Pets are like humans in more ways than you might think; they too need travel documents to go abroad.
Before Brexit, British travellers could use pet passports to take their animals to EU countries. But Brexit has changed this.
This guide explains the changes and tells you what documents you need when travelling with a cat, dog or ferret abroad.
A pet passport is a legal document that has important information about your pet. The pet passport contains its date of birth, microchip number, information about you (the owner) and a description of the animal, all to help the authorities identify your pet.
Before you can take your pet abroad, or bring it to the UK, it has to have a number of medical tests and vaccinations.
These are all listed in the passport too, such as proof of its rabies vaccination, a rabies blood test result and evidence of certain treatments, such as a tapeworm treatment for dogs. It will also have information on all the treatments your pet has received.
As of 1 January 2021, pet passports issued in Great Britain are no longer valid for travel to EU countries or Northern Ireland. However, if your pet passport was issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland, it can still be used.
After Brexit, you can still travel with your pet to the EU. But you won’t be able to use a pet passport if it was issued in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).
Instead, as of 1 January 2021, you’ll need to get an animal health certificate before you go. This is a document that proves your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.
You need an animal health certificate (AHC) for your dog, cat or ferret if you’re travelling from Great Britain to an EU country or Northern Ireland.
To get an AHC you need to take your pet to the vet. This must be done no more than 10 days before you travel.
You’ll need to take proof that your pet has been microchipped, as well as its vaccination history too. Your vet may have these details on file, so just ask.
Once you’ve got your AHC, it will be valid for 10 days, which means you’ll have 10 days to enter the EU.
In addition, it will be valid for four months onward travel within the EU and for four months re-entry into Great Britain too. You’ll need a new AHC for each trip you want to make.
If you’re travelling from Great Britain to a country outside the EU, slightly different rules apply.
First, you’ll need to get an export health certificate (EHC). This checks whether your pet meets the health requirements of the country you’re travelling to.
Each country has its own EHC requirements, so you should search for the country you’re travelling to and see exactly what these requirements are.
In addition to an EHC, you’ll also need to fill in an export application form.
Before you go, your vet will check and sign the EHC and ensure you’ve got the right documents to travel.
Taking your dog on a flight is an extra challenge that requires careful planning. The International Air Transport Association Live Animal Regulations mean air travel operators offering to carry animals must make sure conditions are right for pets.
Still, the unfamiliar environment and sensation of travelling by plane can be stressful for some dogs. Other than registered assistance dogs, all animals will need to travel in the hold, which could be closed for longer than you expect if your flight is delayed.
Make sure the container your pet will be travelling in is big enough to allow them to lie down and turn without discomfort. Put their blanket or a familiar toy in there to comfort them.
Check your airline’s pet travel policy, and make sure they carry animals via the government’s official list of pet travel approved airlines.
Ferries are similarly regulated – your dog will likely have to stay in the car or in a designated container area. Again, you should check your ferry company’s pet policy for specific details, and make sure they’re an approved operator for travelling with pets via the government’s pet travel sea and rail route list.
When you arrive in the UK, at the airport, ferry port or Channel Tunnel, your pet’s travel documents will be checked, signed and stamped by an official.
If your pet is refused entry to the UK, it will be kept in quarantine until any necessary treatment has been successfully completed. In some cases, it may be deported to the country you travelled from, or in extreme cases, put to sleep.
If you need to bring more than five pets into the UK in one go, you'll need to get a different piece of documentation, which is more detailed.
Consider if taking your pet with you is the best thing for them. Many pets can become stressed by travelling and find it hard to adapt to a new routine and environment. Would it be better to leave them in the care of someone responsible at home?
If you decide to bring your pet with you, check your holiday destination has the essential facilities you’ll need for your pet. Check if you’re able to get your pet’s regular food while away, and plan to take plenty with you if you can’t.
Check the company you’re travelling with accepts pets for travel and find out what documentation you need to bring proving your pet is fit for travel. It can take a while to get this documentation so plan ahead to make sure you meet all the relevant deadlines.
If you’re in any doubt about how your dog will cope with going on holiday, consult a vet – they’ll be able to advise on the best options for you and your pet.
Yes, it will need to have had the rabies jab before it can travel. Just bear in mind that your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before getting the rabies vaccination. You'll also need to make sure it has been microchipped either before the jab or at the same time, otherwise it will need to be vaccinated again.
You'll need to book your pet in for regular booster vaccinations to keep them protected against rabies. Your vet should keep your pet's vaccination record up to date, but it's worth checking it to make sure.
Before returning to the UK, even if you've been on holiday for a week, you'll need to get your dog treated for tapeworms. Make sure you get it treated at least 24 hours before the time you're going to enter the UK, and within five days.
Without proof of the treatment, your dog won't be able to come into the country. Missing this timeframe is the most common reason dogs get refused entry.
Pet insurance is essential when taking your pet abroad or bringing them into the UK. A lot of insurers have cover for pets overseas but do check that this is included in your policy before you travel.
While your pet may be covered for expenses abroad, your insurer might have a certain list of countries where your pet is not covered, and you could also be charged a lot of excess. If you travel with your pets a lot, it's worthwhile choosing a policy that fully covers you for a number of additional costs, even those that are unexpected.