Pet passports - what do I need to take my pet abroad?

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.

Tom Harrison
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Posted 24 FEBRUARY 2021

What's happened to pet passports after Brexit?

Since Brexit, the UK is now a Part 2 listed country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme. This means that, instead of a pet passport, pet owners will need to get an animal health certificate (AHC) from an official vet 10 days or less before travelling to the EU.

  • Pet passports issued in Great Britain – that is, England, Scotland and Wales – can no longer be used for travelling into the EU.
  • Pet passports issued in an EU country are still valid for travelling into the EU and into the UK.
  • If you already have a UK-issued pet passport it’s valid for returning to the UK until it expires.

If you have a pet passport issued in Northern Ireland before and including 31 December 2020 it won’t be valid, but contact your vet and they can get it updated. A new-style NI-branded EU pet passport will be issued later in 2021.

What do I need to do to take my pet abroad?

If you’re travelling to the EU or Northern Ireland from England, Scotland or Wales and want to take your pet with you, you’ll need to get an animal health certificate (AHC). You’ll need a new one every time you travel with your pet.

Your pet also needs to be microchipped and have a valid rabies vaccination. 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

Can I take my pet to Northern Ireland? 

Yes, you can, but you’ll need an animal health certificate. If you have a pet passport issued in Northern Ireland and are travelling in early 2021, you need to contact your vet for advice.

What will 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 companion can travel with you, it’s advisable to start the process early – at least a month or so before you want to travel. Your pet has to be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated against rabies, and you’ll also need to wait 21 days after their primary vaccinations before you travel.

You’ll need to get a new AHC every time you travel with your pet.

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

What are the rules for UK citizens living in the EU?

If you live in the EU and have a UK-issued pet passport, check with your vet before you travel.

What are the rules for EU citizens bringing their pets to the UK?

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

What about taking my pet to a non-EU country?

Going further afield with your four-legged companion? You’ll need an export health certificate (EHC), which shows your pet meets the health requirements of the country you’re going to. This can be arranged through your vet.

Plus, if you’re travelling from England, Scotland or Wales, you’ll need to fill in an export application form (EXA). For help with this, contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301.

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.

Now the UK has left the EU, pet passports issued in England, Scotland and Wales are no longer valid for travel into the EU.

Do I need a passport for my pet?

If you want to travel to the EU with your pet, you’ll now need an animal health certificate (AHC). If you live in Northern Ireland, you can use an NI-issued pet passport (but if you’re travelling in early 2021, contact your vet first for advice).

The UK accepts pet passports issued in the EU or other listed countries for travel into the UK.

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.

Which countries can I take my pet to?

With an animal health certificate, you should be able to take your pet to all EU countries.

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.

How much will an animal health certificate cost?

Costs will vary from vet to vet, but the Royal Veterinary College puts the cost of the AHC at £106.50 (correct as of February 2021). Plus, you’ll 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 between £15-£60.

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 – and, of course, 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.

What is a pet health certificate?

If you’re bringing a pet into England, Scotland or Wales and it doesn’t have an animal health certificate, an EU pet passport or a pet passport from another listed country, it will need a GB pet health certificate completed by a vet. Applications for a GB pet health certificate can be downloaded from GOV.UK

Before they enter Great Britain, pets must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. They’ll also need to have had tapeworm treatment if they’re coming from most countries.

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.

Which vaccinations are needed?

Your pet has to be vaccinated against rabies. They’ll need to have this done at least 21 days before they travel. You won’t need to have your pet vaccinated every time you get a new animal health certificate, as long as you keep their vaccinations up to date.

How many pets can I bring to the UK? 

You can’t bring more than five pets to the UK, unless 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 all the animals travelling with you 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.  

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 – so 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 with the airline, rail operator, ferry or cruise company for any extra conditions you need to know about before you travel inside or outside the EU. 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 might agree to either look after your pet in your home or have your pet stay with them. Dogs might be happy to stay with another person, but cats generally prefer to be in their own home. If someone is popping in to feed your cat, it’s a good idea to ask them to spend some time socialising with your pet, so your cat doesn’t get lonely.
  • Professional pet sitters 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. You might also want to visit their home in advance to check that the accommodation and care is suitable for your dog. Home boarding tends to be more expensive than kennel accommodation. Fees vary, but expect to pay around £20-£30 per dog, per day.
  • Kennels and catteries offer professional care for your pet. Again, you might want to visit in advance to make sure your moggy or pooch will be happy there while you’re away. Your pet will need up-to-date vaccinations to stay in a kennel or cattery. Check which vaccinations are required well before you’re due to go on holiday. You’ll usually have to wait between seven and 14 days after your pet has been vaccinated before they can go into a kennel or cattery. Fees vary enormously, and kennels tend to be more expensive than catteries. You could pay anything between £15-£30 per dog, per day, and £5-£30 a day per cat.

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, but they won’t cover boarding because you’re going on holiday.

Will my pet insurance cover my pet outside the UK?

Not necessarily, so it’s best to check your policy to make sure you have the right cover in place before travelling. 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.

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