CHANNEL FERRET; Pets get their passports.
The decision is good news for the UK's two million pet ferrets and their owners, giving the animals the same rights to roam across the EU as cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs.
Ferrets were left out of European pet passport legislation agreed two years ago because tests to check if the creatures have had the necessary vaccinations did not work.
But after a campaign by Ferret World magazine and the Ferret Trust, veterinary experts have accepted that the risk of rabies transmission is too small to justify travel restrictions.
The passports issued to cats and dogs are microchips that prove they have been vaccinated and do not have rabies, so they don't have to endure a six-month quarantine after travelling in EU countries.
Jane Bewlay, of the Ferret Trust in Northumberland, said: "It's great news - now ferrets can take part in exhibitions and shows overseas for the first time.
"It wasn't fair to deny passports to ferrets but give them to cats and dogs."
And Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies yesterday welcomed the decision. He said: "The new law will make it much easier for British male ferrets to meet French female ferrets.
"It could have profound implications for the future of breeding stock on both sides of the Channel."
Scots ferret fancier Jacqui Adams, 49, from Duns, Berwickshire, was happy too.
She said: "This is great news for ferret lovers. It has been a long time coming.
"I thought it was very unfair that ferrets were not being allowed passports.
"It meant they could not compete in Europe and owners couldn't import breeds."
But Jacqui regrets that the new rules are too late for her super-ferret, Warhol, who was once the world's fastest.
Warhol won the 1999 World Ferret Racing Championships.
But Jacqui said: "It is too late for Warhol, he is too old to compete in Europe.
"It would have been good to have a passport for him in his prime because he was the best and would have given foreign ferrets a real run for their money."
Ferrets belong to the Mustelid family of mammals which includes weasels, stoats, polecats and badgers.
But they aren't just pets - they have been in the UK since Roman times and are traditionally working beasts.
Jane Bewlay said: "They are used to hunt rabbits in holes but they even helped build the Millennium Dome.
"They were harnessed and trained to pull cables across narrow joists."
EU MUST BE KIDDING
THE best-known barmy EU rules came in 1994 when the Brussels bureaucrats banned bananas if they were too curved.
But they have also attacked cucumbers, which they said should also be straight, and pears if they were less than 56mm in diameter.
EU chiefs have argued for years over the naming of various types of cheese.
But perhaps their most potty suggestion came last year when they told farmers they should pat their pigs for at least 10 minutes a week.
An EU committee on animal welfare said petting sessions would make pigs feel more at ease.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Apr 11, 2003|
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