Pet travel

BVA position on pet travel

BVA supports the regulation of pet travel - both commercial and non-commercial - that enables the safe and legal movement of pets. Any movements must ensure that animal health and welfare, and public health, are protected, and travel routes are not abused for purposes that negatively impact on animal health and welfare (eg. puppy smuggling and the importation of stray dogs with unknown health histories).

Whilst the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) and the Balai Directive have made the transport of pets between the UK and mainland Europe easier and more cost effective, BVA supports the strengthening of commercial and non-commercial pet movement legislation to safeguard the health of the UK’s animals and wider public and prevent unintended consequences to animal welfare through the circumvention of existing legislation.

The issue of the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border is a much wider issue than the movement of pet animals, although we do recognise that this is one of the major concerns for people on both sides of the border. The BVA position on pet travel therefore relates to the opportunities for a new legislative framework to replace the EU Pet Travel Scheme, allowing the UK to strengthen its rules to protect animal health and welfare. Movement of pet animals between two countries of similar disease status may be considered as part of future negotiations; our policy position does not seek to address this specific issue as so many of the border questions are currently unknown.

Read the BVA position on pet travel and its 15 recommendations to strengthen pet movement legislation in full (PDF 404 KB)

Read the BVA position on pet travel – Executive Summary (PDF 136 KB)

What is the EU Pet Travel Scheme?

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.

What legal requirements do I have to meet if I want to take my pet abroad (non-commercial movement of pets)?

EU pet travel regulations for the non-commercial movement of dogs, cats and ferrets travelling within EU and listed non-EU countries set out that pets must:

  • be microchipped before rabies vaccination;
  • be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel, pets must be at least 12 weeks old before receiving the rabies vaccination on the scheme;
  • have a valid EU pet passport;
  • travel with an approved transport company on an authorised route;
  • Dogs entering the UK, Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta must be treated for tapeworms by a vet with a product containing praziquantel (or equivalent) no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (between 1 and 5 days) before its arrival in the UK.

For those pets travelling from unlisted non-EU countries, they must meet the above requirements and additionally take a blood serology test after rabies vaccination, followed by a three-month wait before entry into the UK.

Read the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation advisory leaflet Taking your pets abroad – your guide to diseases encountered abroad.

If you have any queries about meeting these requirements please contact the Pet Travel Scheme helpline on 0370 241 1710 or email: pettravel@apha.gsi.gov.uk

What are the requirements for the commercial movement of pets (the Balai Directive)?

The Balai Directive ( EU Directive 92/65/EEC) sets out the requirements for the commercial import and export of animals being moved in or out of EU Member States. In addition to the requirements set out under the Pet Travel Scheme, the Directive requires that:

  • Animals must be exported from premises which are either registered or approved by the country of origin
  • An authorised veterinarian must carry out a fitness to travel examination on each animal up to 48 hours before travel
  • Each movement of animals must also have a health certificate signed by an authorised veterinarian

What should I do if I want to rehome a dog from abroad?

We are currently concerned about the biosecurity risk posed by the movement of adult stray dogs into the UK for rehoming that have an unknown health history. We consider that the wider consequences for the UK dog population should outweigh the benefit to the individual animal being imported.

As such, BVA would strongly advise against rehoming a dog from abroad. We recommend that those looking to rehome a dog do so from the existing UK dog population and UK rehoming charities or welfare organisations.

Supporting vets to report suspected illegal imports and non-compliance

In terms of monitoring and reporting the illegal importation of pets, veterinary surgeons in the UK are required by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to their care:

'Veterinary surgeons must make animal health and welfare their first consideration when attending to animals.'

In addition, under the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct the veterinary profession can disclose information to the authorities where it is deemed necessary.

Legislation relating to client confidentiality and data protection also supports veterinary surgeons in their decision to provide information to the authorities, namely Section 29 of the Data Protection Act 1998, which provides an overlapping exemption to the ‘disclosure principles’ where any processing is for the purpose of the ‘prevention of detection of crime’.

I’m a vet - How do I report suspicions of illegal importation or non-compliance?

Vets wishing to report suspicions of illegal importation or smuggling should report the suspected non-compliance to their local Trading Standards Office. Vet wishing to report any concerns regarding the checks undertaken for compliance with the EU Pet Travel Scheme by carriers (eg. ferries or airlines) should contact the APHA Pet Travel Scheme via email, detailing as much as possible, including the route travelled, the carrier and the time of presentation for checks.

Download BVA guidance on how to report concerns of non-compliance with the pet travel scheme

Additional resources

If you have any queries about meeting these requirements please contact the Pet Travel Scheme helpline on 0370 241 1710 or email: pettravel@apha.gsi.gov.uk