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My dog was given passport to death.

Byline: By Ross Smith

A distraught family whose dog died from an exotic disease on holiday have warned of "the dangers" of the Government's pet passport scheme.

Retired teacher Brian Coleman pleaded with other pet owners in the North not to repeat his "naivety" after his West Highland Terrier Hamie contracted a fatal disease in France.

Mr Coleman and his wife Jean, a primary school teacher, were delighted when the scheme was introduced and they were able to take Hamie with them for the first time when they visited their holiday cottage in Dordogne in April.

But 16-month-old Hamie became unwell and died a painful and horrible death after they returned to their home in York Avenue, Jarrow following the two-week break.

Vets said he had contracted babesiosis, a disease spread by ticks in Europe, which caused his kidneys and liver to fail.

Mr Coleman, 55, said: "We thought the pet passports were a great idea. Hamie was a big part of the family, and we thought it was wonderful to be able to take him across to France with us.

"We were given no knowledge whatsoever about this disease from the information on the pet passport scheme or from the vet. There is no vaccination for it available in this country.

"If we had known there was a chance he could catch this and what would happen, we would never have taken him."

Hamie was healthy while the family were in France, but became lethargic and would not eat the day after they came home. He later started vomiting and suffering with diarrhoea.

Vets gave him a series of injections and put him on a saline drip, but Hamie died three days later.

"It was a horrible, horrible death," said Mr Coleman.

His daughter Rachel, 28, and son Ian, 23, who had looked after Hamie while their parents were in France last year, were both distraught at the news.

Brian and Jean, 52, now own two more West Highland Terriers, Ross and Molly, who were bred by Hamie's parents. But Mr Coleman said: "They are in no way a replacement for Hamie. He was an integral part of the family.

"I just don't want other people to take their pets abroad with the same naivety we did, and not realise what the consequences might be."

Hamie had been treated with medicine to prevent worms and ticks, as recommended by Defra, but it failed to counter the babesiosis.

The pet passport scheme was launched in 2000, and 150,000 animals are expected to travel abroad under it this year.

The Defra website reports seven cases of babesiosis in dogs and cats in the year up to March. British pets have no resistance to the disease and, like Hamie, can die within days.

A spokesman for the department said: "There is a lot of information on our website that points to problems that can occur when taking pets abroad. There are a series of factsheets available on the website and we also have a helpline on 0870 2411710."
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 5, 2004
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