Surrounded by sea in Splendid Isolation, Britain has understandably been very protective about keeping herself free from dangerous diseases, such as Rabies. Thankfully, since the development of an effective Rabies vaccine, the PETS (Pet Travel Scheme) allows pets to enter the UK if certain criteria are met. So, gone are the days when pets returning to the UK required 6 months in quarantine.
We are asked frequently about the red-tape involved in taking our pets abroad. You need to be aware of the requirements. However, once your furry friend has an EU Pet Passport, travel is usually very straightforward.
To help, I have written this guide, which highlights all you need to know about Pet Passports, entry requirements, banned breeds – and the best and most comfortable ways for your pets to travel.
1. Can I Take My Pet Abroad?
This is the first question that you should ask yourself before you travel.
A. Banned Breeds
This might apply if you own a bulldog-type, attack dog or fighting breed, such as a Staffie, Pit Bull, Mastiff, Japanese Tosa, Doberman or Rottweiler. You should be aware that some countries, states and even some cities may have ‘breed-specific legislation’ which bans certain dog breeds. These are breeds which are perceived as more dangerous than others.
The restrictions vary according to the country; in France pedigree papers may enable entry for certain banned breeds; in Spain dangerous dogs must be registered, insured and licenced; in the laid-back Netherlands all dogs are permitted – unless they show aggressive behaviour. Croatia, however, will not even permit a banned breed to transit the country en route to its final destination.
Click here for a list of banned breeds by country on a third party website. This is a guide, since the information is not readily available in one place, but please double check with an official website or embassy for the countries that you intend to transit or visit, in case things have changed. Failure comply could mean that you are denied entry or worse, that your dog is impounded.
Legislation may require banned breeds to be muzzled in public and there are heavy penalties for non-compliance.
So do your homework!
B. Can I Travel Straight Away? – NO!
- Your dog must be more than 12 weeks old to receive the Rabies Vaccine required for the passport to be issued.
- The Rabies Vaccine is not effective for 21 days, so allow a month before travel to sort out your pet passport.
- If you need a Rabies Titer Test (you probably won’t, but see section 2. below) allow at least four months before travel.
C. Travelling with More than 5 Pets
We travel with four dogs with no problem. If you travel with more than 5 dogs, the rules become more strict. Click here for full details.
2. Taking My Pet Abroad – What Do I Need?
- Pet Passport – All you need is an EU Pet Passport, which requires the dog to be;
- Microchipped (a legal requirement for all dogs in the UK since April 2016)
- Vaccinated against rabies.
- Rabies Titer Test
- A blood titer test is NOT usually necessary.
- The titer test is to verify that the Rabies jab is effective and is required for pets coming to the UK (and other European countries) from any unlisted country.
- However, some countries such as Serbia require a titer test regardless of your country of origin.
- Verification of the titer test takes about four months and must be performed by an approved laboratory, so if this is required, you will need to plan ahead.
- Travel with Original Documents – Photocopies are not acceptable.
- Extra Entry Requirements in Some Countries – travel around Europe is generally straightforward, however make sure that you are aware of the full entry requirements for each country that you will be visiting before you travel. These are a few anomalies that we have encountered on our travels:
- Tapeworm (Echinococcus) Treatment – some countries, for example the UK and Norway, require tapeworm treatment to be administered between 120 hours (5 days) and NO LESS than 24 hours (detailed in section 2. C. below).
- 3-Year Rabies Vaccination Not Accepted – some countries, eg Ukraine do not accept the 3-year rabies vaccination, so you can only travel to these countries between 30 days and 12 months after your dog’s rabies vaccination.
- Rabies Titer Test Required as WELL as Vaccination – although not usually a requirement in Europe, some countries, eg Serbia require a rabies titer test regardless of whether your dog is vaccinated.
- Quarantine – we discovered that to take four dogs into Russia, they would have to go into quarantine, however fewer than four dogs do not. This knocked St Petersburg off our itinerary!
Check for full and current details for entering the UK on the UK Government Website.
Pet Travel.com is an excellent website which shows entry requirements for over 200 countries as a guide. I cannot vouch for the complete accuracy of all information, since I have found at least one anomaly; (according to the UK Gov website only, Romania is not low risk but a ‘high risk’ country for rabies), however it is good to have all the information in one place to highlight any potential special entry requirements of the country that you wish to visit so that you can check into it more thoroughly.
A. How Do I Get a Pet Passport & How Long Does it Take?
Your vet should be able to give the rabies vaccination and issue the passport, or recommend the nearest vet who does. If not, in the UK contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
The rabies vaccination is not effective immediately. Give yourself AT LEAST A MONTH to sort out the vaccination and passports before you travel.
B. Rabies Vaccination
Your dog must be at least 12 weeks old to receive the vaccination. There is a ‘waiting period’ of 21 days required after the vaccination date before the vaccine becomes effective. Your dog WILL NOT be permitted to enter the UK during this ‘waiting period’.
WWW Tip – Check that your pet’s rabies vaccination does not expire during your trip, or you won’t be able to re-enter the UK.
Vaccination is not just a formality; rabies is incurable and 100% fatal in both humans and dogs. So best not to travel before the vaccination has become effective or after it has expired!
C. Bringing My Dog Into the UK – What Do I Need?
Tapeworm (Echinococcus) Treatment (dogs only) – Between 120 hours (5 days) and NO LESS than 24 hours before entering or re-entering the UK (and some other countries, eg Norway) your dog must be examined by a vet and treated against tapeworm, usually by administering a single pill.
The treatment must be recorded in the pet passport. The method of recording MUST BE CORRECT – or you will not be able to travel!!!!
