Three opossums which went missing after being illegally imported into the UK pose a rabies threat, warn Trading Standards officers.
The opossums – marsupials native to South America – are about the size of a domestic cat. Some were found during a raid on a pet shop in the Midlands and had been illegally imported and sold online.
The three which are still missing were thought to have been sent to Cornwall, but a search of a property where it was believed they were being kept was unsuccessful.
Jane Tomlinson, Cornwall Trading Standards manager, said: “Smuggled or illegally imported mammals have a very high risk of being infected with rabies. This is often a fatal disease in humans and is always fatal to animals.
“I urge everyone not to buy animals over the internet, and ensure you see the parents of any young animals before purchase. If animals are taken from the wild there is also a risk to the future conservation of species.”
Animals imported into the UK must comply within The Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011.
To legally import an animal, buyers must:
- Obtain an Intra Trade Animal Health Certificate
- Obtain a Transport document (for animals susceptible to listed diseases in the directive)
- Nominate an official veterinarian
- Use the EU Trade Notification System (Traces)
- Send written notification of your consignment to the Animal and Plant Health Agency office closest to the destination, 24 hours before it arrives.
- The animals must arrive at approved port/airport
- The consignment must be checked by an APHA inspector on arrival in the UK
- Importers must book an authorized quarantine carrier and premises, if required