Blind people using guide dogs are lobbying for easier post-Brexit procedures for entering the EU from the UK.
Guide dog-owners are treated the same as pet-owners: UK residents now need an ‘animal health certificate’ (AHC) from their vet, costing £100 or more, for each trip to the EU.
The UK was not allowed post-Brexit to continue to issue EU-recognised ‘pet passports’.
This possibility exists for non-EU states and the UK asked for it, but EU Commission sources said the UK does not qualify as it is for countries which apply EU animal health rules.
Such ‘Part-one listed’ states at present include only the EEA countries (Norway, Iceland...), Switzerland and microstates such as Monaco.
‘I missed friend’s Paris funeral’
David Adams, honorary president of the European Guide Dog Federation (EGDF), who lives in the UK, said it considers this discriminatory to blind people who are obliged to travel with their dogs.
It considers the UK “very biosecure”. Guide dogs, unlike pets, are always on a lead and not likely to run around on their own, he said.
“In the UK, we have no problems with rabies, ticks or worms, etc, so we make sure they are protected [against rabies and tapeworms] when we bring them back from the continent.
“Before Brexit, we could come in freely. Since then, they’ve cast us out like a Third World country with raging animal disease.
“The certificate takes several hours to prepare and can cost up to £250. You can only apply 10 days before you leave.
“When a friend in Paris died, with the funeral a week later, there was no way I could get the certificate in time.
“Then it only lasts one trip once you’ve returned. I used to sometimes do three trips a month, now that’s impossible.”
‘Almost given up on UK government’
Mr Adams thinks a waiver from the AHC requirement should be offered to UK-based blind people with dogs.
“We’ve written 190 letters to MEPs. An Italian one is raising a question in the parliament.
“Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost told me he will write to the UK mission in Brussels to raise it and try to get it put on the front burner,” he said.
“We’ve almost given up lobbying in the UK, because by the time a minister looks at it, they change portfolio again. I tried to raise it as a disability and equalities issue, but the ministers in charge of those pass it on to Defra [in charge of animal health] who don’t understand the discrimination aspect of it.”
‘Exceptional circumstances’ rule useless for blind traveller
EU sources said rules allow states to apply certain ‘flexibilities’ in the case of assistance dogs due to article 32 of a regulation about pet movement. They could, if they wanted, allow special permits, the source said.
However, the article refers to allowing pets in without the usual formalities in ‘exceptional circumstances’ in one-off cases, where a permit has been applied for beforehand and granted, and with the animal being kept in isolation for a period on arrival.
It seems unlikely to meet what the guide dog-owners are asking for.
We are not aware of any process for special permits to be issued by France.