Brexit: Pet owners urged to 'consult vet before travel'

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Dogs must be vaccinated against rabies before travelling.

Pet owners have been told to prepare for a no-deal Brexit's impact on visiting the EU with their animals.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said pet owners planning to travel after Brexit should talk to their vets now.

What will that mean for pet owners who travel between NI and the Republic?

There are currently no checks on pets travelling between NI and the Republic as rabies is not present on the island, but pets should have passports.

What are the current rules?

If you want to take your pet to the EU at the moment it does need to be microchipped, you do need a pet passport which shows an up-to-date rabies shot and a three week waiting period before you're good to travel.

The authorities north and south have taken a "pragmatic risk-based approach" to cross border pet travel, according to Simon Doherty of the British Veterinary Association.

The island of Ireland has not had an outbreak of rabies and the risk is considered very low.

However in a no-deal Brexit, UK pets would be treated the same as those coming from an "unlisted country" into the EU.

That means they need to be microchipped, have a rabies vaccination, have a blood test to check the efficacy of the vaccination, and that blood test has to be done three months before the animal travels.

Only then can a veterinary health certificate be signed off by a vet to allow the animal movement - and that certificate only has a 10-day lifespan.

It might be that in time the UK would qualify for a listing under the EU scheme, making the process a little less onerous.

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Image caption,
Pet owners should consult their vet at least four months before travelling to EU.

Practical advice

In the event of a no-deal Brexit all pets will need a rabies vaccination followed by a blood test a minimum of 30 days afterwards to demonstrate sufficient levels of rabies antibody.

The blood test would need to be carried out a minimum of 30 days after any initial rabies vaccination and a minimum of three months before their travel date.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said they were issuing "practical and straightforward advice" in the "unlikely event of a no-deal situation".

"I urge all pet owners who wish to travel immediately after 29 March 2019 to consult with their vet as soon as they can," she said.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) re-iterated the guidance from Westminster.

"This is about planning ahead to ensure their pet has the correct health protection documented and in place for all possible scenarios," a spokesperson said.

"DAERA has recently been in contact with Northern Ireland vets to highlight this issue."