Do you need a pet passport?

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Since 1st January 2021, the rules on travelling in and out of Great Britain with a pet have changed. 

Before Brexit, pet passport holders could freely travel between EU countries without quarantine under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

This made it easier for people to take their cats, dogs and ferrets on holiday. Now it's different. 

What's a pet passport? 

It's a document that allows pets entry to other countries without quarantine. It was originally used for pets to enter and re-enter Britain from the EU and other listed countries. 

However, we no longer use them in Britain, and you can no longer use pet passports issued in Britain. Northern Ireland or EU pet passports are still valid. 

Pet travel to Europe after Brexit

Pet travel to Europe has changed since Brexit.

You can still take your pet from Britain to EU countries without quarantine if you have an animal health certificate (AHC)

An AHC is a document that proves a pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies, and dogs, cats or ferrets travelling from Britain to an EU country or Northern Ireland needs one. 

Read more about microchipping your pet.

AHCs include information about a pet's owner and details of the pet/s, including type, breed, age and size.

How to get an animal health certificate

To get an AHC, you must check that your usual vet can issue one, as only an official veterinarian (OV) can sign them. You need to get an AHC no more than 10 days before you intend to travel. 

You'll need to prove your pet's microchipped and provide its vaccination history. Your pet's usual vet should have all these details on file.

Read more about vaccinating your pet.

An AHC can have up to five pets on it, and once issued, it'll be valid for 10 days. You then have a 10-day window to enter the EU or Northern Ireland from the date on the AHC.

The AHC will be valid for four months of onward travel within the EU and four months of re-entry to Britain. 

You'll need a new AHC for each trip you want, but your pet will not need a repeat rabies vaccination if the previous one is still up-to-date.

The cost of an AHC varies between vets, but it's usually around £100-£150, which includes the price of a veterinary consultation and time for a vet to review the necessary paperwork.

Rabies vaccinations

You must vaccinate your dog, cat or ferret against rabies before they can travel. 

Vets state that your pet needs vaccination at least 12 weeks old, and a vet must see proof of their age before vaccinating them. 

You must wait 21 days to travel after your pet is vaccinated to ensure they are adequately protected.

Book your pet for booster vaccinations yearly to protect them against rabies. Your vet should keep your pet's vaccination record up to date, but it's worth checking it to make sure.

Tapeworm treatments for dogs

A vet must treat your dog for tapeworm and record it on the AHC whenever you want to bring it to Britain. The dog needs to receive treatment between 24 and 120 hours before entering. 

To comply with the travel regulations, the vet administering the tapeworm treatment must put the following on an AHC:

  • details of the worming product
  • the date and time of treatment
  • their stamp and signature 

Failure to do so can result in a dog being refused entry to Britain or put into quarantine.

Travelling to an EU country or Northern Ireland

When travelling to an EU country or Northern Ireland from Britain, your pet needs:

  • a microchip
  • a valid rabies vaccination
  • an AHC or a valid pet passport the country accepts
  • tapeworm treatment for dogs if you're travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta

Before travel, you should check the rules of the country you're travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements.

Travelling to a non-EU country with your pet

If you're travelling from Britain to a country outside the EU, you'll need an export health certificate (EHC) that checks that your pet meets the country's requirements.

Each country has its own EHC requirements, so you should search for the country you're travelling to on GOV.UK. 

You'll also need to fill in an export application form. Your vet will check and sign the EHC and ensure you have the proper travel documents.

Travelling on planes 

The International Air Transport Association Live Animal Regulations need air travel operators carrying animals to ensure suitable pet conditions.

Unless your pet is an assistance dog, it'll need to travel in the hold of a plane, which could be closed longer than expected if you have a delayed flight. 

Pets can find air travel stressful. Putting a blanket from home or a favourite toy in the carrier with them can help a pet feel more settled on the journey.

Before booking a flight, check the airline's pet travel policy and make sure they are on the government-approved pet travel airlines list. Visit GOV.UK for an up-to-date list. 

Travelling on ferries

Ferries are similarly regulated, and your pet will likely have to stay in your vehicle or a designated container area during travel. You should check your ferry company's pet policy for specific details and make sure they are a government-approved operator on the pet travel sea and rail route list. 

Again, GOV.UK is your best bet for an up-to-date list. 

Returning to Great Britain with a pet

When you arrive in Britain, an official will check, sign and stamp your pet's travel documents.

If they refuse your pet entry, they'll keep it in quarantine until your pet completes any necessary treatment. Sometimes, it may be deported to the country you travelled from or, in extreme cases, put to sleep.

If you enter Britain from outside the EU, you can only collect your pet after it has been taken through customs. You can pay an agent, travel company or airline to do this for you.

If you can't do this, contact the customs office where you arrive before you travel or ask the National Clearance Hub at for more information.

Before you travel with your pet

Be honest with yourself about what would be best for your pet. Many pets can find travelling stressful, especially if it means being separated from their owners for the duration of the journey.

If your pet is likely to struggle with the change of routine and environment, leave them with a trusted friend, family member or pet sitter at home.

If you decide to take your pet, check that your holiday destination has all the necessary facilities. 

Check you can get your pet's usual food while you are away, and make sure you take plenty with you if you can't. A sudden change in food can result in an upset stomach.

Consult a vet if you need more clarification about how your pet would cope with travelling. They'll be able to advise you on the best options for you and your pet.

Pet insurance when abroad

Pet insurance is valuable when bringing your pet abroad or to Britain. Many insurers have cover for pets overseas but check that this is included in your policy before you travel.

Some insurers have exclusions for specific countries, meaning your pet might not get cover when travelling there. 

We extend our pet insurance to European destinations for up to 30 days.

I’ve spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as a staff writer on Dogs Today magazine, working my way up to become deputy editor in 2008. In 2010, I left the office to pursue a freelance career, relocated to north Norfolk and started a family. 

Over the years I’ve contributed thoughtful human-interest features, celebrity interviews and investigative news stories to publications including The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly and Your Cat. I’ve also ghost-written veterinary books and press releases for the pet industry.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy long walks in the Norfolk countryside with my rescue lurcher Popsie. These are always followed by tea and cake.

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