Travelling with your pets can be a really rewarding experience, as you can explore new environments together and you don’t have to leave them behind in kennels or boarding. You could also be moving country with them, or taking an animal abroad to be rehomed if they have been adopted.
A pet passport is the most essential requirement needed to travel with your animal. It offers proof of necessary vaccinations and ownership and should either limit or completely cut out the need for your pet to enter quarantine.
To obtain a passport, your pet will need:
- To be microchipped
- To have had a rabies vaccination as a minimum (other vaccines may depend on where you are going)
- Dogs may also need suitable tapeworm treatment for certain countries (although it is good to get this anyway)
The EU’s Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows animals with a passport to enter and leave the UK and other participating countries (further referred to as ‘listed’ countries) without the need for time in quarantine or any extra vaccinations, health tests or blood tests in addition to those above.
Pet Passports are for dogs, cats and ferrets. Other animals such as horses or reptiles have their own individual rules
Pet passports usually also form a basis for travelling to and from any ‘unlisted’ Third Country which is not in the scheme, although additional specific requirements for entry will differ from place to place. This is particularly relevant when entering the UK from one of these countries.
Most of these countries have not been accepted for listed status because of less robust veterinary or administrative systems, high cases of rabies infections, or because they have never applied. It is crucial that your animal passes the tests for entry to the UK.
Simply put, wherever you go and for whatever reason, you really do need a pet passport!
Brexit And Pet Passports
Brexit will likely affect how both you and your pet can travel, although exactly how is still not known as a deal has not been reached.
Talks are going to take place throughout 2020, with a guideline date of 1 January 2021 for officially leaving, so we will keep you updated
Currently, this means you will have to really be prepared if you are travelling until everything is confirmed either way.
Michael Gove said in July 2020 that he was “confident” our furry friends wouldn’t have to give up their passports and get blood tests before they travel. He told the Commons:
“If we are not a ‘listed country’ then there will be additional procedures that pet owners will have to follow beyond those that currently exist. But we’re confident we will be a listed country because we have none of those health risks here in the UK which those who are not listed by the EU have.”
The UK is currently a ‘listed’ country, within the PETS scheme along with the rest of the EU. After 1st January 2021, we will automatically be a ‘Third country’ outside of the scheme unless other arrangements are in place (Third countries can still apply to the European Commission to become listed).
There are three types of Third country:
- Part 1 listed
- Part 2 listed
If we leave with a deal, there is a chance we will remain a listed part of this scheme, although certain changes could be implemented depending on which type level we are in. As we are currently listed, there is a good chance we would be accepted again but nothing is guaranteed.
But if no deal is reached or talks fall through and we remain Unlisted, your pet will have to have a blood (titre) test, then wait at least 3 months for clear results before it can travel to the EU, on top of the standard microchip and vaccination against rabies. They will also need to wait 30 days before having a titre test after their rabies vaccine if they haven’t already had it.
This could all take up to four months in total, so you would really have to keep up to date with every vaccination if you’re prone to last-minute travel
You will further need to get an AHC EU health certificate (Annex IV) at least 10 days before travelling to the EU. This will be valid for re-entry into the UK for four months. Travelling with a dog to Finland, Republic of Ireland or Malta will require tapeworm treatment.
Finally, you will also be restricted to entering the EU through one of the designated Travellers’ points of entry, where they will have to undertake document and identity checks by the competent authorities.
A pet with a valid passport and microchip currently only has to wait 21 days after a fresh rabies vaccination to travel, so this would add a considerable amount of time onto your preparation and wait.
British Veterinary Association Daniella Dos Santos wasn’t as confident as Gove, warning owners to speak to their vets now if they do want to travel next year – because it can take 4 months to pass EU hurdles if Britain is made an”unlisted country”.
She told BBC Radio 4: “The Government have announced the three possible scenarios. One of them does need some planning in advance, which is why the Government is saying to contact your vet.”
What Is A Pet Passport?
A pet passport gives your animal freedom of movement between countries which accept it as a form of documentation and proof of vaccination. They can only be given to cats, dogs and ferrets, which are the three most commonly transported household pets in the world.
This is usually the only document needed for travelling, depending on the country you are going to. It records everything in one place, so you don’t need to carry other paperwork with you – a great way to keep everything else safe!
