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. Pet passport rules apply to dogs, cats and ferrets, and all horses should all have a passport by law.
A pet passport used to be the most essential requirement needed to travel with your animal. It offered proof of necessary vaccinations and ownership and either limited or completely cut out the need for your pet to enter quarantine.
However, now we have left the EU, it isn’t as simple as obtaining one to travel anywhere. The rules differ depending on which country you are travelling to, so always check the specifics.
Travelling to the EU or Northern Ireland with your pet
If you’re going on holiday, there is a good chance you will be staying within Europe if it is a short trip.
Anybody people travelling to the EU and Northern Ireland (NI) with their pet cats, ferrets or dogs, including assistance dogs, after 1st January 2021 will need to take into account the new guidance.
Unfortunately, the rules around pet travel changed after Brexit.
Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, will become a Part 2 listed third country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme from this date. A current EU pet passport issued in GB will not be valid for travel to the EU or NI.
Because a passport will no longer allow you multiple trips, you will need to apply for a new one every time you plan to go somewhere. Thankfully, most of the previous rules still apply. Your dog, cat or ferret will need:
- To be microchipped
- Vaccinated against rabies (they will have to be at least 12 weeks old for this)
- To wait 21 days after this vaccination to travel
- Tapeworm treatment for dogs if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta
You will also need to go to a registered vet to get an AHC (Animal Healthcare Certificate) for your pet, no more than 10 days before travel to the EU. This certificate will need to be accepted in the country you’re travelling to.
As long as you keep the rabies booster vaccinations up to date, there will be no need to get repeat vaccinations for travel to NI or EU. All rules also apply to assistance dogs.
Getting an AHC
You must obtain your Animal Healthcare Certificate no more than 10 days before travel. The AHC needs to be signed by an official vet, but you may also want to check with your vet that they can issue AHCs for pets.
You must take proof of:
- Your pet’s microchipping date
- Your pet’s vaccination history
It is valid for 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU or NI, as well as onward travel within the EU or NI for 4 months after the date of issue, and re-entry to GB for 4 months after the date of issue.
So essentially, you must travel no more than 10 days after the issue date, and travel for no more than 4 months throughout the EU.
Be aware that Visa-less travel in most European countries after Brexit only allows you to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, so check the rules for humans as well as pets
If you’re travelling with your dog directly to Finland, the Republic of Ireland, NI, Norway or Malta, it must have treatment against tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis).
This treatment should be given 1 to 5 days before arriving in any of these countries, by an official vet, who can then edit the AHC and enter full details following treatment.
Arriving in the EU/NI
On arrival, pet owners travelling with pets will be restricted to entering through a designated Travellers’ points of entry, where they will have to undertake document and identity checks by the competent authorities.
This means that you must use approved routes, and official forms of transport such as ferries, planes and trains.
At the TPE, you may need to present your pet’s original AHC along with proof of microchipping, tapeworm treatment (if applicable) and rabies vaccinations.
Repeat travel to EU/NI
Unfortunately, your AHC won’t apply for repeat travel. They will need a new AHC with each trip.
But if your pet has an up-to-date subsequent rabies vaccination history, it will not need a repeat rabies vaccination before travelling again. A rabies vaccine will last one year.
Returning to Great Britain after Brexit
Should you be returning from the EU, unless you’re coming from NI, the Channel Islands or the Isle Of Man, your pet must have one of the following documents when returning from the EU:
- An EU pet passport (issued in the EU, or in GB before 1 January 2021), or a pet passport from a Part 1 listed third country
- The AHC issued in GB used to travel to the EU – which you can use up to 4 months after it was issued
- A GB pet health certificate (for travel into GB only)
If you are travelling from a country which is not free from tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis), you’ll need to take your dog to a vet for approved tapeworm treatment. You must do this no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before entering Britain.
It has to contain praziquantel or an equivalent ingredient, and be approved in the country it is administered in. They don’t need to be treated if you’re travelling from Finland, the Republic of Ireland, NI, Norway or Malta.
How many pets can I travel with?
You must travel with no more than 5 pets unless you are attending or training for a competition, show or sporting event.
You’ll need written proof of your attendance, and all animals must meet all of the general rules for travel too. This includes travel via the Eurotunnel, which has brought in its own regulations to avoid puppy smuggling.
Travelling to a non-EU country
If you are going to a non-EU country, you’ll need to get an export health certificate (EHC). This checks and certifies that your animal meets all of the health regulations required to be in the country.
You must nominate a qualified official veterinarian (OV) who will be sent the EHC. They’ll be able to guarantee your pet has met the correct health and identification requirements before you travel.
You’ll also need to complete an export application form (EXA) if you’re in England, Scotland or Wales.
Every country has it’s own rules on acceptance of animals, which covers a broad range of issues, so check on the Export Health Certificate information page before you travel.
It may be the case that there is not an EHC available, in which case you will need to see whether the country accepts pet passports.
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.
How much does a 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 much 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?
Yes. You didn’t need to before Brexit, as passports were only needed for travelling borders, but NI is treated similarly to the EU in terms of rules now. You will also need an AHC.
The only exception is NI-based pets and assistance dogs returning to NI from GB, who will be able to use an NI issued EU Pet Passport to re-enter NI and will not need an animal health certificate.
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.
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.
We have a guide on passporting and microchipping your horse.
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.