Campaigns: Appeal to end pets’ purgatory - Lobbying

Client: Passports for Pets
PR Team: In-house and GJW Government Relations
Campaign: Passports for Pets
Timescale: November 1994 - ongoing
Budget: Undisclosed

Client: Passports for Pets

PR Team: In-house and GJW Government Relations

Campaign: Passports for Pets

Timescale: November 1994 - ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed



Passports for Pets is a lobbying body founded by Lady Fretwell in

November 1994 after a House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee

report recommended that animals coming from approved countries should be

able to enter the UK without going into quarantine, provided they were

vaccinated and could be identified.



A few weeks after the report, the Government announced it was too soon

to make changes to existing quarantine rules while rabies was still

widespread in Europe and while there was limited experience of the new

system.



Passports for Pets has been lobbying for change, appointing GJW as

advisers in September 1995.



Objectives



To make the Government abolish the existing six-month quarantine

regulations and introduce a ’passports for pets’ system similar to that

in Sweden.



Tactics



Parliamentary lobbying concentrated on direct contact with ministers and

providing material for debates. At the same time Passports for Pets

sought to gain new members, published a regular news bulletin and

encouraged lobbying of local MPs.



Media relations attempted to keep the issue in the spotlight and to win

the support of journalists. Main activities focused on achieving

coverage for major achievements in Parliament and targeting the letters

pages of the broadsheets.



Close contact was maintained with sympathetic organisations such as the

RSPCA, the National Canine Defence League and a new body called Vets in

Support of Change fronted by eminent vet, Lord Soulsby. Countering

adverse publicity from the Quarantine Kennel Owners Association was

vital.



Results



There have been two debates in the Lords. The most recent held last

November, and led by Lord Soulsby, had ten speakers calling for change

and only Lord Howe opposed it. Last June Labour MP Tony Banks introduced

a Ten Minute Rule Bill supporting change which created great interest

and got a second reading before being quashed by the Government.



A string of parliamentary questions have kept the issue alive. In July

David Steel asked the agriculture minister how many

scientifically-proven cases of rabies had occurred in the UK in the last

25 years. The minister admitted there had only been a bat discovered in

Newhaven, which effectively contradicted one of QKOA’s main arguments -

that two dogs had died from rabies.



In November, the RSPCA held a seminar with Passports for Pets and its

council came out in favour of change. There is now an Early Day Motion

with 60 signatures based on the its report. And the RSPCA has been

running a press advertising campaign asking ’Why six months?’



Media activity included coverage on Panorama and Crufts 97 on BBC2.

Press coverage was gained in the Times, the Guardian, the Daily Mail,

Mail on Sunday, the Express, Mirror and the Economist.



Around 3,000 members have been recruited, including personalities such

as Jilly Cooper and Liz Hurley. However, Passports for Pets prefers not

to make use of them. After a lengthy review, the Government was expected

to publish a Green Paper on quarantine in February but no official

announcement has been made.



Passports for Pets claims there is a faction in Government which thinks

there are votes to be won with rabies scare stories. On the other hand,

Passports for Pets believes ex-pat votes will swing on this issue. But

the quarantine debate has been pushed aside by other issues in the

run-up to the general election.



Verdict



Despite not yet winning an ultimate change in legislation, Passports for

Pets has conducted a powerful campaign using funds from supporters and

volunteers. Lobbying has won influential supporters and forced the

Government to concede that there is no scientific argument against

changes to quarantine regulations, while a focused media relations

campaign has illicited sympathetic press coverage of the cause.



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