The party’s DEARA spokesperson Rosemary Barton said: ‘Ways must be found to provide reassurance for pet owners and protect them from an extra expense of approximately £200 per pet’.
The UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) is demanding urgent government action to allow people to travel freely with their pets within the UK. It comes as news emerged that 29% of English holiday-makers coming to the island of Ireland bring their dogs with them. But confusion, fear and misinformation about new rules on trips with pets, have created chaos for those planning breaks and visits.
UUP DEARA spokesperson Rosemary Barton MLA said: “As we approach the summer months many people are turning their attention to a long-awaited break and many are choosing to stay within the UK because of the uncertainty that still prevails regarding travel to other countries.
“Once again concern has been raised about travelling with pets, particularly on the return journey from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, due to problems stemming from the Northern Ireland Protocol. “While requirements that all pets are microchipped, are vaccinated against rabies and have had treatment against tapeworms, together with a valid European pet passport have been postponed until 1st October, it is clear that a permanent solution is required.
“Ways must be found to provide reassurance for pet owners and protect them from an extra expense of approximately £200 per pet. They cannot be dependent on continued last minute derogations on the Protocol regulations. “Many responsible owners today have their pets already microchipped, something that is encouraged particularly by local councils. The last case of rabies in the United Kingdom was in the 1920s. Is this medical intervention, which has implications for the over-vaccination of pets, necessary?
“Solutions must be found and people must have confidence that they can travel freely throughout the United Kingdom with their pets.”
The UK saw an increase of more than 3 million dogs in homes across two Covid lockdowns, with an estimated 500,000 households in Northern Ireland having at least one dog, and today with overseas travel still affected by changing quarantine rules, many people are staying put. And for a lot of families, the staycation has become the petcation, with increasing numbers of hotels, Airbnbs, cafes, pubs and restaurants now actively catering for visitors with dogs.
Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots postponed the introduction of pet passports for travellers within the UK until October 1 to allow the department and the public to prepare for the introduction of new documentary and health requirements of EU Pet Travel Regulations. And DAERA is developing a process to handle compliance checks while officials still reserve the right to undertake checks if suspicions about illegal activity or welfare concerns arise. But confusion still reigns for travellers and carriers.
A spokesperson for DogLoversNI, a group campaigning for a more dog-friendly Northern Ireland said: “Miro Sefcovic gave evidence to the Stormont Assembly as the chief EU negotiator who has power to remove the restrictions on dog travel. We ask our MLAs, which of you raised pet travel restrictions directly with him? Who asked the all important questions for hundreds of thousands of pet owners in this country?
“It appears our government doesn’t care about the hardships suffered by people with dogs who face travel restrictions and the cruelty involved in over medicating our beloved dogs. We need a champion to have our voices heard where changes can happen, so we can scrap these absurd restrictions on travel with pet dogs in the UK and Ireland and we call for it to be done now.”
Earlier this month Tony Barclay was told his guide dog Wallace would have to show proof of a pet passport complete with a note of a rabies vaccination despite Mr Poots ruling. The airline later apologised for the error and changed their website to reflect the current legislation.
But at Liverpool port, travellers have reported receiving paperwork which states travellers with dogs, cats or ferrets cannot use a pet passport issued in Britain to travel to Northern Ireland. The paperwork stated pet owners must ensure the pet is :
- vaccinated against rabies
- medicated against tapeworm, and
- have an animal health certificate signed by their vet no more than 10 days ahead of travel.
However these rules are not in place and are currently not applicable. Niall Gibbons from NI Tourism said: “We know that 29% of GB holiday makers are dog owners. If some arrangement could be found over pet passports it would make the whole island of Ireland an awful lot more appealing.”
(Story source: Belfast Live)