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Guide Dogs: Charity Calls For NI Exemption On New Post-Brexit Rules

January 6, 2021

A guide dog charity has expressed “disappointment” that assistance dogs have not been made exempt from new rules for bringing pets to NI from GB.

This is posing issues both for training puppies in NI and for the lives of existing guide dog users.

The Guide Dogs organisation said the new barrier for assistance dog owners was a “massive disappointment”.

“They now have to make the same preparations to travel to Northern Ireland as if they were going to France, Germany or another European country,” a spokesman said.

He called for “the [UK] government and the EU to come to an agreement which gives assistance dog owners the same freedoms they enjoyed under the Pet Passport Scheme.”

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokeswoman said the department was “working closely with the assembly to ensure a long-term solution which supports pet owners and assistance dog users entering Northern Ireland.”

The Guide Dog National Breeding Centre in Leamington Spa in England works with volunteers all over the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Since 2010, 250 pups have been trained, through reward-based training methods, in NI.

However the charity has had to suspend the process of sending pups to NI.

‘Very frustrating’

They are usually sent at about eight weeks so the key socialisation window in a dog’s life may be taken advantage of.

They then cannot travel for a further three weeks, meaning the earliest pups could come to NI from GB would be 15 weeks.

Operations manager for Guide Dogs NI James Copeland said “between nine and 16 weeks are the time when dogs and puppies are sponges”.

He added that for a puppy to travel when they were going through this period would not be best for its welfare.

He said the new rules and subsequent suspension of the scheme was “very frustrating”.

“It is of intrinsic value to NI,” he said, adding that the pet passport scheme was “already strong enough”.

“Our puppy walking scheme is a group of dedicated volunteers led by a staff member,” Mr Copeland told BBC News NI.

It is a core group of about 20-30 volunteers in NI.

Each dog stays with the volunteer for up to 18 months and their carers help with development, go through socialisation and the basic tenets of being a good guide dog.

It will still be possible for trained adult assistance dogs to be supplied to NI, but Mr Copeland expressed concern for existing guide dog owners travelling back and forth to GB or those who live in border areas.

“How feasible is it for someone who lives in Belfast to go to see family and friends in Liverpool and come back to get paperwork for a journey of maybe only three days?” he said

He cited concerns for those who are partially sighted travelling to their vets during Covid to get the form.

“There must be some sort of derogation,” he added.


What are the current rules?

If you want to take your pet from England, Scotland or Wales to Northern Ireland, you will have to obtain an AHC, as if you were going on holiday to the EU.

The AHC confirms your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies – pets must be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated and then wait 21 days after the primary vaccination before travel.

The certificate will have to be presented to a designated travellers’ point of entry in order to undergo the necessary compliance checks.

For entry from Great Britain into Northern Ireland (as well as into the Republic of Ireland, Finland, Norway and Malta), pet dogs will have to be treated against a type of tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis), one to five days before arrival.

The government website says: “The UK government recognises that pet owners and assistance dog users will need time to adjust to these changes. It’s working with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) on an enforcement approach that takes these challenges into account.”

An EU pet passport issued in a member state is still valid to enter GB from NI.

Pets travelling from GB to NI will not be subject to routine compliance checks until 1 February 2021.

There will be no changes to the current pet travel health requirements for entry into Great Britain.


A Defra spokeswoman said the department recognised the vital work of “Guide Dogs UK and continue to work closely with assistance dog organisations and their members to ensure they have the latest advice and guidance”.

“We have ensured there are no changes to the current pet travel rules for entry into Great Britain from Northern Ireland, and are working closely with the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure a long-term solution which supports pet owners and assistance dog users entering Northern Ireland,” she added.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 1, 2021 4:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Autism Candles.

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