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Taking your dog on holiday

Now that the UK is no longer part of the EU and pet passports are not valid, what do you need to do to take your pet on holiday with you?
Taking your dog on holiday

With travel to much of Europe now currently possible again, and particularly since France was downgraded from 'Amber Plus' to 'Amber', it could be a great time to have a break abroad with your dog. So what's required in this post-pet passport world?

The most important piece of advice we can give you is talk to your vet, as soon as you can.

How we used to travel with pets

When the UK was a part of the EU, the pet passport scheme allowed dogs, cats and ferrets to travel between the UK and EU, and back again, without having to quarantine, as long as they had a valid pet passport and microchip. However, since 1 January 2021, these pet passports are no longer valid, even if they are in date.

The new system for travelling with pets

Although the rules have changed, you can still take your dog on holiday! The new EU agreement gives Great Britain 'part two listed' status – this means that pets from England, Scotland and Wales can still travel to the EU, with an Animal Health Certificate (AHC), which is formal proof that your pet has been microchipped and has an up-to-date rabies vaccination.

Robin Hargreaves, Agria’s Senior Veterinary Advisor, says, The previous Pet Passport scheme had required a microchip to be in place, an up-to-date rabies vaccination and Pet Passport - a document which would last the pet's lifetime. Now, the same microchip and rabies requirements are there, but the Pet Passport has been replaced by an Animal Health Certificate - required for travel to all EU countries and Northern Ireland.

“The Animal Health Certificate requires a health check by a vet within 10 days of travel, and must be held both in English and the language of the first country in the EU your pet will arrive in. So, for example, if you are driving to Spain, the first EU country you will arrive in will be France, so the second certificate needs to be in French.”

Animal Health Certificate key facts

  • You need a new certificate every time you travel and this is obtained from your vet
  • The AHC must be obtained 10 days or less prior to your travel date
  • It’s valid for up to 4 months for a single trip into the EU, travel within the EU, and your return to the UK
  • An AHC can be issued by your vet for dogs, cats and ferrets. Assistance dogs also need an AHC
  • You can travel with up to five pets, each needing their own AHC
  • On arrival to the EU, there will be a designated travellers’ point of entry to check compliance with all regulations

How to get an Animal Health Certificate

  • Your pet must be microchipped with the details up-to-date
  • All vaccinations must be up-to-date, as well as a current rabies vaccination
  • Tapeworm treatment is required (for travel to Northern Ireland, Finland, Malta and Norway)
  • Other EU states may have their own requirements, such as certain blood tests or treatments – your vet will be able to advise you
  • Puppies can’t have a rabies vaccination until they are at least 12 weeks old, and then a further three weeks need to pass before the vet can issue the AHC.

Robin continues, “Carrying out the pet's health check and providing the documentation takes around half an hour, and so as the whole process is far more complex and time-consuming than before - as well as being more costly for owners. Furthermore, the Animal Health Certificate will only be valid for four months from issue, after which time a new one will need to be issued.

“The best way that owners can prepare for taking their pet away is to speak to their vet as soon as possible, to make sure that they are able to do the paperwork and complete the appointment in time.

“Planning ahead will now be even more important. As before, if a pet has never been away before then the minimum time required before travel is 21 days from the date of the rabies vaccination - plus now the appointment time required for issue of the Animal Health Certificate.”

Taking your pet to Northern Ireland

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales and would like to take your pet to Northern Ireland, you will need an AHC, just as if you were travelling to the EU. In the same way, on arrival in Northern Ireland, you’ll present your AHC at the designated travellers’ point of entry.

In addition, to enter Northern Ireland, your dog will need to have been treated for tapeworm five days or less before your arrival.

If you are travelling from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland, you can use a pet passport issued from either Northern Ireland of the Republic of Ireland.

For pets travelling from Northern Ireland to the EU, you can still use the pet passport scheme as long as it is valid, and all your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.

Travelling from the EU to the UK with your pet

If you live in the EU and want to travel with your pet to the UK, you can still use a valid pet passport issued by an EU member state to travel to the UK and return home. However, if you live in the EU but your pet passport was issued in the UK, you should consult your vet before you travel to make sure it is compliant with regulations. Alternatively, your vet can issue you with a GB pet health certificate, which is similar to an AHC.

Travelling to dog shows

If you are travelling to the EU to take part in overseas dog shows or other similar events, you can travel with more than the usual five dogs but all animals travelling must be taking part in the event. You will need an AHC for each dog and written confirmation of the event they are competing in. All dogs travelling for dog shows in the EU must be at least 6 months old.

Further information on the latest government regulations

About the Author

Senior Veterinary Advisor at Agria Pet Insurance. In addition to his extensive clinical and industry experience, Robin is passionate about animal welfare and the proven social benefits of pet ownership. He is also a representative of Mind Matters, a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons initiative developed to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those working in the veterinary sector.

More articles from Robin Hargreaves

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