Pet travel

Pet owners must ensure they meet the pet travel requirements when taking their pets abroad.

*Please note a number of changes to the pet travel requirements came into effect on 29 December 2014

Background

The EU Pet Travel Scheme permits the movement of pet animals (dogs, cats and ferrets) to the UK without the need for quarantine, providing they meet certain conditions, such as having the correct documentation, identification, vaccinations and treatments.

Until 2011, the UK, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Malta had derogations (exemptions) from EU pet travel rules to allow for additional controls to protect against rabies, ticks and tapeworms. In 2012, new rules on pet travel came into force and the rabies control requirements are now in line with the rest of Europe.

Due to a highly successful vaccination programme in wildlife in mainland Europe, Defra research shows that the risk of introducing rabies under the new rules is very low.

Legal requirements

Pet travel within Europe and from third countries is determined by European regulation ( EC 998/2003) which covers required blood testing, quarantine, tick and tapeworm treatments. Pet owners must check the latest requirements before travelling anywhere with their animal.

It is essential that pet owners get good veterinary advice when planning to take their animals abroad because pets can be exposed to a number of diseases not currently endemic in the UK, for example leishmaniasis, babesiosis, echinococcus multilocularis and ehrlichiosis. The BVA AWF has produced a helpful guide to diseases  that pets may encounter abroad. 

Tick treatments are no longer required under the scheme. However, the BVA and BSAVA strongly advise that prophylactic tick treatment is continued.

The tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis (EM) is relatively benign in dogs, but the resulting disease in humans – Alveolar echinococcosis – is an invasive, cancer-like cystic state of the parasite and can be fatal if not treated. It is therefore vital to maintain tapeworm controls to keep this serious zoonotic disease out of the UK.

All pets moving between the UK and the Republic of Ireland should be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and accompanied by a pet passport. As both countries have had no indigenous rabies for many decades, systematic border compliance checks on pets travelling between the two are not applied. However, it is important that the rules are followed to ensure trouble-free travelling between the two countries.

New legislation

Changes to the pet travel scheme came into effect on 29 December 2014, with a new pet travel Regulation. The changes include: 

  • a new minimum age of 12 weeks before a pet can be vaccinated against rabies
  • new pet passports, which include laminated strips and a requirement for more contact details to be provided by the vet issuing the document and certifying the veterinary treatments
  • a new requirement for all member states in the EU to carry out checks on their borders (the UK already checks all pets coming into the country through approved routes)
  • a tighter definition of non-commercial movement which will mean owners who cannot travel with a pet when they enter the EU, must do so within 5 days; owners can still authorise another person to travel with their pet, but again the pet and authorised person must travel within 5 days of each other
  • all pets are still required to have a microchip which confirms the animal’s identity 

Existing passports will remain valid for the lifetime of the pet or until all treatment spaces have been filled on the document.

All pet passports issued by vets from 29 December 2014 will be in the new format.

The new regulation includes the option of a derogation (exemption) to allow pets under 12 weeks that have not been vaccinated, or pets between 12 to 16 weeks who have been vaccinated but have not yet completed the 21 day waiting period, to enter any country operating the exemption. The UK is not planning to exercise this derogation.

A second derogation (exemption) would allow all pets to travel without being vaccinated against rabies, between countries that have been granted the exemption. The pets would still have to be microchipped and accompanied by a pet passport.

Vets should be aware that other member states may choose to make use of either or both of these derogations.

BVA activity

Further info