Pet owners bringing their animal companions into Northern Ireland from Great Britain will have a month’s grace to adjust to new rules from the end of the Brexit transition period, it’s been announced.
As NI will be treated as remaining in the EU’s single market for goods at the end of the transition period, it will have to comply with EU rules on food, plant and animal health.
That will mean ensuring pets have an up-to-date rabies vaccine, an animal health certificate, microchip and a valid tapeworm treatment.
But chief veterinary officer Dr Robert Huey of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said pet owners would be allowed one month to have their documents in order but that the rules would be enforced from February 1.
But he said he hoped that the UK and EU would ultimately be able to agree to arrangements for the free movement of pets around the UK.
Mr Huey has said that two out of three types of checks on goods arriving here from Great Britain after the end of the transition period will be carried out in GB.
Traders and the public are being informed how the new arrangements for bringing goods into Northern Ireland will work under the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Checks will take place on some goods brought into NI on the 16 ferries which travel here from Great Britain every day.
DAERA is responsible for the checks.
Dr Huey said he and his staff were now ready for the changes though they had only been able to build temporary structures at ports here for the process of carrying out inspections.
And he said documentary and identity checks would be carried out in Great Britain before lorry drivers set sail.
A document detailing the goods will be processed electronically, while they will be identified by a seal which will be applied at the port in Great Britain.
Dr Huey urged anyone who moves animals of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to read the new guides as soon as possible.
“Individuals and businesses should thoroughly read the Compliance Protocol and the Guidance for Authorised Traders and understand what they need to do to keep trading. While some of the new processes will be phased in over time, many of them start immediately – therefore people should read these guides as soon as they can," he said.
“It is clear how complex the food, animal and plant supply chains are and these documents explain how to navigate the changes. They set out how to move food, animals and plants and aim to bring all the various parts of the journey together to prepare traders for the new requirements. We will of course work with traders as much as possible.”
Dr Huey added: “There is a section on pet travel, which everyone who wishes to travel with their pet should read and familiarise themselves with, to ensure they adhere to the new regulations and travel without unnecessary inconvenience or delay.”