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DUP South Antrim MLA and Vice-Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Pam Cameron has urged the public to support a Parliamentary petition created by Guide Dogs NI calling for a common travel area between the UK and Republic of Ireland for guide and assistance dogs.

Commenting, Mrs Cameron said:

‘‘The extra paperwork and vaccinations required under the Protocol for pets entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are not just unnecessary but run the risk of negatively impacting the lives of guide dog owners and service users across our Province. Guide Dogs NI and other advocates have already warned of the consequences this could have on already long waiting lists, with fewer puppies being trained.

This blows the EU’s nonsensical claim that the Protocol is vital to impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland out of the water. The reality is that these arrangements offer only heartache and disruption to people in Northern Ireland, including some of the most vulnerable in our society.

I welcome the decision taken by my colleagues in the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to extend the grace period for the move to new requirements until 1 July 2021. The Minister has also reiterated the call for a common travel area for pet travel within the British Isles, free from restrictions. This is something the Government must prioritise in the coming days.

It is shameful but not surprising that despite the widespread disruption seen between GB and NI since 1 January, the EU’s response has been to call for more Protocol, not less Protocol. I would urge pet owners and the wider public to support the Guide Dogs NI petition to send a clear message to Parliament that we have to remove the potential for these damaging new rules. Through willful ignorance of local concerns the EU have abandoned all pretence of care for people in Northern Ireland. It is now time for the Government to step in and step up to deal with the Protocol and defend our interests.’’