The owner of a doggy day care centre on the Irish border has expressed dismay at the prospect of having to get pets vaccinated months before they travel between the UK and Europe post-Brexit.
Dog and cat owners have been advised to speak to a vet as soon as possible if they want to take their pet on holiday after March next year.
That means pet owners living in Northern Ireland could be forced to pay hundreds of pounds in veterinary fees and wait up to four months for paperwork before they can travel across the border to the Republic with their animal.
Eimear Matthews, who owns Paws & Play dog day care centre in Newry, Co Down, said she feared Brexit could have a major impact on her business.
“In Northern Ireland in general it’s going to have a massive impact, but I think particularly on people in border areas like myself,” she said.
“I already have dogs who come up with their owners who maybe live in the south and work in the north and leave their dogs off with me – those dogs are now going to require rabies injections, pet passports, might have to go into quarantine.
“At this stage we honestly don’t even know what way it’s going to be.
“I myself live a couple of hundred yards from the border, so theoretically for my dog to go running in my own fields she’s going to need a passport.”
If Prime Minister Theresa May and EU officials fail to reach an agreement by next March, animals travelling to the EU will need rabies vaccinations.
A blood sample, which is taken one month after the rabies jab, is then sent to a laboratory. The whole process will take four months to complete before the pet will be allowed to travel.
A certificate is issued by a vet to show the animal is fully up-to-date with its vaccinations. Anyone travelling to a European country may have to carry the certificate, including people from Northern Ireland who cross the border to walk their dog.
However, once they return to Northern Ireland pet owners will have to go through a similar process as the certificates do not allow pet owners to move freely between north and south of the border.
Veterinary practices have been made aware of the steps they have to take to prepare for the possible influx of pet owners who need their animals vaccinated before travelling a couple of miles into the Republic.
All pet owners are now being told to ensure they have the correct health protection documents in place for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development (DAERA) in Northern Ireland also issued advice on its website.
A spokesman for the department said: “In line with DEFRA, we have issued practical advice for people who wish to travel to European Union countries with their pets in the event the UK leaves the EU in a no deal situation.
“We would urge all pet owners who wish to travel immediately after March 29, 2019 to consult with their vet as soon as they can.
“This is about planning ahead to ensure their pet has the correct health protection documented and in place for all possible scenarios. Please check the NI Direct website for the latest advice.
“DAERA has recently been in contact with Northern Ireland vets to highlight this issue.
“They are expecting pet owners to consult with them and plan ahead.”