will not have escaped many that the United Kingdom is an island and as such separated from mainland Europe. Apart from playing a significant role in many things historical, the English Channel has also proven an effective barrier to a number of contagious diseases, most notably rabies.

Prior to October 1, 2001, any pet coming into the UK from mainland Europe was subject to an obligatory six-month stint in quarantine kennels, a high price to pay if you only wanted to take your dog on holiday with you!

With effective rabies vaccination widely available, the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was introduced to circumnavigate quarantine while continuing to protect the indigenous UK pet population from the introduction of disease.

The process requires than pets are firstly micro-chipped, to provide permanent identification of the individuals concerned and then vaccinated against rabies.

As an aside, I was once presented with a Siberian hamster, destined for Saudi Arabia, for rabies vaccination. Though the hamster was little bigger than the vial of vaccine, the airline was insisting that it should be injected.

A few phone calls soon ascertained that this species did not, in fact, require rabies vaccination, though the case had already caused a fair degree of fuss and consternation.

That same day I caught word on the news of a plane that had been grounded because rodents had managed to chew through some important electrical cables. I like to think this was our hamster escaping and getting his own back, though it probably was just wild mice!

Getting back to Meg, following vaccination against rabies, which may require one or two injections depending on circumstances, we then take a blood sample to demonstrate that the vaccine has worked.

As I introduced the needle into Meg’s jugular vein we all waited with bated breath to see what colour the emerging blood would be. Red, not blue, I’m afraid!

The timing of the sample is critical. It is taken about three weeks after vaccination to ensure optimum chances of getting a positive laboratory result and it marks the official chronological start of the process – the passport becoming valid exactly six months later.

It is important to remember this fact – a pet passport takes at least eight months to put in place so it is no good popping into the vet’s the week before your hols. Once in place the passport is valid for life as long as rabies booster vaccinations are maintained. They are currently required every three years.

For Meg, everything is now in place and she is able to travel backwards and forwards to Europe without threat of quarantine. I only hope she was in Alnwick to see the Queen and not on a Royal trip of her own.