The UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), has welcomed an announcement from Defra that it wants to retain tapeworm controls for dogs entering the UK. The move will help prevent the arrival of a tapeworm which causes a disease fatal to up to 90 per cent of the people who contract it.
If the European Commission agrees that the UK can retain this derogation, it will help keep the UK free from the Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm.
The tapeworm is principally caught from dogs and foxes, putting gamekeepers and shooters at particular risk.
In Switzerland the human death toll is between 20 and 30 cases a year. It is estimated that if the tapeworm reaches the UK, the death toll could be ten times higher.
The larvae cause tumour-like cysts to grow in the human liver which tend to remain undetected for up to 15 years, by which time the liver is so badly damaged that nine out of ten patients die.
BASC lobbied Defra on behalf of its members to ensure that the UK controls would remain in place and wrote to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman setting out its concerns. BASC also raised the issue in the House of Lords.
BASC revealed in March that the UK may have to lift veterinary controls which have so far kept the country free of Echinococcus multilocularis which is widespread in mainland Europe, where it has killed hundreds of people in the last decade.
It is currently a requirement that all dogs entering the UK must be wormed. On 31st December the UK’s ability to impose tapeworm controls was due to expire.
If controls are lifted, pets carrying the Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm could be introduced to the dog and fox population in the UK.
Defra has now had an indication from Europe that the controls can be retained.
The Defra website states: “The UK has been discussing with the European Commission the most appropriate form of tapeworm controls for dogs, to ensure the UK continues to be protected from Echinococcus multilocularis. The Commission has recently indicated that its proposals, expected shortly, would enable the UK and other tapeworm-free countries to retain tapeworm controls, with a requirement that animals be treated between one and five days before returning to the UK.”
Dr Conor O’Gorman from BASC said: “We welcome this development and will closely monitor the situation. This is a matter of life and death. Most BASC members will have dogs and all are countryside users so this is a very important issue for us.”
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Photograph by Nick Ridley.