A Practical Guide for Irish Vacations on Four Paws

A chocolate labrador in a suitcase.
Purple Collar Pet Photography / Getty Images

Bringing pets to Ireland is not impossible, but you and your pet will have to jump through quite a few hoops. Of the legal kind, so being very agile won't help. If you plan on taking your pet or companion animal to Ireland, give it a good, long thought. Unless you are covered by the European Pet Passport scheme or resident in Great Britain, you practically won’t be allowed to bring a cat or dog into the country anyway.

It will have to suffer six months of quarantine first. And as to your animal enjoying the trip ...

The Law in Short

Ireland has been lucky to keep rabies out of the country - helped by the geographical blessings of an island and a rigorous import control on potential carriers. Meaning that no pets were allowed to enter at all unless a six-month-long quarantine was observed. Animals from (also rabies-free) Great Britain always were excepted.

This basic law has not changed - any cats and dogs entering Ireland will still have to endure six months of incarceration in a state-approved facility. Unless they are proud owners of a pet passport.

Pet Passports - The Exception

A few years ago, however, the rules were slackened for some pets - a special "pet passport" was introduced. Basically, the pet has to be chipped, vaccinated and then (if checked and declared healthy) can enter the country after six months.

While this has made travel with pets easier, the owner still has to jump through a large number of hoops - which include approved ports of entry, a visit to an approved vet and paying an extortionate sum for the transport by approved courier. And there are a few more problems.

Qualifying European states are all EU member states (plus most of their overseas territories), Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican.

Overseas pets may avail of a pet passport if they come from (amongst others) Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Russian Federation or the United States of America. For a complete list have a look at the official website.

Pet Problem Number 1 - The Journey to Ireland

Ask around and you will be surprised how few airlines actually are willing to transport companion animals. And if you find one you are more than likely at a price that would have several human passengers jetting over.

It is far easier to take your pet with you on a ferry - either in a car or in kennels in the hold. The latter has received some bad press after unexplained disappearances of some dogs. And no ferry company will allow a pet in passenger areas (guide dogs excepted).

Pet Problem Number 2 - Accommodation in Ireland

While many establishments will accept guests with pets (sometimes with a surcharge), the majority will not. So you will have to plan ahead and book suitable accommodation. Make sure to point out what sort of pet you will be bringing - if "Fluffy" turns out to be a full-grown Rottweiler many landladies might get a bit flustered.

Irish Laws Regarding Dogs

In Ireland you will see dogs of all pedigrees roaming free, apparently content to lead a happy and carefree life.

Only a minority are strays, most are actually owned by somebody. And here we have a case where "when in Ireland do as the Irish do" should definitely not be regarded sensible.

Dog laws apply to visitors as well, the only exception being the dog license (up to 30 days stay, after day 31 you will have to purchase a dog license from the Post Office). In short, these rules have to be obeyed:

  • Dogs should always be kept on a leash and under control.
  • Never let a dog run in fields where livestock could be - farmers are entitled to and will shoot uncontrolled dogs without warning.
  • The following breeds (and crossbreeds with strains) are considered dangerous and must wear a muzzle: American Pit Bull Terrier, English Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Mastiff, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd (Alsatian), Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Japanese Akita, Japanese Tosa, and Bandog.
  • Dogs should wear a collar with an ID tag at all times: otherwise, they might be picked up and quickly destroyed as strays (the implanted chip might not be found). Please note that since 2016 all dogs in Ireland need to be microchipped.
  • Ireland's litter laws are fairly tough regarding dog droppings - carry a "poop scoop" or similar material.

Think Before You Go: Will Your Pet Enjoy the Vacation?

To be brutally honest: Probably not - unless you are travelling in a caravan or staying in one accommodation a pet will be stressed to the maximum by the rapidly changing surroundings and the lack of security.

Note for Owners of Assistance Animals (Guide Dogs)

All the above regulations also apply to assistance animals (guide dogs), do not assume that you can bring them in without problems. Though rules are sometimes relaxed (most shopping centres are off-limits to dogs but allow guide dogs, Alsatian guide dogs do not have to wear muzzles), the import rules generally are not. Please also take note that Irish law currently only allows guide dogs for visually impaired people general access, other assistance dogs are not properly regulated, let alone non-canines.