Since the UK left the EU, the movement of domestic animals – including guide dogs and other assistance dogs – between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and EU member states has been restricted.
Guide Dogs was disappointed that the UK’s application to the EU Commission for Part One listed status under the Pet Passport Scheme was declined. This would have allowed UK assistance dog owners to travel to Europe following broadly the same process as before. Instead, they were now required to obtain an Animal Health Certificate every time they travel. This process is both costly and time consuming and restricts free travel for assistance dog owners.
Crucially, these requirements technically remain in place for anyone travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Prior to 2021, travel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland with an assistance dog did not involve any checks, but people with sight loss were now facing an internal border within the UK on account of their need to have an assistance dog.
We welcomed the clear stance of the UK Government that assistance dog owners should not face barriers when travelling domestically, and the Northern Ireland Executive has suspended the implementation of checks. However, there remained uncertainty and concern that checks may be implemented in future.
Guide Dogs was informed that the agreement reached between the UK and EU on Northern Ireland will mean that pets (including guide and assistance dogs) from Great Britain will no longer require an Animal Health Certificate with all of the associated vaccinations and treatments to travel to Northern Ireland.
Instead, owners will be issued with a free lifelong travel document that confirms that their pets have been microchipped. This is welcome news and a fantastic result for Guide Dogs who have been campaigning to ensure all guide and assistance dogs owners can travel easily between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“The plans to remove the need for paperwork as part of Windsor Framework welcome news for assistance dog owners. in the UK as ends the time consuming and costly process of travelling with a dog to and from Northern Ireland. Guide Dogs has been campaigning for the removal of time-consuming and costly checks and paperwork so people who rely on their assistance dog can travel freely in the UK.”
A Guide Dogs spokesperson
There is still work to be done to improve travel for guide dog owners between the UK and the EU, but we hope this important change will set the direction for future change here too.
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