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How to get a pet passport

Thinking of sharing your holiday with your pet pooch or feline friend? The animal health certificate has replaced the pet passport for cats, dogs and ferrets. Here’s how it works.

Thinking of sharing your holiday with your pet pooch or feline friend? The animal health certificate has replaced the pet passport for cats, dogs and ferrets. Here’s how it works.

Written by
Mubina Pirmohamed
Insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
31 MARCH 2023
8 min read
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What are pet passports?

A pet passport is a legal document that includes your pet’s date of birth, its microchip number plus details about you, the owner, and your pet. It also includes a record of your pet’s vaccinations to prove that your pet is fit to travel.

Following Brexit, the rules for travelling to the EU or Northern Ireland with your pet dog, cat or ferret changed on 1 January 2021. Animal passports are no longer valid for UK pet owners travelling with their pets to EU countries and Northern Ireland. Instead, you’ll need an animal health certificate (AHC).

How have pet passports changed after Brexit?

Since Brexit:

  • Pet passports issued in England, Scotland and Wales can no longer be used for travelling into the EU
  • Pet passports issued in Northern Ireland are still valid for travelling to the EU
  • Pet passports issued in an EU country are still valid for travelling into the EU and the UK.

A pet passport issued in Great Britain before 1 January 2021 is valid for returning to the UK from the EU and what are called ‘Part 1’ listed countries. You can see the list on GOV.UK.

How many pets can I travel with after Brexit?

You can have up to five pets on an AHC.

You can only bring more than five pets into the UK if you’re attending or training for a competition, show or sporting event. You’ll need written evidence of registration for the event when you travel and the animals will need to be at least six months old.

If you’re travelling with more than five pets and they’re not attending or training for an event, you’ll need to follow the government’s commercial rules for importing animals.

You’ll also need to fill in a declaration form confirming that the pets aren’t being moved for commercial purposes.

Similar rules apply for taking more than five pets into the EU.

What do I need to take my pet abroad?

Taking a pet to an EU country or Northern Ireland

You’ll need to get an animal health certificate (AHC). The AHC must be issued no more than 10 days before you travel. You’ll need a new AHC each time you travel to the EU with your pet.

To get their AHC, your pet will need:

  • A valid rabies vaccination – you must wait 21 days to travel after your pet is vaccinated. If it’s a booster jab, you won’t need to wait to travel, as long as there’s been no break in cover.
  • A microchip – your pet needs to be microchipped before or at the same time they have their rabies vaccination.

Dogs will also need to have a tapeworm treatment if you’re travelling directly to:

  • Finland
  • Ireland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Malta.

Taking a pet to a non-EU country

If you’re taking your pet outside the EU, you’ll need an export health certificate (EHC). This shows your pet meets the health requirements of the country you’re going to. You can apply for an EHC online. The EHC will then be sent to your nominated vet to sign.

Travelling to the UK with your pet from a non-EU country

If you’re travelling with your pet to the UK from a country outside the EU, you’ll need a GB pet health certificate. Your vet will need to complete the form, which you can download from GOV.UK.

What are the rules bringing pets to the UK from the EU?

If you live in the EU, you can use a pet passport issued in an EU country or one issued in Great Britain before 1 January 2021 to enter England, Scotland or Wales.

EU-issued pet passports can still be used for bringing cats, dogs or ferrets into the UK.

What is a animal health certificate?

An animal health certificate is a legal document that allows you to travel with your pet from England, Scotland or Wales to EU countries and Northern Ireland. It contains important information including vaccination records that can verify your pet is fit to travel.

Animal health certificates were introduced on 1 January 2021 to replace pet passports after the UK left the EU.

What information does an animal health certificate contain?

Your AHC should include:

  • Information about you, as the pet’s owner
  • Details of your pet – this could include the type of animal, its breed, age and size
  • Microchip information
  • Proof of rabies vaccination and blood test (if applicable)
  • Tapeworm treatment (if applicable)
  • The country you intend to enter – the AHC has to be in the language of that country.

What do I need to get an animal health certificate?

