Does Britain Leaving the EU Affect Pet Owners?

In the coming months, the UK begins its departure from the EU. Being part of the EU brings with it many regulations, which formed part of the leave/remain debate. This article discusses the regulations that affect pet owners and what life post-EU could be like without those regulations.

Travelling With Pets

A Pet Passport
An EU Pet Passport

In 2012 the UK sought to make pet travel easier throughout the EU through the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). This scheme brought the UK in line with European law regarding the non-commercial movement of pet animals 1.

Cats, dogs and ferrets can travel with their owners within the EU if they have a passport containing proof of their identity and their anti-rabies vaccination.

To travel between EU countries, pets must comply with the following:

  • Marked identification (microchip transponder or tattoo)
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Tapeworm treatment
  • Accompanied by a passport authorised by a veterinarian

A pet passport contains details of the pet, owner and vet. Including vaccination details and confirmation of satisfactory blood test results. By having this scheme in place, pet owners can freely travel with their pet throughout the EU, without the need for quarantine.

What Could Change?

Post Brexit, the future of the pet passport in its current state is unclear. It is likely that some form of pet passport will remain, as this makes it easier to control the movement of pets between countries.

Bringing pets into the UK could become more difficult. The recent outbreak of canine babesiosis has been attributed to the easy movement of pets into the UK from the EU. There is no enforced requirement that pets entering the UK are free from ticks. This is one example of why it would be advantageous to the biosecurity of the UK to make entry more difficult.

Negotiations in the months following Brexit will decide how movement of pets out of the UK is affected. It may remain unchanged, or it could be that pets coming from the UK are forced into quarantine before being allowed free movement in their destination.

Possible outcomes:

  1. It becomes more difficult to travel with your pet in the EU
  2. The UK benefits from improved biosecurity

The Pet Food Market

Could the pet food industry be affected by Brexit?
Could the pet food industry be affected by Brexit?

There are currently many EU regulations that influence the manufacture, marketing and distribution of pet foods. The main concern of these regulations is that your pets receive quality, hygienic food that is free from contamination and is not falsely advertised.

EU regulations ensure that animal-derived ingredients in pet food are considered fit for human consumption. The parts of animals humans don’t eat are classified as ‘animal by-products’. Because these by-products are technically ‘fit for human consumption’, they are free from unauthorised additives and undesirable substances (e.g. arsenic, lead, pesticides) 2. These by-products are often used in pet food production.

Another EU regulation that protects pet owners is one which governs the marketing of pet foodstuffs. Currently, stringent labelling is required for all pet foods. Pet food manufacturers are prohibited from making false medicinal claims or misleading their consumers.

Pet food manufacturers must also consider the safety of their product and that they are marked correctly for species or any special dietary requirement 3.

Another major regulation governing pet food are the controls relating to additives. These include vitamins, colourants, flavourings, and binders. All additives must be authorised for use in animal feed and are therefore generally recognised as safe (GRAS) 4.

What Could Change?

We’ve seen a trend recently towards high-quality pet foods that are becoming increasingly more ‘human’. The amount that we spend as pet owners on pet food is increasing. The demand for high-quality food will likely remain unchanged.

Pet food brands that pride themselves on the quality of their foods are unlikely to change. But depending on how UK laws adapt, there could be potential for some companies to cut corners in their manufacturing process. Potentially unfit for consumption animal by-products could be used, alongside questionable additives. In this case, UK laws would probably be quick to catch up to bring tight regulation back to the industry.

A fall in the strength of the pound could also lead to pet food, like many other groceries, becoming more expensive.

Possible outcomes:

  1. Reputable brands continue to produce high quality pet foods
  2. Potential for some abuse of pet food contents to improve profits
  3. Price of pet food increases as raw ingredient prices rise

Welfare of Pet Companions

The welfare of pets is one concern where the UK was providing a strong, leading influence within the EU. Introduced in 2006, the animal welfare act brought together a number of existing UK legislation. The act provides strong protection for the welfare of animals in the UK 5.

The act brought a ‘duty of care’ into effect to ensure the needs of any animal for which a person is responsible are met. It became an offence to fail to meet the needs of an animal in your care. This is a positive improvement over existing legislation, meaning animal welfare officers can intervene before animals are allowed to suffer.

Notable effects of the act include:

  • Illegal to sell animals to persons under 16
  • An offence to cause or permit unnecessary suffering
  • Ban on mutilation unless it improve the long term welfare of an animal
  • Strict limitations on tail docking
  • Many offences relating to participation and association of fighting, wrestling, baiting etc.

What Could Change?

Britain leads the way on the welfare of animals in all respects; companion, production and scientific purposes. It is unlikely that anything would change as most law governing the welfare of animals is UK law.

In 2009, the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty lead to amendments of the TFEU 6. They recognised animals as sentient beings, stating that we should pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals. This viewpoint however is now commonly felt throughout most of the developed world and we don’t require an EU directive to acknowledge this!

Possible Outcomes:

  1. The UK maintains strict regulation over animal welfare, preventing the unnecessary suffering of animals

The Outcome for British Pet Owners

Many aspects of a post-EU Britain currently appear bleak, but for pet owners, it seems much will go unchanged. Those who travel frequently with their pet however, are most likely to be affected. Travel could become more difficult but, current pet passports will remain valid until Britain officially leaves the EU, which could be 2-3 years time from now.

The negative impact on the economy could mean the cost of keeping a pet increases. This is currently on average around £16,900 for a dog and for a cat £17,200, according to research by Sainsbury’s pet insurance. Pet ownership could also decrease from the current 46% of households with pets, in a bid to reduce living costs.

What are your thoughts on how Brexit affects pet owners?

The future is still uncertain, but if you have any thoughts on how Brexit will affect UK pet owners, please leave us a comment below.


  1. Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 June 2013 on the non-commercial movement of pet animals and repealing Regulation (EC) No 998/2003 Text with EEA relevance
  2. Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 laying down health rules as regards animal by-products and derived products not intended for human consumption
  3. Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 on the placing on the market and use of feed.
  4. Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003 on additives for use in animal nutrition
  5. Animal Welfare Act (2006)
  6. Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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One comment

  1. Thanks, an extremely informative article! I’m currently gearing up for a move to mainland Europe (Slovenia) before the dreaded Brexit axe falls, it’s good to know that not much is predicted to change. The move is going to be stressful enough for my cat (he’s only ever known one home from birth) so good to know I’m unlikely to have to inflict additional checks on him before getting in the car for the very long drive!

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