An airline company has been ordered to pay £35,000 after a cat was illegally imported to the UK at Gatwick Airport, an action which West Sussex County Council said could have potentially led to rabies being introduced in the country.

The case related to a passenger who was allowed to carry her pet on a flight from Iran to Kiev with onward passage to Gatwick in December.

The cat travelled in the cabin of the Ukraine International Airlines flight, and did not have relevant paperwork such as a pet passport and the carry box did not meet requirements of animal regulations.

The court heard the airline is not authorised to carry animals to the UK.

Peter Aston, West Sussex Trading Standard’s team manager said:

“We hope that this case will act as a deterrent to other airlines and indeed all those importing pets into the UK.

“If you breach the rules that keep the UK safe from animal disease, there will be consequences.

“There is still a strong threat of introduction of rabies into the UK from the illegal importation of an infected animal such as a dog or cat and we are pleased that this was reflected in the level of fine the airline received.”

The airline pleaded guilty to two charges under rabies and animal welfare legislation.

The case was heard at Worthing Magistrates Court on Thursday (October, 19).