What Does Brexit Mean For Travel with your Dog or Cat?

What does Brexit mean for pet travel?

Quite a lot…. so if you plan to travel with your pet out of the UK to anywhere in the world (and/or back again), after 29th March 2019, then you need to consider the implications of a (potential) no-deal Brexit. The government has just published advice regarding what might happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This blog is about the advice itself and also the practical advice to avoid any worst-case scenarios. International travel with pets can be very stressful, without adding the uncertainty of Brexit.

Defra is responsible for pet travel to both the EU and the rest of the world from the UK. Pet travel to the EU is currently controlled by EU law, under the assumption that the UK is an EU country. Pet travel from non-EU countries to the UK and the EU is governed by a set of rules that are different for ‘listed’ and ‘non-listed’ countries.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, it is likely that the UK will immediately become a ‘non-listed’ country for the purposes of pet travel, if only because there will be no ‘deal’ on the movement of pets across the channel or to the Republic of Ireland. The UK is currently trying to negotiate to become a listed country on the day we leave the EU, but that may not happen, especially in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

So what would it mean for pet travel between the EU and the UK if the UK were to become an unlisted country?

 Pet Travel to the EU from the UK after a no-deal Brexit:

  • pet passports may become invalid for this journey
  • owners travelling with their pets to the EU would almost certainly require a 3rd country certificate which would need to be issued each time they travel, both in English and in the language of the country to which they are travelling. This certificate is valid for 10 days after the completion of the certificate by an Official Veterinarian for travel from the UK to the EU and then for 4 months for travel within the EU. It can be filled in in English.
  • As now, pets would need first a microchip, then a rabies vaccination.
  • However, they would almost certainly require a rabies blood test, at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination. Most rabies vaccinations recommend a course of two rabies vaccinations (2-3 weeks apart) before doing the blood test, so the 30 days starts from the date of the second rabies vaccination. The Rabies Blood Test would have to be sent to an EU approved laboratory. It is not clear whether UK laboratories currently approved will maintain their approval after departure from the EU.
  • Pets would not be able to travel to the EU until 3 months after the date of the blood test. This 3-month wait does not apply if the blood test is taken and documented within the EU, so this 3-month wait likely applies only if the blood test is taken (and documented) in the UK after March 29th. This would mean at least a 4 month wait from the start of preparation until your pet is ready for travel, possibly longer if a full Rabies vaccination course is required (ie. with dogs who have never had a rabies vaccination before).
  • Rabies vaccination would need to be maintained within the validity date or else the blood test would need to be repeated.
  • When entering Finland, Sweden, Malta or Norway, pets would need to be treated for Tapeworm 24-120 hours before the scheduled time of entry (this is not currently required if travelling directly).
  • Pets would only be able to enter the EU through a traveller’s port of entry designated by member states.

The UK is campaigning for the UK to become a listed country immediately after Brexit, in which case either (1) the same rules as now will apply with full use of the pet passport in both directions or (2) although the rabies blood test would not be required, a separate third country certificate would be needed for travel to the EU each time you travel.

Pet Travel from the EU to the UK

It appears that the same rules as currently apply will continue to apply. These are:

  • a pet passport
  • microchip and rabies vaccination
  • 3 week wait after the rabies vaccination
  • tapeworm treatment 24-120 hours before the scheduled time of entry to the UK (dogs only)
  • entry through the UK’s travellers’ ports of entry.

It is likely that any entry to the UK immediately after a no-deal Brexit may be somewhat chaotic due to the increased work-load at any UK border.

