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»A vet has sent out a warning after a couple who bought a chow chow puppy imported from Hungary were forced to undergo precautionary rabies treatment.

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Russell Hatton, of Canonbury Veterinary Practice, Essex Road, Islington, has raised the alarm after a woman from Hackney brought the £900 puppy in for a check-up – and admitted it had given her a small bite.

Mr Hatton, a vet of 27 years, found the age of the puppy did not appear to match that on its passport, issued by Hungarian authorities.

The discrepancy meant that the dog – which the owners thought was four months old – was not old enough to have been legally vaccinated against rabies – a strict pet passport requirement as the deadly disease is still present in Europe.

Mr Hatton reported the puppy to DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and advised the woman – who did not wish to be identified – to seek medical attention along with her husband.

They ended up in hospital undergoing a gruelling round of post-exposure rabies injections, which they described as a “nightmare”.

Tests later revealed the puppy had been vaccinated but Trading Standards are now reviewing the case as there are still concerns about the age of the puppy, believed to be as young as eight weeks old when she arrived in the UK.

The couple travelled to Bristol to pick up the chow chow thinking the seller was a legitimate breeder. The woman told the Gazette: “He said that he owned the father and that a friend of his owned the mother.”

But once they had handed over the cash for the dog, the man gave them a pet passport printed in Hungarian. He then conceded that the puppy was from Hungary but insisted all the documentation was correct and the couple took the pet home as she appeared healthy.

However, on taking her to the vet, it was clear the pooch was far younger than they thought – and therefore below the three month minimum age for vaccinations recommended by DEFRA.

Although they now have confirmation the puppy was vaccinated, the couple are is still concerned about its age, welfare and the potential trauma of the importation process she had gone through.

And Mr Hatton said their case may be the tip of an iceberg. In the last year, he has seen a number of pets whose ages appear not to match their passports and he suspects there may be a burgeoning illegal trade in puppies and kittens.

He said: “These animals are flooding in. Just last week, I had a kitten in from Ukraine that was eight weeks old – yet it was supposed to be 16 weeks old.”

He strongly advised anyone buying a pet to get it checked over by a vet as soon as possible, to avoid the spread of rabies.

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