Pet owners flock to vets over post-Brexit pet travel concerns

09 March 2019

Continuing uncertainty around Brexit has led to a spike in the number of anxious pet owners visiting their local vet for pet travel guidance in the last three months, figures from the latest British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey reveal.

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, with many expressing frustration or anger over the uncertainty. Almost three-quarters (74%) of vets report seeing an increase in such queries since November, with around 40% seeing a significant spike.

It follows warnings issued to pet owners by Defra and BVA last year, urging them 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.

While about half (48%) of vets approached by clients for pet travel advice said they could respond to most of their questions, many felt unable to answer all queries in detail due to the current uncertainty over Brexit timeframes and what form it will take.

Qualitative responses to the survey show that clients who need to regularly travel between the UK and EU - such as dog show or Canicross participants, those with family or holiday homes abroad, and pet owners travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland - are feeling especially inconvenienced. Vets report that while some clients are getting rabies serology testing done now in order to be prepared for all eventualities, many are adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to avoid the extra steps or costs involved. Some respondents have had clients directing anger towards them over Brexit uncertainty, additional testing requirements and longer wait times.

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.”

Further guidance on pet travel after Brexit can be found on BVA and Defra websites.

BVA Media Office