‘No deal’ planning starts here

Today I started with my preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, in which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and, absent an agreement setting out our future relationship with our continental neighbours, heads off into the wilderness to do its own thing. (Which is known, in the parlance, as ‘taking back control’.) But my preparations didn’t involve stockpiling food or securing a supply of medication. Oh, no. As with most things around here, it was the dogs’ fault.

Anyone who has a dog (or a cat or a ferret) and travels with it abroad will know all about the ‘pet passport’ scheme, which allows aforementioned animals to travel within the EU freely and without need for quarantine, provided a few simple requirements are met. Essentially, this means that they have to be microchipped, to have had a rabies vaccination and (to return to the UK) to have been treated against tapeworm.

This is all really easy to sort out. In fact, in the eight years between our older Labrador getting her passport and the puppy getting hers it got even easier, as the requirement for a blood test 21 days after the rabies vaccination had been rescinded. And dogs returning to the UK don’t have to be treated for ticks, as was once the case.

This all works as easily and as seamlessly as it does because of the European Union. In fact, travelling between most EU countries with the dogs is even easier, as they don’t do any checks at all. And if our Government manages to reach some sort of agreement with the EU for the terms of our relationship post-Brexit, it might remain just as straightforward. I mean, if the UK and the EU can resolve the Irish border question (which assumes, of course, that they can – which currently seems rather optimistic), then a few tapeworms shouldn’t present too much of a problem.

The problem comes if we don’t reach a deal. Because the UK could then simply become like any other non-EU country. And the free movement of Labradors into the EU would be governed by the EU’s regulations for the ‘non-commercial movement of animals from non-EU countries’. As to what governs their movement back into the UK, all bets are currently off. But if things go that badly wrong, getting back into the UK is unlikely to be my primary concern.

I won’t bore you with the details of the EU’s regulations for the non-commercial movement of animals from non-EU countries, as you can pore over them for yourself. The key aspects, though, (and I’m grateful to my vet for alerting me to this) as as follows:

  • Dogs need to have had a rabies antibody blood test, to ensure that the vaccination has been effective;
  • The blood sample for the test needs to have been taken at least 30 days after the date of vaccination; and
  • The test must be done at least three months before the dog enters the EU.

Dogs entering the EU will also need a health declaration by a vet and an owner’s declaration attesting to the non-commercial nature of their travel.

If we leave the EU without a deal and you want to take your dog into the EU after the 29th March 2019, you need to have had the blood test done at least three months before you travel. Which means that if you want to take your dog into the EU on 30th March 2019, you need to have the blood test done before 30th December 2018. That is, you need to act now.

Given that I have family in Germany and that I like to know that, in a family emergency, I can just sling everyone in the car and head for the Channel Tunnel, it’s important to me that I have all my ducks in a row on the pet travel front. Which is how the dogs and I found ourselves at the vets this morning, so that both the big dog and the puppy could have their rabies antibody blood tests.

It is true, as I mentioned above, that the older dog has already had a blood test. But the blood sample was taken 25 days after her vaccination, as the minimum waiting period for the UK pet passport used to be 21 days. But for EU requirements it’s 30 days, so she had to have another one. It’s been eight years now since her vaccination, so that should be ample.

Interestingly, the EU requires that the blood test is done in a laboratory approved by the ‘competent authority’ (for EU countries) or approved by the European Commission (for non-EU countries). The laboratory that my vet uses is approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which is the competent authority for the UK. But it obviously hasn’t been approved directly by the European Commission, because there’s no need. And the European Commission doesn’t have the authority to approve it, anyway, because it’s in the UK.

But it’s not entirely clear what happens on 29th March 2019. In a ‘no deal’ scenario, the lab suddenly goes from being in an EU country to being in a non-EU one. But it’s not been authorised by the European Commission to do rabies antibody tests, so it can’t provide an official test result. But what about the tests that it has already undertaken, e.g. those for my two dogs? Are they still valid? Because technically, I won’t have a test certificate issued by a laboratory authorised to issue them in accordance with EU regulations.

To get back to the point, though, if we end up with a ‘no deal’ Brexit, or with a deal that doesn’t consider things like this or that doesn’t address them very well, travelling with pets is going to get a whole load more complicated. And travelling across Europe with two massive Labradors is challenging enough as it is. Now, we may end up with a deal that means we can all carry on as before. But if dog owners want to be prepared for all eventualities, they need to take action now. This will not only help you to sleep more easily, but will allow you to sit smugly with the knowledge that you are now more prepared for Brexit than the entire UK Government.

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