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DUP South Antrim MLA and Vice-Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Pam Cameron has asked the Equality Commission to examine whether requirements placed on pets, including guide dogs, travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland under the Protocol amounts to disability discrimination.

Commenting, Mrs Cameron said:

‘‘With new vaccinations and more paperwork required for pets entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, the Protocol will have a profound effect on adults, children and young people with sight loss not just in our Province but across the United Kingdom.

In the last ten years around 250 puppies have been trained to become assistance dogs in Northern Ireland through the Guide Dog National Breeding Centre in England. As a result of the new arrangements this supply has been suspended as pups would in practice be unable to arrive in NI until they are around 15 weeks old – well past the optimal point for their development.

Current guide dog owners are also disadvantaged in that they would have to undergo this added burden even if only visiting friends or family in GB for a few days becoming returning home.

This disruption is completely unacceptable. I have written to the Equality Commission to request that it consider the disability equality impact of these provisions and establish whether they constitute discrimination against those with sight loss in Northern Ireland.

As a Party we will continue to highlight both the practical and personal impact of these arrangements and press the Government to take long overdue steps to deal with the Protocol and restore Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom both socially and economically.’’