Check that the vet has put the following details in the ‘Anti-Echinococcus Treatment’ section of your dog’s Pet Passport:
- The name and manufacturer of the product with which your dog was treated
- The date and time they treated your dog, recorded in 24-hour clock format
- Their stamp and signature
In ports, vets are fairly au-fait with the procedure, but ‘in the sticks’ where the passport procedure is less familiar, we have found that you will have to make sure that the information is recorded correctly.
For example, a vet in the Italian Alps wrote the date and time that we were scheduled to travel in the passport, rather than the date and time of treatment. Had we not known the procedure and asked her to correct it, we would have been unable to travel. On the up side, she was lovely and didn’t charge us a cent, while the vet in France got it right but was rude and charged us over €100!
WWW Top Tip – Get the tapeworm pills from your own vet and take them with you. We found this to be much less expensive. You are also certain which treatment is being given to your dog.
Our little Ruby became very ill indeed after one trip, possibly in response to Prazical administered by a French vet. Within 24 hours of the treatment, she developed terrible diarrhoea, refused to eat and lost 30% of her body weight. The curative vet treatment cost over £300. We can never be certain that it was the tapeworm treatment that caused the illness, but we really thought that we were going to lose her and are certainly not prepared to risk it again. Sticking with Milprazon on the advice of our own vet, we have had no problems since.
3. Finding a Vet Abroad
Brittany Ferries lists vets near the ports from which they operate. To comply with pet import regulations, you would need to be in the port more than 24 hours before departure to get the tapeworm treatment. (As stated above, the tapeworm treatment must be administered no less than 24 hours prior to travel.)
We tend to just look up a local vet on the internet (there are usually plenty of reviews to help you choose.) For a map showing vets in Europe who are familiar with The Pet Passport Scheme, click here. Alternatively, ask at campsite reception. They will frequently recommend a vet and even book the appointment for you.
4. Approved Routes
It is possible to bring pets into the UK only via ‘approved routes’. Good to be aware, but nothing to worry about if you are travelling on the Eurotunnel or Ferries. Click here for full details.
5. Pets Are Regarded as Cargo – So What’s the Best Way to Travel?
A. Why We Try to Avoid the Ferry
On our first trip, we went to France by ferry from a port close to home. We booked The Fab Four into kennels on the ferry, thinking that this would be the most comfortable for them. It was THE MOST HORRIFIC THING WE HAVE EVER DONE TO OUR BABIES! For full details, see my blog Livin’ the Dream Week 3 – The Great Continental Divide
On the return ferry, we left the pups in the caravan. At least they were in familiar surroundings and could move around.
On a ferry, you are allowed an escorted visit to your pet every couple of hours to take him onto an ‘exercise deck’ for about 10 minutes to stretch and do the necessaries. Since it is a stressful situation and everyone is exercising together, you are supposed to use muzzles, but we have never seen this enforced. Clearly, a muzzle is advisable if your dog is nervous or uncomfortable with other canines.
Pet Friendly Cabins are available on some longer crossings (eg to Santander) but we found that these accept only a single pet, although Brittany Ferries was happy to discuss!
However, after our trip, I heard a terrible story about someone’s dog, who died from heat exhaustion on the cargo deck during a ferry crossing on a particularly hot day.
We never knowingly put our pups in peril, so we have chosen an alternative;
B. Why We Choose the Channel Tunnel!
While it generally involves a longer drive for us at either end, the half-hour tunnel crossing with everyone in the car together is much less traumatic for the pups – and us!
C. Check-in With Pets on the Ferry or Tunnel
This is straightforward, but do allow a little extra time.
Pet Check-in simply involves checking the Pet Passport and verification of the dog’s microchip with a hand-held reader. Technically, dogs are supposed to wear muzzles while this is carried out, but again, we have never had this enforced. You know your pet; just use your judgement.
- At the Channel Tunnel, there is a separate Pet Check in Area and even little doggie exercise parks! At peak times, there could be queues at Pet Check in, so allow for this.
- On the Ferry, in our experience with Brittany Ferries, check in is at the booth where you would normally check in yourself and your vehicle.
6. What if the Worst Happens?
We travel for long periods in Europe. “Plan for the worst; hope for the best!” is always good advice. Nobody likes to think of themselves shuffling off this mortal coil. Indeed, we hope to have a long and happy life ahead of us;
But what happens to the Fur Babies, stranded abroad, if anything happens to us?
- We have set out in our wills what should happen to our pups in the event of our deaths;
- We have made financial provision to cover the costs of care for their lifetimes.
- We have appointed a trusted friend to oversee finding them suitable homes together, along with a list of potential homes; the candidates are friends to whom we have spoken about giving our darlings loving, forever homes.
- If you don’t have a willing friend, the RSPCA offers a ‘Home for Life’ scheme.
- We have left details of our vet, a list of their favourite food brands and treats, the quantities we feed them, the commands that they respond to and how often they need to be groomed. You could consider including medication and any other information that might be useful to someone taking them on.
- Your trusted friend may also come into play with repatriation of pets in the event of your death. This can also be covered in your travel insurance.
- The information here is correct at the time of writing. For full and up to date information on the ‘PETS’ travel scheme, click here to link to the UK Government website before you travel.
- Click here for the Eurotunnel website, which also has a very easy-to-understand guide to travelling to Europe with pets.
- You may also be interested in my related blogs about travelling with dogs, which you will find in The Wuff Guide to Travelling with Dogs
- Pet Travel.com lists the entry requirements for over 240 countries. Since requirements change frequently, do double check with the official website of the countries that you will be visiting.
Please feel free to share my blog with anyone thinking of travelling to Europe with dogs.
Further specific advice on travelling with dogs will be published as we progress around Europe with The Fab Four, including how to adopt and get a passport for a Romanian stray! If you ‘follow’ my blog, you won’t miss it.