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As Brexit looms closer, figures from the latest British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey have revealed that vets are seeing a spike in the number of anxious pet owners visiting them for pet travel guidance.

The uncertainty surrounding what happens next has caused frustration and anger amongst many pet owners. BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows that more than eight in ten companion animal vets (85%) have been approached by pet owners for advice about travelling with their pet in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Almost three-quarters (74%) of vets report seeing an increase in such queries since November, with around 40% seeing a significant spike.

Pet owners who will be particularly inconvenienced with any changes will be those who travel frequently between the UK and EU, such as dog show or canine sports participants, those with family or holiday homes abroad, and those who travel from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland.

Dog with vet
85% of vets reported being approached by pet owners for pet travel advice

The hike in visits follows warnings from Defra and BVA last year urging pet owners to begin preparations to take their pet to the EU at least four months ahead of their expected travel date. A no-deal situation would bring additional testing and certification requirements and require owners to prepare further ahead to get pets cleared for travel.

Whilst almost half of the vets said they could respond to most of their clients’ questions, many felt unable to answer all queries in detail due to the uncertainty.

Wait and see

Vets reported that some clients were already getting rabies serology testing to prepare for all eventualities, but many clients were adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to avoid the extra steps or costs involved. Some survey respondents also reported clients directing anger toward them over Brexit uncertainty, additional testing requirements and longer wait times.

Girl and dog on beach
Whereas some owners are preparing with rabies testing, others are waiting to see what happens

British Veterinary Association President Simon Doherty said, “It is understandable that the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and expected changes to the pet travel requirements are stoking anxiety and frustration among pet owners and prompting a lot of questions. We also remain sensitive to the particular lack of clarity over the movement of pets between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“We would reiterate our advice to pet owners to discuss any summer travel plans with their vet now to avoid disappointment and ensure that all the tests and checks required in the event of a no-deal situation have been completed in good time. Leaving the EU with no agreement in place could lead to owners facing longer waits to get their pet cleared for travel and higher costs for the required vaccination, treatments and health certificates each time they leave the UK.

“Vets are there to help answer any questions and share guidance to the fullest extent possible, to make planning ahead for travelling abroad with your pet smoother.”

Guidance on pet travel after Brexit can be found at https://www.bva.co.uk/brexit/ and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-to-europe-after-brexit

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