Do Northern Ireland pets need passports for Ireland?

CLAIM: Pet owners travelling from Northern Ireland to Ireland require “EU pet passports”.

CONCLUSION: True. This includes your pet being marked by a transponder (microchip) and vaccinated against rabies. There are presently no border checks for pets (as official policy); however it is uncertain what regulations will apply post-Brexit.

Worries about Brexit and pets

Recently, several media resources (1234) reported concerns about what a “no deal” Brexit would mean, not for Irish or UK citizens themselves, but for their pets. (There’s even an anti-Brexit campaign called Wooferendum.) There are some specific concerns around what actions owners and their pets would have to take in a “no deal” scenario, if they want to travel from Northern Ireland to Ireland and vice versa after 29 March 2019.

John Campbell, who is Economics & Business Editor for BBC Northern Ireland, remarked that Northern Ireland pet owners already have to take measures for travelling with their pets. On 24 September 2018, he tweeted that “if you wanted to take your dog to Dunfanaghy … you’re supposed to have a valid pet passport”.

What is a “travelling pet”?

The travelling of pets between EU countries is regulated by the EU Regulation No 576/2013. “Travelling” means the “non-commercial movement of pet animals into an EU country from another EU country, a territory or a non-EU country”. “Pets” are defined as cats, dogs and ferrets: animals susceptible to rabies.

Four conditions must be fulfilled if you want your pet to travel between EU countries; these are stated in Article 6 of the Regulation:

  1. Microchip (or “clearly readable tattoo applied before 3/7/2011”)
  2. Anti-rabies vaccination
  3. Compliant with preventable health measures for diseases or infections beyond rabies (Article 19(1))
  4. Accompanied by an identification document (in accordance with Article 22)

What is a “pet passport”?

It is this “identification document” that Campbell is referring to in his tweet. The document is modeled as an “EU pet passport”, specified in EU Regulation No. 577/2013 and applicable since 29 December 2014.

The pet passport contains information about:

  • the location of the transponder or the tattoo and the alphanumeric code displayed by the transponder or the tattoo
  • the name, species, breed, sex, colour, date of birth and any noteworthy characteristics of the pet
  • owner’s and authorised vet’s details
  • details of the anti-rabies vaccination

FactCheckNI 047 - Pet Passports - EU 01

FactCheckNI 047 - Pet Passports - EU 02

An “EU Pet Passport”

What about the Northern Ireland-Ireland border?

Article 8 of Regulation No 576/2013 makes it possible for member states to “conclude mutual agreements to derogate from anti-rabies vaccination condition”. Pets should still be vaccinated against rabies in order to travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD; now DAERA) stated: “In recognition of the negligible risk of rabies, there are currently no systematic border checks on pets moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland”.

However, there are no exceptions in regards to having to carry a valid pet passport when travelling between Ireland and the UK, including travel to/from Northern Ireland.

Both the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs of Northern Ireland confirmed this by email to FactCheckNI.

Will this change in case of a “no deal” Brexit?

On 24 September 2018, the UK Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published a guidance note that “sets out how the arrangements that allow pet owners to travel to and from the EU with pets (cats, dogs and ferrets) would change if the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without a deal”.

In the case of a “no deal” scenario, the UK will become a “third country” regarding the EU pet travel policies. The rules will change, depending on whether the UK is a “listed” or “unlisted” country. The lists are laid out in Annex II of Regulation No 577/2013.

Part 1 country. By demonstrating that rules equivalent to EU standards apply (Regulation No 576/2013, Article 13) the UK could  be listed as a “Part 1 country” along with other non-EU European countries/territories like Switzerland and Gibraltar. UK pet owners would then apply for a “third country pet passport”, with which they could  travel to EU countries with their pets.

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A “Third Country Pet Passport” for EU pet travel

Part 2 country. The UK could be listed as a “Part 2 country” if it  applies and demonstrates that it fulfils certain criteria (which can be find in Paragraph 2 of Article 13). There are 43 countries (including the US and Russia) currently on this list. Pet owners in these countries cannot apply for a pet passport. Instead an “EU health certificate” is required.

The certificate documents the alpha-numeric code displayed by the transponder or the tattoo and the details of anti-rabies vaccination. It must be completed and issued by an official veterinarian. The certificate is valid from ten days from the date of issue by the official veterinarian until the date of the compliance check in the entered EU country.

In contrast from pets from Part 1 countries (“Third Country Pet Passport”), pets from Part 2 countries must pass a documentary and identity check “through a traveller’s point of entry designated by Member States”. In Ireland, this point of entry is Dublin Airport (Section 4; boldface and italics original):

“Pets must enter Ireland through Dublin Airport only and must undergo compliance checks on arrival Pets travelling to Ireland from non – EU countries must enter through Dublin Airport and must undergo a compliance check on arrival.”

This regulation may need to be amended in this scenario, to accommodate cross-border pet travellers.

Unlisted country. If the UK was an “unlisted country” regarding EU pet travel policies, the same Part 2 rules would apply (the health certificate and compliance check at an official entrypoint) along with an extra condition: a rabies antibody titration test. (Regulation No 276/2013, Annex IV).

Here, an authorised veterinarian collects a sample of blood from your pet in an approved laboratory which has to be taken at least 30 days after an anti-rabies vaccination.  After a successful test you have to wait at least three months before you can start your pet travel. For a next trip, the test should not be renewed as long as the rabies vaccinations are up to date.

No one can yet predict which of these scenarios will apply to the UK and what the consequences will be for Northern Ireland pets and owners travelling to Ireland. The intentions of the UK government are to seek “technical discussions with the European Commission to allow the UK to become a listed third country on the day we leave the EU”.

Conclusion

The claim that you need a valid EU passport for travelling with your dog from Northern Ireland to Ireland is true. Along with a passport, your pet should be marked by a transponder (microchip) and vaccinated against rabies. However, there are currently no border checks to ensure your pet is vaccinated and is accompanied by a pet passport.

Once no longer in the EU, the rules and requirements for pets travelling from the UK will depend on how the UK is categorised by the EU with regard to pet health and travel arrangements. It could be as simple as carrying a “third country pet passport” but could involve travelling through a specific point of entry and having a pet tested before and after crossing the border.

EU-member Part 1 listed Part 2 listed Unlisted
EU pet passport Third country pet passport Health certificate Health certificate
Required markings and vaccinations Required markings and vaccinations Required markings and vaccinations Required markings and vaccinations
Travellers’ point of entry Travellers’ point of entry
Blood test + waiting period