Defra, the Government Department responsible for quarantine and pet movement policy in the UK, has agreed to allow Darcy, Essex’ search and rescue dog, to serve out her confinement within secure premises owned by the Service.
Darcy will spend her remaining five months’ quarantine in familiar surroundings at Lexden, where she is based with the Urban Search and Rescue team. Her handler John Ball, a USAR technician, will have unlimited access to her and she will be able to continue with her training regime to maintain operational fitness and competency.
Darcy will still not be able to attend any emergency incidents in the UK should the team be called out, but ACFO Gordon Hunter, Director of Operations and Resilience, described the decision as a victory for common sense.
“Although it is not possible under current rules to grant a full release from quarantine, we are delighted that after talks with Defra, they have agreed to a training regime which proves an acceptable compromise between the needs of our search and rescue dog and the requirement that we protect the UK from devastating diseases like rabies.
“We understand and respect those needs and Darcy will continue to be kept in a restricted area. She is a valuable resource and it is vital that she remains operationally competent.
“Though the quarantine kennels where she was kept were good to her, the facilities at Lexden are better suited to the needs of a search and rescue dog and her training and exercise regime.”
Darcy was put into quarantine at Stanway, near Colchester, on her return from the UK from Indonesia. She travelled with a team of Essex officers as part of a Government aid relief team sent out following a major earthquake that devastated the region.
She is expected to be moved to Lexden once necessary adjustments have been made to her holding premises. A team of ECFRS volunteers – including the USAR team based there – will be working on site on December 5 to erect security fencing and carry out other modifications demanded by Defra veterinary inspectors. An inspector will need to re-visit the site to check the work once complete but Defra has promised this will happen quickly.
She will return to the quarantine premises each evening after training.
“We have the public of Essex to thank for supporting us in our efforts to secure an appropriate training regime for Darcy, particularly NQE Essex, Colchester MP Bob Russell and the thousands of people who signed petitions and support forms. The welfare of our animal touched them all,” said ACFO Hunter.