It is made up of over 10 sections detailing information about you and your pet:
- Owner Details – Full name and address of the pet owner, including signature
- Description Of Animal – Name, species, breed, sex, DOB, colour and any notable features such as stripes or patches
- Animal Marking – Information about their chip, the date of the microchip and location of the chip. This must be laminated once completed
- Issuing Of Passport – Information about the official vet (OV) and practice which issued the document, including contact details and date of issue
- Proof Of Rabies Vaccination – This must be completed by a vet and also record boosters
- Rabies Antibody Titration Test – Information about any blood tests required if they are travelling to a Third Country
- Anti-Echinococcus Treatment – This is proof of tapeworm vaccinations if your pet is a dog
- Sections 8 to 12 – These aren’t mandatory but can offer proof of anti-parasite medication, other vaccinations for specific Third Country requirements, clinical examinations and fitness levels if they are needed
How Do I Get A Pet Passport?
Talk to your vet, who will guide you through the process. They will book you in for the rabies vaccine and microchip if your pet doesn’t already have them, as well as any additional injections needed for the country you are travelling to.
If they do have them, you will probably still need to book an appointment so the OV can scan the microchip number, confirm everything is up to date and fill out your details.
When Can My Pet Get A Passport?
The minimum age for a pet to receive most vaccinations, including for rabies, is 12 weeks, so a passport is available after this is done.
A microchip is needed before administering a rabies vaccine too, which can be done from around 8 weeks old. It could be good to space out the visits as much as possible to cause the least stress.
After this rabies vaccination, you must wait 21 days before travelling, so most passports will have been administered in plenty of time before the big move anyway. This means that your pet will likely be at least 15 weeks old before travelling.
If they are older, already have a microchip and their rabies vaccination is still active, a pet passport can usually be given within 24 hours notice, Monday to Friday if everything is above board.
Some EU countries will allow younger cats and dogs without the vaccination, but they still need a passport. Special circumstances can be made for these eventualities, and there must be written evidence from the OV to back up the issue of the documentation. Your pet will need the rabies vaccine when they are old enough if you are returning to their home country again.
Who Can Issue A Pet Passport?
Your pet passport should only be issued by a registered OV who has checked that all the requirements have been met. You must go through a registered vet – if you see any websites online offering the service, or any other businesses, do not go via this route.
Vets in the UK can fill in the pages of passports issued in another EU country. If you are travelling to the UK, the passport should have been issued in a country which the UK accepts passports from.
However, not all vets in the UK can issue a passport. Each surgery should have at least one OV who can, but you will have to check ahead as to when they are working and available. This could add time on to how long it takes, but it is worth remembering that you don’t need to go to the vet who issued the vaccinations in order to process a passport as long as you take an updated record of their checkups and boosters.
Pet Passport Cost
Most owners will end up spending around £150-£250 for the passport, which should include the cost of the microchip, vaccination, initial appointment and paperwork. While this may seem extreme, if you will be travelling frequently with your pet, it could work out as cheaper than kennels or boarding over the years. The passport is often a one-off purchase, too.
Either way, it is an unavoidable cost – if you must travel with them, there is no getting out of having a pet passport
How Long Does A Pet Passport Last?
The passports are valid for life as long as you keep up with your pet’s rabies vaccination and boosters. One of these is required every three years.
You may need to purchase a replacement if you run out of pages on the passport if you travel a lot. Not keeping up with the rabies injections can also mean you need a new one as the information in the passport will change depending on the vaccine used.
Am I Restricted By How I Can Travel?
Travel between countries must be undertaken using approved routes, with approved companies. This is so paperwork can be checked properly, essentially.
The good news is that this includes rail, sea and air
Bear in mind that a particular travel company may also have requirements on travelling with animals such as restrictions with suitable carriers and necessary injections based on whether your pet will be socialising with other pets, and some may not take your pet at all, so check you have a suitable method before you go.
Do I Need A Pet Passport To Travel To Northern Ireland?
No. A pet passport is only needed when crossing international borders, so travel to and from Great Britain mainland is unlimited. The same applies when travelling between Wales, Scotland and England.
Most UK airlines only allow pets to travel as cargo, so travelling via ferry is often the best option if you want to keep your pet safe and with you at all times. Double-check on the travel company websites that there is no passport or injections needed first.
If crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland however, you will need a passport. We don’t expect any of this to change due to Brexit, but again we will keep you updated.
How Do I Travel With Other Animals?
Pet passports are only for dogs, cats and ferrets as mentioned. So anything such as horses and farm animals to exotic pets and fish will need to be researched independently. This will differ between the animals and the countries you are going to and from.
In general, you will still need documents to prove they have required vaccinations and have a clean bill of health and fitness. You will also need to prove ownership. There may also be certain rules for temporary travel (such as horses competing in competitions) versus permanent travel.