Angry Islandmagee dog owner’s nine-page letter to Boris Johnson over new regulations

New regulations on dogs travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland have “fundamentally split the United Kingdom”, an east Antrim dog lover has claimed.
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Ruth Anderson is calling on people to “make noise” and make their opposition heard over the issue.

The regulations are part of the ‘Irish Sea border’ arrangements agreed between the British Government and the European Union, and Ruth estimates they will cost £150 every time someone brings a dog into Northern Ireland from GB.

“I am from Islandmagee and for the last 11 years I have been working all over the UK. I have property in England and have had my dog Rosie travelling with me. In 2019 I was travelling sometimes four times a week,” she said.

Port of LarnePort of Larne
Port of Larne

“I have a friend in Scotland who would look after Rosie if I have work there. I have travelled over on the 7.30am ferry to Scotland, driven to Edinburgh and left Rosie at my friend’s, carried out my business and been back home on the 7.30pm ferry. I can’t do that anymore as it would be illegal for Rosie to travel in this way now,” she said.

“This is fundamentally splitting the United Kingdom.  We knew thing’s would change post Brexit but moving from freedom of travel for canines to restrictions that mirror taking your dog to the USA is mind-blowing and destructive to the lives of many UK citizens.”

Also with an interest in the outcome of attempts to change the new regulations is Lisa Stein Hopkins, whose husband has a guide dog.

“All dogs must have a pet passport in order to travel and in order for that to happen a pup would be four months old before it could travel. A puppy’s training starts at eight weeks; these are vital weeks in a pup’s development. This will have a huge impact on the programme here in NI,” she explained.

“Guide Dogs are reliant during the training of a working dog that they can travel back and forth to mainland UK. It is the pups being hardest hit because of the timeframe for vaccinating them means they would be too old to start the programme here. It’s not enough for just a guide dog to be exempt, but for all dogs and pups in the programme - because a pup coming across for training will obviously not be a qualified dog.

“Only the best quality pups go forward to enter the training programme. There isn’t rabies here so why should there be an imposition of a rabies vaccine? It really is ludicrous.”

“My husband’s guide dog, ‘Quaker’, will turn eight this year, leaving him hopefully with two years until retirement. There is currently a two year waiting list for a dog. If there are no pups being trained in Northern Ireland the list will get longer,” the Whitehead woman added.

The impact on training guide dogs has already been seen, with puppy walking – an essential part of familiarisation in training a guide dog puppy – now suspended in Northern Ireland. The Guide Dogs organisation said the new barrier for assistance dog owners was a “massive disappointment”.

Since 2010, there have been 250 guide dogs trained in Northern Ireland but the charity said it had no option but to suspend the training programme in the province.

There are currently 100 guide dog owners at any one time in Northern Ireland and Quaker is the fourth guide dog which the family have had.

“We have our own fundraising group locally. My son raised £7,000 during lockdown to name a pup that now sadly will not be coming to Northern Ireland,”

She called on people to support the lobby to change the regulations by signing petitions and contacting elected representatives.

Islandmagee woman Ruth Anderson was so angry that she was prompted to write a nine page letter to the Prime Minister.

“After being told there would be ‘no significant change’ to pet and assistance dog travel within the UK the government has imposed ludicrous post Brexit changes. There has always been free, unrestricted, undocumented and unmedicated/unvaccinated dog travel across the UK.  Unfortunately as part of our EU exit, dogs returning home to Northern Ireland and dogs from England, Scotland and/or Wales entering Northern Ireland will have to undergo pre-planned and costly veterinary protocols,” she said.

Ruth has set up her own facebook petition which has already gained almost 200 signatures.

“We are used to unfettered and unrestricted access but all this has changed. I want to live in Northern Ireland but I may not be able to anymore,” Ruth said.

“Everyone from those who travel with their pets on holidays, to the farming sector and those taking part in sheepdog trials, those travelling for dog shows and introduction of new bloodlines will all be impacted. A lot of people bring their dogs with them on holiday as part of the family and this will have an impact on tourism and the wider economy,” she predicted.

Ruth said that given the proposal was only made public on December 16 regarding changes on January 1, she feels it was inappropriate not to allow further time for consideration. The petition she started,, has attracted almost 200 signatures so far, while another petition, supported by Lisa, at the UK Government and Petitions site, has over 1,500 to date.

In a statement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it recognised the vital work of “Guide Dogs UK and continue to work closely with assistance dog organisations and their members to ensure they have the latest advice and guidance”.

“We have ensured there are no changes to the current pet travel rules for entry into Great Britain from Northern Ireland, and are working closely with the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure a long-term solution which supports pet owners and assistance dog users entering Northern Ireland,” a spokesperson added.

Click here to read: New Brexit checks premises for Larne Harbour


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