Movement of Pets within the European Union

What is the Pet Travel Scheme and when does it apply?

The Pet Travel Scheme (commonly referred to as PETS) is a scheme under which dogs, cats and ferrets are allowed to be brought into or back to the UK from the EU and certain other countries without the need for quarantine.

What are the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme?

In order for a dog, cat or ferret to be allowed to be brought into or back to the UK from an EU country without the need for quarantine the pet needs first to be fitted with a micro chip so that they can be easily identified. They then need to be vaccinated against rabies. It is important that the micro chip is fitted before the pet is vaccinated. 

A month after the vaccination has been carried out the pet needs to have a blood test. The blood test must be carried out by an EU-approved laboratory. The purpose of the blood test is to ensure that the rabies vaccination was effective. If it was not, a further vaccination and blood test will be required.

Once the blood test has confirmed that the vaccination was effective a passport will be issued by the vet for the pet in question. The vet must be an “Official Vet” i.e. a vet who is authorised to certify that the correct procedure has been carried out. Most veterinary practices will have a vet who is authorised to provide the required certification.

After the expiry of 6 months, which commences from the date of the effective blood test the pet can be brought into or back into the UK.

Before a pet dog, cat or ferret can be brought into or back to the UK they must receive treatment from a vet for ticks and tapeworm. It is not sufficient for the owner to carry out the treatment. This must be carried out not less than 24 hours before arrival in the UK and not more than 48 hours before arrival in the UK. The vet should endorse the pet’s passport to confirm that this treatment has been given. Whilst not a legal requirement, certain transport companies will insist on a certificate from the vet confirming that the pet is fit to travel. There is a section in the passport where a vet can provide a certification to this effect.

In order for the pet to remain covered by the Pet Travel Scheme it will be necessary to ensure that they are given a rabies booster before the “valid until” date stated on the passport. If the booster is given 1 day late then a fresh blood test will be required and the pet will not be able to enter the UK under the scheme for a further 6 months.

When can my pet be vaccinated?

It is sensible to arrange for a pet to be vaccinated as soon as travel is contemplated as the procedure is quite lengthy. However, the pet must have reached the minimum age required for vaccination as stated on the manufacturer of the vaccinations data sheet before they can be vaccinated. This is generally 3 months old.

Does the Pet Travel Scheme allow cats, dogs and ferrets to be brought into or back into the UK from all EU countries?

Under the Pet Travel Scheme cats, dogs and ferrets are allowed, if they comply with the scheme, to be brought into or back into the UK from all EU countries.

How does my pet have to travel?

Only certain transport companies and certain routes can be used to transport a pet into the UK. A list of these can be found on DEFRA’s website.

Individual transport companies may have their own policies for the transportation of pets. For example, some ferry operators will insist on pets remaining in the vehicle whereas others will insist dogs being transferred to onboard kennels for the duration of the crossing. Generally guidance can be found on the website of individual transport companies. If in doubt clarification should be sought from them before making a booking.

What if my pet is not a cat, dog or ferret and, therefore not covered by the Pet Travel Scheme?

  • Rabbits and rodents

As at May 2010 there is no requirement for rabbits or rodents to be vaccinated against rabies or be fitted with a micro chip or be issued with a passport if they are to be moved from an EU country to the UK. Rodents include guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, chinchillas and rats. However, the movement of rabbits and rodents is in the process of being reviewed by DEFRA and, therefore, this may change in the future.

  • Birds

In the case of birds (except for certain poultry) a certificate obtained from an Official Vet is required to confirm that the regulations relating to bird flu have been met.

  • Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates

Reptiles include lizards, snakes and tortoises. Amphibians include salamanders, frogs and toads. Invertebrates include insects and spiders. Bees and fish are also invertebrates, although there are specific rules relating to their movement within the EU which is beyond the remit of this article. 

These can be enter or re-enter the UK provided that they are accompanied by their owner and a letter from a vet or the owner stating that the animal is fit and healthy to complete the journey.

  • Other pets

Other animals which may be regarded by the owner as pets, such as goats and sheep are not recognised as pets. The movement of such animals is governed by the rules which relate to the movement of livestock. In the case of movement of pet livestock it is generally a good idea to seek the advice and assistance of someone who moves pet livestock on a regular basis.

What are the rules for movement of pets within the UK and to and from the Republic of Ireland?

There are no requirements as to the movement of pets within the UK or to and from the Republic of Ireland unless the pet is classed as livestock. 

The regulations relating to the movement of pets change fairly regularly and, therefore, it is recommended that up to date advice be sought before planning a journey. Up to date advice can be obtained from DEFRA.