The Freedom of Movement of Pets

Posted in UK and EU legal framework

In addition to the four fundamental freedoms spelled out in the Treaty of Rome – those of the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons within the EU - there is a fifth one relating to the movement of pets which is seldom discussed.  This freedom derives from Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 (the Pet Travel Regulation).

The Pet Travel Regulation establishes a list of animal species to which harmonised animal health requirements apply when kept as pet animals and moved for non-commercial purposes across borders within the EU. The species covered are dogs, cats and ferrets and the health requirements are relatively straightforward: the pet needs (a) a microchip, (b) a rabies vaccination effected at least 21 days prior to the journey, (c) a pet passport or official third country veterinary certificate and (d) tapeworm treatment (for dogs only). Several hundred thousand domestic dogs and cats (and, possibly, ferrets) travel freely across EU borders under this scheme every year.

Following the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 on Brexit by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (the Withdrawal Act) and subject to any saving provision proposed by the UK Government during the implementation period in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (as to which see here), the Pet Travel Regulation will cease to be directly applicable in the UK. Pet owners may ask what obstacles they may then face either when bringing pets into the UK or taking pets from the UK to a EU Member State.

Section 3(1) of the Withdrawal Act provides that direct EU legislation, including the Pet Travel Regulation, will form part of UK domestic law on and following Brexit. Pet owners should therefore be able to rely on the Pet Passport Scheme, as a matter of UK domestic law, when bringing pets into the UK from the EU and will not need to comply with regulations (for example as to quarantine) applicable to imports from third party countries.

However, when the UK ceases to be a Member State, it will be treated as a third country by the Pet Travel Regulation. Imports into the EU of pets from third countries are dealt with under Chapter 3 of the  Pet Travel Regulation which lays down more stringent requirements: for example the submission to the relevant authority of a much more detailed veterinary certificate than that provided for by the Pet Passport.  The pets can only be imported at one of a list of designated entry points.

On this basis, there will be a lack of reciprocity between the UK and the EU as to the requirements for the movement of pets across borders. The Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, is reported to have taken a personal interest in this issue.  Whether that will result in the EU making a concession, allowing the UK to cherry-pick for the rights of pets and their owners remains to be seen.

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