The campaign to reform Britain’s quarantine laws is all over, bar
the shouting. Last week, the Government indicated that instead of a six
month stretch in kennels, microchip implants and documentation proving
inoculation against rabies and other diseases will now suffice for pets
returning with their owners to Britain.
It would be easy to understate the success of the Passports for Pets
campaign. A string of emotive stories about the cruelty of ’animal
prisons’, backed up by celebrity-led stories about the pain of
separation from family pets would be sufficient to win the campaign in
this animal loving country.
Yet this belittles the skill of this campaign and the opposition it
Only last year an opinion poll suggested the majority of people were in
favour of retaining the quarantine laws. The fear of rabies and other
’foreign’ diseases runs deep in the nation’s psyche.
Sure, Passports for Pets has good establishment connections. But even
so, it’s a remarkable achievement for a pressure group which was only
established three years ago. Its success is based on skilful messaging
and diligent groundwork to build a broad alliance of support.
By calling itself Passports for Pets, it immediately appealed to
everybody who loves animals. At the same time it offered reassurance to
those who loathe the dog next door and are concerned that it will start
frothing at the mouth when it returns from the family holiday
This dual messaging has run through the organisation’s activities and
sets the style and tone of its campaign. A blunt ’scrap quarantine laws’
campaign - even with the support of the powerful animal rights lobby -
would never have worked. The name Passports for Pets conveys both the
problem and the solution. It addresses people’s concerns about change
and therefore it immediately disarms opponents’ arguments.
Passports for Pets built up an impressive array of supporters. Early on
it won support from the RSPCA and other animal welfare charities. It
also invested time and effort in convincing vets and Ministery of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials of the merits of its case.
Naturally conservative and resistant to the campaign’s emotive appeal,
these bodies were swayed by scientific evidence and research.
This strategy proved so successful that the only real opposition to the
pet passports scheme comes from Britain’s 79 licensed quarantine kennel
owners whose business will now, metaphorically, go to the dogs.