Changing times…

Not so long ago, the thought of taking your beloved pet out of the UK meant a lengthy quarantine that would often cause as much distress to the owner as it did the animal. Rules and regulations were tight and the intention was to make things difficult and deter people from travelling aboard with their pets in the first place.

That was then, this is now.

Today, the process is a lot simpler and there’s no need for your dog, cat or ferret (don’t ask) to do hard time in the penitentiary – so long as you tick all the boxes for the Pet Travel Scheme (‘PETS’ – what else?), you can travel to EU member states with up to five of your cherished animals with no need for quarantine. In fact, there may be instances when more than five can travel, but we’ll come to that later.

Of course, a Pet Passport doesn’t mean nipping into a photo booth for a quick snap, filling a form out at the post office and hey presto! There’s a bit more to it than that. Different countries have difference requirements but it’s likely you’ll need to meet some or most of the following conditions:

  • Microchip
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Blood test
  • EM tapeworm treatment (dogs only)
  • Treatment for ticks
  • Declaration of residency
  • Adequate pet insurance covering overseas travel

You’ll need proof the animal has treated by way of a certificate or suitable declaration by a vet and the all-important PET certificate that opens the door for travel but it’s worth remembering that certain vaccines can only be administered when the animal is of a certain age – in most cases this is at least three months old.

Who issues a Pet Passport?

Only an Official Veterinarian (OV) can issue a Pet Passport. If your local surgery doesn’t have a registered OV, they will be able to tell you where the nearest practice with a residing OV is. When collecting the passport, you will need to take your pet with you plus proof of its identity, vaccination record and the relevant blood test result. There are slight variations to the blood test ruling – please contact the number at the bottom of this feature for further details.

Paws for thought?

Suitcase Dog

One thing every responsible pet owner should ask themselves is whether taking their pet abroad is an absolute necessity – much will depend on the situation and length of time away from the UK and if it’s long, of course you’re not going to leave behind a beloved member of your family. Dogs might love travelling by car to the shops and back, but a long, arduous journey by road, rail or sea can be extremely stressful for any animal – particularly cats.

If your pet reacts badly to the journey, having a policy that covers vet fees abroad could be worth its weight in gold so the extra time researching and checking what you get is crucial. For instance, what happens if you misplace your papers or, god forbid, lose your Pet Passport? Check all eventualities are covered and you’ll save yourself a load of hassle.

Forward thinking

OK, so you’re going overseas, perhaps to a new job, to stay with family for a while or just because you can. You’ve taken care of all the travel arrangements, accommodation and god knows what else so now to sort the animals out, right? Wrong! The sooner you start planning your pet’s travel the better and it may even be the first thing you need to do. The latest you can leave the preparations is SEVEN months before you leave – the reason? You won’t be allowed to return to the UK within six months of having a blood test and that can only be done a month after the rabies vaccination has cleared the animal’s system. If you’re gone for a long time, bear in mind the passport needs to be renewed after two years.

What’s the damage?

Budget for between £180 to £250 to cover all the necessary vaccines, blood test and mandatory documents. Air travel could incur and extra charge though some airlines are happy to class your pet as hand luggage at no extra cost – check with the airlines who cover your route as one may vary substantially from another depending on the size and weight of the animal. It’s worth noting that when entering the UK, you must do so on a PETS approved route.

Travelling tips

By air: It goes without saying you want your animal’s journey to be as comfortable and stress free as possible. Placing a familiar toy, their favourite or even something that has your scent on can minimise fretting

By road: Stating the obvious, maybe, be regular intervals for toilet requirements, exercise and food/drink are the order of the day – if you’ve got kids, you’ll hardly notice any difference from your normal journey! While most dogs are fine to travel inside the cabin (safety harnesses can be purchased and are recommended), cats are another story altogether and for yours and their safety, keep ‘em caged!

Note: For those or a nervous disposition, vets may be able to provide sedatives may be recommended to help ease the panic or moving in a box on wheels – not every animal ‘gets’ travel and some just don’t want to.

Arrivals/Departures

For dogs, there’s nothing like a good walk in the new surrounds once you’ve got to where you are going. A chance to water the weeds, take in a few scents and mark some territory will help them feel at home straight away. Cats will like to explore the house but maybe house-bound for a few days as they need time to adjust – they’ll do it in their own time, so don’t worry!

Cats, dogs and ferrets are fine to enter the United Kingdom from ANY country worldwide so long as the PETS requirements have been satisfied. These vary from country to country so learn the rules for where you’re travelling from and follow the guidelines to the letter – if you do, there’s no quarantine, which ain’t bad.

More info

While we’ve tried to cover all bases, you can never be to prepared, right? The PETS is a government initiative so if you need to talk to the experts, even if it’s just a nagging doubt you’ve got, these are the best people to speak with:

Pet Travel Scheme helpline: 0370 241 1710 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays)

Or you can email them at: pettravel@ahvla.gsi.gov.uk

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