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You'll need an EU pet passport to travel with your dog to Britain

Belfast Live logo Belfast Live 2 days ago Jilly Beattie
a brown and white dog looking at the camera: Stock Image © Getty Images Stock Image

Dogs and cats will need an EU pet passport to travel into Northern Ireland from England, Scotland or Wales from next year, it has been confirmed.

The rule will be triggered after the end of the Brexit transition period.

EU pet passports currently cost £60 and although the UK is rabies free, due to travelling on an EU pet passport Northern Ireland pets could face rabies vaccinations at least 21 days before they travel.

The move, part of the government Withdrawal Agreement Boris Johnson negotiated with Brussels, means an internal ‘pet border’ will be created within the United Kingdom from January 1 2021.

Freedom of movement is accepted without passports currently across the Irish border pets but in Britain going to Northern Ireland will need to show a passport because it is a different animal health area.

So the agreement ensures Northern Ireland will effectively remain inside the EU’s customs territory, moving the border to the Irish Sea for pets to prevent controversial inspections on the land border after Brexit.

The rules will apply to dogs, cats and ferrets - and they can have their photographs on their passports.

Joe Moran, Deputy Co-ordinator of the UK-EU Animal Welfare Taskforce, said: “You can’t refer to the UK at all in this case as a single unit any more. Pet passports will be needed between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“The pet travel scheme will continue in Northern Ireland post Brexit. So any pet owner travelling from Great Britain to either the EU or Northern Ireland will need to go through the same rigmarole. This is a consequence of the revised Protocol on NI (Art 5(4) and Annex II).

“The good news is that, with a passport pets from Britain should be fine to continue travelling both to the European mainland and to the island of Ireland which wasn’t always assured.”

Mr Moran, who works for the Eurogroup for Animals, an organisation dealing with 70 animal welfare charities, explained: “Northern Ireland will continue to operate as if it’s in EU in this regard and for general animal health requirements too.

“So if you’re taking your dog to Northern Ireland [from GB] you’ll need either the equivalent of a pet passport, if GB opts in to the EU system, or animal health certification and blood tests if they do not opt in.

“What these documents will be is yet not confirmed. It depends if whether the UK government asks to be listed and take part in the EU pet travel scheme or not.

Gallery: Brexit timeline (Photo Services)

“If they do, for travellers from Britain, going to Northern Ireland will be like travelling today from UK to France for example. And if they do not take part in the EU pet travel scheme, it’ll be a lot harder for pet owners. My advice is to speak to your vet about this too.”

The issue will also apply to Northern Ireland travellers coming back home from mainland UK with their pets.

The EU’s vast Pet Travel Scheme allows for the free movement of cats, dogs and ferrets within Europe without the need for quarantine. 

And in the UK, including Northern Ireland, around 250,000 British pets use passports to travel in the EU every year, according to the European Commission.

The move could create a lot of anxiety within Northern Ireland’s holiday industry which has been supporting the growing pet friendly movement.

And with hundreds of dog shows held across Britain and Northern Ireland every year, the knock on effect could be felt far and wide.

The British Veterinary Association warned in 2018 that if the UK left the EU with no deal, it would become an unlisted third country where pet travel is concerned.

Daniella Dos Santos, junior vice president of BVA, said: “If the UK leaves with an unlisted third country status, pet owners will  need to take additional steps and start preparations at least four months ahead of their planned departure date.”

She added that is “highly likely” owners will face long waits and additional costs before getting the green light for their pet to leave the UK for Europe or Northern Ireland.

Without Brussel’s approval, pet owners who travel will face a complex certification process.

And for many that leaves the requirement for an EU-approved pet passport as a preferred scenario.

It is subject to the European Commission agreeing a British request to be considered a “listed” non-EU country that meets the necessary health requirements.

For the purposes of the EU pet movements system, countries are divided into three categories:

  • Pets from member states or equivalents, including European Economic Area, must hold a valid EU pet passport.
  • Listed third countries are nations which the EU does not consider to present a higher risk of disease incursion, or where there is convincing evidence that they have effective systems in place to report, control and manage rabies.
  • Unlisted third countries are those that have not been accepted for “listed” status because of less robust veterinary or administrative systems, higher rabies incidence or because they have never applied.

“Third country” pet passports will have the same information as the EU passports, which are blue, but will look different.

Getting an EU pet passport:

  • The pet must be microchipped.
  • The pet must then be given a rabies vaccination at lest 21 days before you travel. 
  • All entries on the pet passport should be legible and correct, as any errors could lead to your pet being detained on entry to another country or on return home.

Stay at home as much as possible to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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