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Preparing your pet for travel post-Brexit

Large Leonberger dog and puppy Leonberger dog in garden

Social media remains awash with post Brexit scaremongering! ‘They’re going to abolish the pet passport system’ is just one headline I’ve read recently, although it doesn’t appear to have any foundation in fact.

For those of us who now regularly travel with our pets (I’m predominantly talking about dogs, but I have met a few cats and even the occasional holidaying ferret while I’ve been on my travels), there are potentially big changes a foot. In my experience, few pet owners seem to know what’s going on, and even fewer vets. In fact, my vet told me my dog needed a £170 blood test. On any reading of the DEFRA guidelines, it’s clear that he didn’t.

A little bit of revision

I’ve heard quite a lot of references to the fact we’ll “revert to the old Pet Passport rules” after Brexit. When asked, not many people seem to know what this means but it is important to understand if you want to make sense of the current DEFRA advice and gossip!

The first Pet Passport scheme

The Pet Passport scheme was first introduced in February 2000. Your dog could now travel without going into quarantine, provided they were microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and had had a rabies blood test 4 months after the vaccination. You then had to wait another 6 months from the blood test before they could arrive back in the UK. Your dog also had to be treated by a vet for tapeworm 1-5 days before its arrival back in the UK and the treatment recorded (with exact times) in the passport.

The time frame of these rules was eventually relaxed so that a blood test could be taken (at least) 30 days after your pet was vaccinated and you only had to wait 3 months before you could travel.

The most recent Pet Passport scheme

In 2014 some important changes were introduced which relaxed the time frame even more.

The main provisions were:

  • a new minimum age of 12 weeks before a pet can be vaccinated against rabies
  • but you only had to wait 21 days from the date of vaccination before travel.

All pets under this scheme are still required to have a microchip which confirms the animal’s identity, but tick treatment was no longer a legal requirement.

So, what’s going to happen after the 29th March?

It’s a good question and it’s nothing short of amazing that DEFRA’s most recent advice is dated November last year! They did issue updated guidance in December but withdrew it in January. And brace yourself – the existing guidance is vague, confusing and in some instances, doesn’t seem to make any sense!

Broadly speaking after the 29th March, one of three things will happen:

In the event we secure a deal. The UK will probably be given something called either Part 1 or Part 2 status. Part 1 status should mean the Pet Passport scheme will remain pretty much the same as it is. If we’re given Part 2 status, the current rules will probably be modified and pets will now require a Health Certificate to travel (see below) but other than that, no major changes.

We leave the EU on a no deal basis. This is the worst case scenario. It changes the UK’s status to something called Part 3 and means the rules for pet travel could change roughly as follows:

You’ll still need your dog to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. The blood test will then need to be taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination. Provided the test is successful, the rules will go back to requiring you to wait 3 months from the date of the successful blood sample before you travel. But this is for first time dog travellers only, provided your dog’s rabies vaccinations are kept up to date with boosters.

A new Health Certificate provision

An additional provision will require you to take your dog to a vet, no more than 10 days before travel to get a Health Certificate. Your pet will need a Health Certificate for each trip to the EU.

Your certificate would be valid for:

10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU

4 months of onward travel within the EU

Re-entry to the UK for 4 months after the date of issue.

“Pet passports issued in the UK would not be valid for travel to the EU.”

The guidelines clearly state pet passports issued in the UK will not be valid. In my opinion, this makes absolutely no sense! I have been unable to find any clarification of what this means and am left asking whether it’s me or DEFRA being stupid.

Return to the UK

Your pet must have one of the following documents when returning to the UK:

An existing EU pet passport (both for UK and EU citizens)

The EU Health Certificate issued in the UK used to travel to the EU

A UK pet Health Certificate (issued outside the UK for travel into the UK only).

Clear as mud?

The long and short of it appears to be that first-time travellers and young dogs will have to wait longer before they can travel, and the new Health Certificate requirement is going to be onerous and expensive for regular travellers. As for UK issued passports? Watch this space.

And what of those of us determined to travel? Well, I’m due to travel with my two Leonbergers respectively aged 4 and 5 months on the 30th March. Interesting choice of timing I know but I’ve lined all my ducks up in a row as far as I’m able. Will I be able to get back into the UK? Who knows? But if you see me parked up somewhere near Calais, feel free to throw me a bone!

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