LONDON (AP) — All across Europe, families and couples on vacation areseamlessly crossing borders with their beloved dog, cat or even ferret, thanksto the European Union Pet Passport scheme. Now, as a no-deal Brexit looms as apossibility for Britain, free pet travel is under threat.
If the U.K. leaves the European Union on Oct. 31 without a divorce deal —which is increasingly likely under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson — thatcould result in Britain being chucked out of the pet passport program. Andthat would hit pet owners on both sides of the English Channel.
Some 250,000 British cats and dogs are taken to the EU on holiday by theirowners every year. In 2017, the British government issued over 90,000 petpassports to veterinary practices in the U.K.
Dave Kent, who has relied on guide dogs for 40 years, says the prospect ofmore paperwork and long waits is alarming.
“It’s not like you can leave your dog behind if you’ve got some business or aholiday in Germany or the Netherlands or Italy, or anywhere else in Europe,”he says. “You can’t just suddenly go to those countries and rent a guide dog.”
In order to vacation in Europe now, British pets need a passport, a rabiesvaccine and a microchip. After three weeks, they are cleared to go. Beforereturning home, animals get a tapeworm tablet from a veterinarian. If thepets’ vaccinations are kept up to date, the passport is valid for three years.
Before European pets had their own passports, animals arriving in Britain fromthe EU had to be quarantined for six months.
The thought of returning to a more complicated system is a worry for pet ownerMark Elsden in Newhaven in southern England, who is used to vacationing inFrance with his dog Alfie.
“There’s no consistency, no information, no certainty about what’s going tohappen,” he says.
The British government’s spokesperson on animal issues, Chief VeterinaryOfficer Christine Middlemiss, says pet owners should prepare for a no-dealBrexit.
In practice, that means that the process of preparing a pet for travel wouldquadruple.
“If you’re looking to travel, you need to see your vet at least four monthsbefore the date of travel,” says Daniella Dos Santos from the BritishVeterinary Association.
A pet still needs the microchip and the rabies vaccine, but it also needs ablood test at least thirty days after the vaccine. If the pet passes thattest, owners need to wait three months before they can travel, bringing thewhole timeline to at least four months.
Then, Dos Santos says, pet owners need additional certification to leave thecountry — export health certificates — so that’s another visit to theveterinarian. Pets will also need a new health certificate for each trip tothe EU.
On top of that, pet owners would be able to travel the EU from only a selectfew entry points.
Katherine Sofoluke has a passport for her miniature Dachshund called George,with whom she recently toured central France.
“Some people probably think it’s ridiculous, but to us, George is part of thefamily,” she said.
Travelling with the Dachshund also means Sofoluke doesn’t have to pay costlykennel fees or find a dog sitter. But that may be the simpler option if thePet Passport scheme is replaced with a more complex system.
“If it becomes a really arduous task, for kind of a week or two abroad, it’snot worth it,” she said.
British authorities say they are talking to guide dog associations to helpthem prepare, but that is cold comfort for Kent, who finds the situationutterly confusing.
“It’s a real dog’s dinner in my opinion, and one that I don’t think my dogwould even want to eat.”
Source: US Today Network
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