The Kennel Club welcomes Select Committee inquiry after pet travel Brexit U-turn

The organisation has raised concerns about eleventh-hour backtrack on pet travel rules between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain and backs new inquiry
The UK’s biggest organisation dedicated to dog health and welfare is welcoming the announcement (21 January 2021) from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee, launching an inquiry into how new Brexit regulations will impact on animal welfare, disease control and the industry interests.

Due to concerns about the barriers, inconsistencies and the wide-ranging negative impacts for dogs, puppies and owners, The Kennel Club is urging a Government rethink on post-Brexit pet travel rules and will be submitting evidence to the newly launched inquiry.

In an apparent U-turn by Brexit officials, dogs, cats and ferrets need a health certificate and rabies inoculation to travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland from January 1st 2021. This is required for each journey between the two nations and is expected to typically cost in excess of £100 per issue. Meanwhile, dog owners in Northern Ireland must obtain a European Union pet passport to re-enter the nation following a visit to mainland Britain. In both cases, dog owners are required to take their dog to a vet for tapeworm treatment just days before entering Northern Ireland.

“During the EFRA Select Committee hearing in November, the Government gave assurance that there would be no difference in paperwork for pet owners wishing to travel between Somerset and Northern Ireland than if they were to travel from Somerset to Scotland or Wales,” said Ed Hayes, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at The Kennel Club. “Unfortunately, it is now clear that this is not the case.

“These requirements mean that anyone travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland with their pets – whether holidaying or re-locating – must now comply with financially burdensome, inconvenient and simply bureaucratic new rules, organising complex paperwork and more trips to the vet. There is also a potential consequence of pets being over-medicated unnecessarily.”

In another inconvenience for pet owners, Brexit red tape means that owners will be unable to take their pet’s food, if it contains meat, dairy or fish, when holidaying in the EU.

The Kennel Club has also raised concerns about the serious implications of the policy for responsible puppy buying and breeding. For animal welfare reasons – due to puppy development and socialisation – it is widely agreed that puppies should be homed at around eight weeks old, yet the new rules restrict pet travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland until the puppy is at least 15 weeks old. In practice, this also means that breeders with new owners based in Northern Ireland will be required to care for puppies for longer than recommended, including socialising and training a litter, and being separated from mum at 15 weeks rather than eight could potentially increase separation anxiety for puppies. This policy, which is at odds with other UK nations, could essentially end the legal purchase of puppies by those in Northern Ireland from breeders based in Great Britain.

Similarly, The Kennel Club is seeking urgent clarification about whether a rabies vaccination is required before a dog can be transported from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and thereby whether the 15 week minimum age rule will apply to all puppy movements between the two nations. If this is the case, the organisation anticipates that this will have a negative impact on Northern Irish dog breeders, who need a wide and open market to make responsible choices when selecting new owners. This could be particularly devastating for those who are committed to protecting vulnerable dog breeds which are at risk of extinction in the UK, where breeders already face a restricted market and often travel far and wide to ensure that they get the most suitable matches for producing the healthiest possible puppies.

Further, where puppies can be transported to Great Britain at eight weeks, in the event of an issue arising for a new owner, they couldn’t return a puppy to the breeder in Northern Ireland until they are 15 weeks old. This does not support responsible puppy buying and could result in more dogs being abandoned in the UK.

The Kennel Club also welcomes the EFRA Select Committee’s commitment to improving animal welfare, with the inquiry providing the opportunity to review whether stronger action can be taken to further clamp down on the cruel illegal puppy trade, now that Great Britain has exited the EU.

“These rules, which the EFRA Select Committee inquiry will examine, affect animal welfare, distinguishing the issue from other Brexit trade or travel disputes,” added Ed. “We’re glad our concerns are shared and this problematic policy is being reviewed, and we will be submitting evidence to the inquiry whilst continuing to urge the Government to seek a solution, and to deliver on the promises made just a few months ago.”

Find out more information on pet travel and Brexit.