Britain must stockpile pet food and livestock feed and plan for airlifts of medical supplies to protect animals from Brexit chaos next year, leading charities will warn on Wednesday.
The end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 could cause shortages of food for pets and livestock as well as other vital supplies, the 12 campaign groups said. Even if there is a trade deal, delays and queues are expected at key ports such as Dover.
Disruption to medical supplies would not only be “potentially devastating” for individual animals but make it harder to “control disease outbreaks,” the 12 charities told Environment Secretary George Eustice in a letter exclusively obtained by the Telegraph.
“We believe central and devolved governments need to make contingency plans for the stockpiling of veterinary medicines and animal feed,” the charities, who are part of the UK-EU animal welfare taskforce, said.
“Central government should further explore the use of air freight […] to mitigate risks associated with veterinary medicine availability issues,” the taskforce said, raising the prospect of emergency airlifts of supplies from the EU.
Some government estimates for a no deal Brexit estimate queues of up to 7,000 lorries stretching into Kent. The animal welfare groups called for dedicated rest areas for animals along motorways, particularly the M20 in Kent, and at the ports themselves.
The charities, which included the RSPCA and Animal Defenders International, said that the UK imports two thirds of its animal feed and feed ingredients from the EU. It imports all of its pet food from the EU, they said, or makes it with EU ingredients. They called for a communication campaign for pet owners to ensure they had enough food for their animals.
The UK government and the governments of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland should build up reserves of farmed animal feed in case of supply chain disruption, they said. A minimum of four to 12 week’s supplies of medicines needed to be stockpiled, the charities said.
The final scheduled round of Brexit trade negotiations began on Tuesday in Brussels amid cautious optimism that a deal could be struck by the October 15 EU Summit, if both sides compromise.
Even if a trade deal is agreed, there will need to be more border checks than now because the UK will have left the Single Market and Customs Union.
The change will be particularly pronounced in Northern Ireland, which will continue to be subject to EU animal health rules after the end of the transition period.
That is necessary to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland but it means that Northern Irish cats, dogs and ferrets will have different pet passports to those on the British mainland.
“Pet passports for cats, dogs and ferrets will be required as standard when crossing the Irish Sea,” the charities said in their letter before calling for updated travel advice for owners.
The Telegraph understands that EU officials are in the process of designing the Northern Irish pet passport. It is expected to be blue and will not have any reference to the United Kingdom on it.
British cats, dogs and ferrets will have to show a UK pet passport before travelling to Northern Ireland.
That will be designed by British officials, if the EU lists the UK as a country where it is safe for pets to visit from.