Pet Travel to the UK from the EU In the Longer Term

This is completely open at the moment, but it is likely that the UK will tighten up the rules to reduce the risks of importing disease. Changes may include

  • a return for the need for tick treatment before entering the UK (this is currently recommended, but doesn’t need to be certified by a vet)
  • the window for tapeworm treatment may be shortened from the current window of 1-5 days to 24-48 hours prior to re-entry and re-introduction for cats.
  • a possible return for the need for rabies blood testing
  • further testing for other infectious diseases may be introduced for dogs from countries where those diseases are endemic
  • stricter animal welfare requirements
  • a possible increase in the minimum age of import

(this list is not exhaustive)

Our Recommendations if you plan to travel to or from the EU with your pet after Brexit

As you can see, the rules may be considerably tighter than they are at the moment. If you plan to travel with your pet to the EU after March 29, it would be worth considering either moving the date forward, so that you travel before the UK leaves the EU, or else arranging for your pet to have a blood test well in advance of the Brexit date, in line with the EU rules for non-listed countries. Rabies blood tests generally take a week or two to get the results as they are not run daily, but there may be delays due to high demand, so be aware. If you plan to return to the UK after the Brexit date, it may be worth waiting until the rules for return become clear, and we would recommend making alternative plans just in case, such as pet care in the UK in the case that travel with pets becomes very difficult. Note that demand for pet sitters will probably become more acute than usual during the period immediately after Brexit, which coincides with the Easter school holidays. We would generally not recommend making plans to enter the UK from the EU with pets immediately after the Brexit date, especially if a no-deal Brexit becomes likely.

If a deal is reached, then the transition period will apply, so it is likely in that scenario that the current rules will apply throughout the transition period in both directions. The longer-term rules depend on any deal between the UK and the EU.

Pet Travel from the UK to Non-EU Countries after Brexit

If you plan to travel to a non-EU country after Brexit in the case of a no-deal Brexit, you may also be affected.

Currently, the UK has agreements with most countries regarding those countries’ requirements for entry of animals from the UK. These agreements, which are based in EU law, are used to create an export health certificate (EHC) that accompanies each animal travelling out of the UK to each of those countries. Defra will need to re-negotiate the wording for every EHC it has for each country. There is a significant likelihood that at least some of these EHCs for pet travel are not going to be ready in time for March 29th, although they may be ready for some countries. In any event, due to a significant increase in the volume of EHCs (mainly for other purposes), lead times in receiving EHCs may be significantly longer after application to Defra.

There is one significant country which does not require an EHC to receive pets from the UK- the United States. If you travel with your pet to the United States, you will need a Veterinary Surgeon’s certificate to say that your pet is fit for travel and to ensure that you fulfill the requirements of the state you are travelling to (as determined by that state’s Department of Agriculture)- this is usually a Rabies vaccination, up to a month prior to travel. There is a good chance that this will not change after Brexit, even in the event of no-deal.

Our Recommendations for Pet Travel to Non-EU Countries after Brexit

If you plan to travel out of the UK with your pet to a non-EU country after March 29th, then we would advise first to speak to Defra about their preparedness regarding the required EHC. If they are not ready, and you must travel, then if you can, we would recommend bringing the export date forward to before the Brexit date. If you have no other option, and you must travel after March 29th, then you will need to stay in close contact with Defra regarding the timing of readiness for the required EHC. Plans will need to be made in close consultation with a vet who is experienced in preparing pets for export. Timings are sometimes critical for parts of the preparation for EHC so that may be difficult to arrange if you are not sure of the exact date of export. You will also need to make contingency plans because it is possible that regulations and requirements for export and import may change at short notice.

Pet Travel to the UK from Non-EU Countries after Brexit

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, it is likely that the same rules as now will apply. However, if you plan to travel to the UK with your pet after Brexit date, then please contact Defra, in addition to speaking to the British Embassy in your own country, and your own vet. One quite serious issue to take into consideration is the possibility of a hold up in releasing your pet after arrival in the UK due to the increased workload at the traveller’s ports of entry. This may have significant animal welfare implications especially in the case of older or more vulnerable pets. We recommend making alternative plans just in case there are issues with pet travel to the UK immediately after Brexit.

Conclusion

It may take months if not longer, to iron out the issues associated with pet travel in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If you have plans that involve pet travel abroad any time next year, now is the time to think about what additional requirements may be, and what to do if you cannot travel as planned.

 

This blog is written by a vet, not a lawyer. We highly recommend making back up plans in the event that your pet’s travel is delayed after Brexit.

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