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Taking your pets abroad: Everything you need to know

Photo of Jacob LewisPhoto of Jacob Lewis
By Jacob Lewis

1 February 2024 | Updated 8 April 20248 min read

Embarking on an overseas holiday with your furry companion has become more complex since Brexit. But fear not!

While the post-Brexit era has indeed made pet travel more challenging, it's far from impossible. Our comprehensive guide unravels the complexities of exploring the world with your beloved pets.

Should I bring my pet on holiday?

Deciding whether to take your pet on holiday with you depends on several factors.

Consider your pet's temperament and health: some animals may find the disruption of travel and a new environment stressful.

Also, evaluate the practicality and safety of travel arrangements, and whether your destination is pet-friendly. You’ll need to weigh their comfort and wellbeing against the benefits of having them with you.

If your pet is adaptable and the trip is feasible, it can be a great experience. However, if there are concerns, it might be kinder to arrange for pet care at home. Consulting with your vet can also provide valuable insights tailored to your pet's specific needs.

Travelling with pets in the EU

Do I need a pet passport for EU travel?

Since Brexit, UK-issued EU pet passports are invalid. You need either an EU-issued pet passport or an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) for your pet.

What is an Animal Health Certificate (AHC)?

An AHC is a document proving your pet’s health status that's required for travel from Great Britain to the EU or Northern Ireland. It must be obtained within ten days of travel.

How long is an AHC valid?

An AHC is valid for entry into the EU for ten days after issue, four months for onward travel within the EU, and four months for re-entry to Great Britain.

What if my pet has a UK pet passport?

UK-issued pet passports are no longer valid for travel to the EU.

What vaccinations does my pet need?

Your pet needs a valid rabies vaccination. Puppies and kittens must be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated.

Is a rabies vaccination always required?

Yes, for travel to the EU and Northern Ireland, a rabies vaccination is mandatory and should be done at least 21 days before travel.

What about microchipping?

Your pet must be microchipped before or at the same time as their rabies vaccination.

Is there a limit to the number of pets I can travel to the EU with?

Yes, you can't take more than five pets to the EU or Northern Ireland unless you’re attending specific events like shows or competitions.

Why do I need an AHC to travel to Northern Ireland?

You need a pet passport or an AHC when travelling with your pet from Great Britain to Northern Ireland due to the different pet travel regulations that have been implemented following Brexit.

Although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, it follows the EU Pet Travel Scheme rules, similar to EU countries. This scheme requires pets, such as dogs, cats, and ferrets, to have a valid pet passport or AHC. This documentation is needed to prove that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. The requirement is in place to maintain control over pet movements and ensure the health and safety of pets and humans, particularly in relation to rabies prevention.

What about pet insurance when travelling?

You can’t add a pet to travel insurance, instead it should be covered under your pet insurance plan. Check if your pet insurance covers overseas travel. Consider adding it if it’s not included.

Travelling with pets outside the EU

Are there special rules for certain countries?

Yes, some countries have additional requirements. For example, tapeworm treatment is needed for dogs travelling to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, or Malta.

What about travelling to non-EU countries?

You'll need an Export Health Certificate (EHC) and, in some cases, an export application form.

What documents do I need for returning to the UK?

Your pet's AHC or EU pet passport, along with proof of tapeworm treatment if required.

FAQs about travelling with pets

What do I need to re-enter the UK with my pet after a holiday?

The not-so-great news is that your holiday might include a vet visit for your furry friend before you head back to the UK. It's all to make sure your pet travels safely and meets the UK Pet Travel Scheme requirements. Here's what you'll need:

  • Microchip: First, your pet needs a microchip for identification. This tiny chip carries all your pet's info and ensures they're easily recognisable.
  • Rabies vaccination: Next, your pet must be up to date on their rabies shots. Remember, the microchip needs to be in place before that all-important jab.
  • Animal Health Certificate (AHC): If you're coming from the EU you'll need an AHC. This is basically a health passport for your pet, showing they're fit to travel. You need to get it in the ten days before you travel. It is a single-use document valid for four months of travel within the EU and for your return to the UK.
  • Tapeworm treatment (for dogs): If you've got a canine companion, they'll need a tapeworm treatment from a vet 1 to 5 days before you arrive in the UK. This one's not needed if you're coming from Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, or Norway.

Pet passports issued in Great Britain aren't valid for travel to the EU or Northern Ireland anymore. But if you have an EU-issued pet passport, you're still good for travel into the UK, as long as it meets the health requirements. Always double-check the latest travel rules before your trip, as they can change.

What's the best way to travel to Europe with a pet?

Travelling by car via either ferry or Eurotunnel is often the easiest and most pet-friendly option.

Can my pet travel in-cabin on flights?

Most UK airlines, including British Airways, do not allow pets in the cabin (service animals are the notable exception). However, KLM, Lufthansa, and Air France generally allow pets like cats and small dogs in the cabin provided they fit the weight criteria, which is usually under 8kg including their carrier. The pet must be housed in an approved carrier that fits under the seat in front of you.

Is it safe to travel on a plane with my pet in the hold?

Putting your pet in the hold can have downsides. It can be stressful due to unfamiliar noises, temperature fluctuations, and being separated from their owners, and there can be health risks, especially for breeds prone to respiratory issues or anxiety. There’s also a small risk of mishandling or travel delays, which can further impact your pet's wellbeing.

It's important to weigh these factors and consult with a vet before deciding on air travel for your pet.

Do pets need a special ticket on ferries?

Yes, there are usually additional charges for pets on ferries, and policies and prices vary by operator.

Can I leave my pet in the car on a ferry?

Policies vary, but on some ferries, pets must stay in vehicles. Others have kennels or pet-friendly cabins.

Are pets allowed on the Eurostar?

Pets are not permitted on Eurostar services, except for guide dogs and assistance animals. This policy applies to all Eurostar routes, including those to and from London, Brussels, and Lille, as well as the Eurostar Sun and Snow routes.

I don’t drive, are there any pet-friendly ways to get to Europe that don’t involve flying?

Yes, there is a pet taxi service that will drive your animal to Europe for you. Le Pet Express is a convenient shuttle service for pet owners travelling without a car between the UK and France, via the Eurotunnel. The service includes pick-up and drop-off at rail stations in Ashford, UK, and Calais Frethun, France, even allowing passengers to stay with their pets throughout the journey in specially fitted vans with cages and seats. Once in France, you can then transfer to local trains or other public transport to travel with your animal.

How do I prepare my pet for travel?

Gradually acclimatise your pet to travel conditions, ensure they're comfortable in a crate if necessary, and keep familiar items like blankets and toys close.

Are there any dog breeds that cannot travel overseas?

Yes, there are certain dog breeds that you cannot travel overseas with, and the restrictions vary by country.

For example, Denmark prohibits 13 specific dog breeds including Pit Bull Terrier and Tosa Inu. Croatia bans all bull terrier-type dogs without a pedigree issued by a member country of the International Canine Organizations (FCI). Poland restricts several breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier and Rottweiler, and Norway bans breeds such as the Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier.

Travellers should also be mindful of local regulations regarding leashing and muzzling, as some countries, like France, mandate specific breeds, such as Staffordshire Terriers or American Staffordshire Terriers, to be leashed and muzzled in public areas.

Each country has its own regulations, so it's important to research the specific rules of the country you plan to visit before travelling with your dog.

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