Since the Northern Ireland Protocol came into effect when the UK left the EU’s regulatory framework, the law has been clear that to travel with a dog from the mainland UK to Northern Ireland, rabies vaccination and onerous paperwork were required. However, in the last few hours, the proposed Windsor protocol might change all that…

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

In order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which it was feared might reignite the Troubles, the Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Amongst its many terms and provisions, it meant that Northern Ireland had to be treated as an EU state for pets moving from Great Britain (the term used to collectively describe England, Scotland and Wales).

Unfortunately, that meant that for a dog, cat or ferret to travel from Great Britain (a rabies-free country) to Northern Ireland (another rabies-free territory), they had to be vaccinated against rabies. And although both territories are free of the dangerous tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, additional tapeworm treatment was needed too. And the old-style Pet Passports were no longer valid, instead complex Animal Health Certificates were needed. 

What has changed?

Well, in the last few hours, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, have come to an agreement that should alter the equation. 

Under the new Windsor Framework, pet movements between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will require only a new travel document detailing the pet’s microchip number, and a declaration that the dog will not be moving on to Eire or any other EU country.

If the owner wants to take their dog into the Republic of Ireland – or another EU country – then the rabies vaccination, tapeworm treatment and AHC requirements will remain. Meanwhile, for Northern Irish pet owners who want to travel to Southern Ireland or the wider EU, their current EU Pet Passports will still be valid.

So when does this change take effect?

We don’t know yet – it will depend on when (or maybe even if) the agreement is ratified and signed, and then when it comes into force.

However, so far, it looks optimistic for those with pets who need or want to visit friends and family, or holiday, in another part of the UK and cross the Irish Sea in the process.

Further Reading