Reliable old DEFRA have managed to do it again. As related in a previous post, anyone hoping to export an animal to Russia will find that the government has failed to maintain a recognised agreement with their Russian opposites (Министерство сельского хозяйства), and as a result all import agreements need to be made on an individual basis. So when Korshki Bengals arranged for an import permit to Russia, it came as some surprise that it was DEFRA which threw a cog in the works. After all, they didn’t even have an agreement with the Russians in the first place, and a glance at their official documentation for the export of animals to the country illustrates a refined degree of incompetence, with seemingly no ability to reproduce Cyrillic script, nor any understanding that cats are rarely brought down with African swine fever.

Nevertheless, DEFRA rules for DEFRA’s rules. With the cat vaccinated, microchipped, import permits signed, and a flight arranged with Lutfhansa, the only thing missing was a final veterinarian’s signature on the health certificate, which DEFRA had demanded could not be signed any earlier than 10 days before flying. The reasons behind this were only revealed on the day. The only unusual request from the Russian government as far as cats are concerned, was that the animal was foot and mouth free. Despite the fact that the animal was being exported from the UK, DEFRA regardless felt it was necessary that the animal be vaccinated against rabies. This vaccine, however, prevents the animal from flying within 14 days – so why then was the information only passed on within 10 days of flying? The vet, of course, didn’t know. The local DEFRA officer, naturally, didn’t know. In fact DEFRA’s office itself in London, didn’t know. It had to be followed up to DEFRA’s office in Lincoln, now responsible for all exports of cats (amongst other things) for a vociferous and rather peripatetic answer. In fact, to call it an answer seems too strong a word, for it was more of a comment. What the argument essentially boiled down to was that the vaccinations the cat requires can only be revealed within such a timeframe that the legislation will not change between the time the animal is signed for and the time it leaves the country.

Yet where is the logic for this argument? Not only is rabies one of the older and more documented diseases, not only are the rules regarding rabies unlikely to change in such short notice in either the UK or the EU, but the responsibility lies with the Russian department on how it deals with animals coming into the country, something DEFRA would do well to remember given their lack of any formal agreement with the country.