EU eases pet emergency travel rules
Pets will be able to travel throughout the EU without passports to escape natural disasters and political uprisings.
New laws will even allow animals without rabies jabs to pass through rabies-free countries if their situation is deemed dire enough.
Officials in the European Parliament have agreed to change existing laws to help pet owners out of difficult situations.
Welcoming the development, a Department of Agriculture spokesman said easing the restrictions would make it easier for pets to get across borders in an emergency.
"Special provision is also being made for pet owners affected by events such as political unrest or severe personal circumstances," the spokesman added.
Pets will also be allowed to catch a flight on their own - depending on how serious their emergency is. Regulations in relation to rabies protection and moving pets through the EU have been in place since 2003. Cats, dogs and ferrets can travel with their owners around the EU provided they have a passport certifying their identification, rabies vaccination status and tapeworm treatment.
Rules are also in place for those travelling into the EU from other countries. But the new amendment - agreed by Europe's Committee of Representatives and introduced to bring provisions in line with the Lisbon Treaty - is said to improve practicalities for pet owners.
"The agreement, which has now been approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives, is designed to be more user-friendly whilst still preserving the high EU levels of public safety and animal health," said the agriculture spokesman.
"A major innovation will be the provision of clear and easily-accessible information on vaccinations, pet passports and other requirements for travel with pets."
Pets that are allowed to take advantage of the new rules and travel without a passport will be given a special permit from the country they are hoping to travel to. The animal would be quarantined while travelling and would remain under official supervision until it meets the entry rules.