To get an AHC, take your pet to the vet no more than 10 days before you travel, with proof of their microchipping date and vaccination history. Check first that your vet can issue an AHC as they have to be signed by an official veterinarian (OV).

To make sure your pet can travel with you, it’s advisable to start the process early – at least a month or so before you want to travel.

You’ll need to get a new AHC every time you travel with your pet. They won’t need to have a repeat rabies vaccination as long as their vaccination is up to date.

Be aware that the rules also apply to assistance dogs, such as guide dogs.

How much will an animal health certificate cost?

Costs will vary from vet to vet but are typically around £180. You’ll also need to pay for your pet to be microchipped (if it hasn’t been already) and a rabies vaccine or booster. A microchip costs an estimated £15-£20 and a rabies vaccine/booster can set you back around £50.

You may also need to get a rabies blood test, costing up to £120, a tapeworm treatment, which can cost up to £30 and, of course, pet insurance. You’ll need to check your policy to make sure it covers you for travel abroad. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to add this cover on.

Keep in mind that it could cost a lot more to keep your dog or cat in kennels or with a pet sitter while you go on holiday. Another downside is you won’t have the pleasure of their company. It’s a good idea to compare your options and investigate what best suits you and your pet.

How long does an animal health certificate last?

An AHC is valid for 10 days for entry into an EU country or Northern Ireland. It then lasts for four months for travelling in the EU, including coming back to the UK. 

Do I need an animal health certificate for a guide dog or an assistance dog?

Yes. Guide dogs and assistance dogs must meet the normal rules for travelling with dogs. This means you’ll need an AHC or an EU-issued pet passport if you’re coming into the UK.

However, they can travel inside the plane cabin and don’t have to travel on approved routes when returning from the EU.

Check for any extra conditions you need to know about before you travel inside or outside the EU. To do this, you should contact your airline, rail operator, ferry or cruise company.The Guide Dogs Association website also has advice about taking assistance dogs abroad.

What are the alternatives if I decide not to take my pet on holiday with me?

If you decide that it’s better to leave your pet at home, there’s a few options for finding care for them.

  • Friends, family or neighbours 
    Someone you know and trust might agree to either look after your pet in your home or have your pet stay with them. Dogs may be happy to stay with another person, but cats generally prefer to be in their own home.
  • Professional pet sitters
    A proffesional pet sitter will move into your home while you’re away to take care of your pet. When looking for a pet sitter, the National Association of Registered Pet Sitters encourages you to ask to see their insurance certificate and criminal record check certificate. Alternatively, look for a reputable agency that carries out the necessary background checks.
  • Home boarding
    Some pet sitters will look after animals, usually dogs, in their own homes. You need to check that they have an up-to-date local authority licence to do this. Home boarding tends to be more expensive than kennel accommodation.
  • Kennels and catteries
    Boarding facilities that offer professional care for your pet. Your pet will need up-to-date vaccinations to stay in a kennel or cattery. Fees vary enormously, and kennels tend to be more expensive than catteries. 

Will my pet insurance cover travel with my animal abroad?

Some policies may offer the same level of cover for your pet abroad as they would have at home, but not all do. Before you start planning your trip it’s best to check and make sure you have the right cover for travelling with pets.

If you haven’t already got pet insurance, it could be a good idea to get a policy that covers your cat or dog while you’re abroad.

Frequently asked questions

Will my pet insurance cover boarding for my pet?

Some pet insurance policies will cover boarding for your pet if you fall ill and have to go into hospital. However, they won’t cover boarding because you’re going on holiday. 

Why are animal health certificates necessary?

An animal health certificate is a legal document that will allow your pet to travel between the UK and the EU without quarantine. The reason is to keep the UK free from rabies and other foreign diseases that could be brought into the country.  

How old does my pet need to be to get an animal health certificate?

Your pet must be fully vaccinated before they can get an AHC. Under EU regulations, pets must be at least 12 weeks old when vaccinated against rabies. This means that your pet will need to be at least 15 weeks old to get an AHC (12 weeks + 21 day wait).  

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