Ferrets and sled dogs get EU pet passport boost

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Ferret, dog and cat owners got a boost from the European Union on Monday when it said it was broadening its pet passport scheme for animals that are taking part in competitions or sporting events.

The current limit of five pets that a person is allowed to bring across EU borders will be relaxed - so long as the owner can show that the animals are travelling for work and not for play.

"Under the new regulation owners may be exempted from that limit if they can prove that they are taking part with their animal in a competition, exhibition or sporting event (e.g. with a team of sledge dogs)," the EU said in a statement.

The new regulations, approved by the 27 EU member states on Monday, are set to come into force next year.

The passports are required for dogs, cats and ferrets because they are susceptible to rabies.

Since 2004 pets have been able to move freely through the European Union so long as they have an identification microchip and a passport with proof of vaccination against the disease.

The five-animal limit was originally imposed to stop people abusing the passports for commercial purposes.

Stricter conditions remain in force for Finland, Ireland, Malta and Britain.