Client: Passports for Pets
PR Team: In-house and GJW Government Relations
Campaign: Passports for Pets
Timescale: November 1994 - ongoing
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
Passports for Pets has been lobbying for change, appointing GJW as
advisers in September 1995.
To make the Government abolish the existing six-month quarantine
regulations and introduce a ’passports for pets’ system similar to that
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
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.
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.