Pets and the Northern Ireland Protocol

Background: worries about Brexit and pets

Before the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, FactCheckNI published a fact check on the claim that pet owners travelling from Northern Ireland to Ireland already required “EU pet passports”. We found this claim to be accurate.

Now that the UK has withdrawn from the EU, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (“the Northern Ireland Protocol”) is in operation. The Protocol affects the movement of goods and services between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This article sets out to explain the current understanding in regards to the transport of pets between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

How has the Protocol impacted how Great Britain pets travel?

Non-EU member states fall into one of three categories: (1) Part 1 listed, (2) Part 2 listed, and (3) Unlisted. Which list your country is in affects the criteria that you need to satisfy in order to bring your pet into the EU.

The UK is a “Part 2 Country”. Pet owners in these countries cannot apply for an EU pet passport. Instead, an “EU animal health certificate” (AHC) is required. However, Northern Ireland is an exception, and pet owners will be able to obtain a valid EU pet passport (see below).

An animal health certificate documents the alpha-numeric code from a pet by its microchip or tattoo, along with details of its anti-rabies vaccination. The certificate must be completed and issued by an official veterinarian. The certificate is valid for ten days from its date of issue until the date of the compliance check in the entered EU country.

Additionally, pets from Part 2 countries must pass a documentary and identity check “through a traveller’s point of entry designated by Member States”.

These rules apply also to assistance dogs; advice is available at the Guide Dogs Association.

The impact of the Protocol on travel with pets to Northern Ireland

As a result of the Protocol, Northern Ireland is being treated as a constituent part of the EU single market for goods and services, thus needing to comply with relevant regulations set down by the EU. So, when anyone arrives in Northern Ireland with a pet, the owner must produce an EU pet passport or an animal health certificate.

From 1 January 2021, UK-issued EU pet passports issued in Great Britain or Northern Ireland are no longer valid. However, Northern Ireland pet owners will be able to obtain a valid pet passport from a participating veterinary practice. An EU pet passport can be used instead of an animal health certificate.

Routine checks on the non-commercial movement of pets from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be delayed until at least 1 October 2021. Until then, as an interim measure, Northern Ireland pet owners can update their pet passport via their private vet.

Will you need to revalidate for every trip to Northern Ireland?

An animal health certificate is valid for 10 days from the date of issue. So if your subsequent visit or return to Northern Ireland is beyond this period, then yes, you’ll need a new AHC. Alternatively, Northern Ireland pet owners and others holding a EU pet passport will be able to use their valid pet passport to demonstrate compliance.

Travelling with your pet between Northern Ireland and Ireland?

The Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) criteria for bringing a pet into Ireland from Northern Ireland includes the pet being microchipped, vaccinated for rabies, and accompanied by an EU pet passport or animal health certificate. Pets can travel into Ireland on a valid Northern Ireland pet passport.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) (Northern Ireland) states that a risk-based approach is taken with regards to the level of compliance checks on pets travelling between Northern Ireland and Ireland. DAERA and DAFM “reserve the right to carry out checks should there be a suspicion of illegal activity or welfare concerns”.

Conclusion 

The UK withdrawal from the EU resulted in the UK being placed by the EU as a “Part 2 listed” country, which means that UK citizens must produce a valid animal health certificate in order to bring their pets into the EU. EU pet passports issued by Great Britain are no longer valid.

The Northern Ireland Protocol treats Northern Ireland as an integral part of the EU single market, whereby Northern Ireland must comply with relevant EU regulations. This includes the production of a valid EU pet passport or animal health certificate when bringing a pet into Northern Ireland.

As an alternative to an animal health certificate, Northern Ireland pet owners can have their existing EU pet passports updated by participating veterinary practices in Northern Ireland. These can also be used for travel into Ireland.


FactCheckNI is Northern Ireland’s first and only dedicated independent fact-checking service and a verified signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can learn more about about FactCheckNI, our personnel, what our article verdicts mean, and how to submit a claim.