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Taking dogs abroad and pet passports after Brexit

  • Current pet passports will not be valid from 1 January 2021 for pets entering the EU
  • Rules around future pet passports haven’t been agreed yet between the UK and EU authorities (as of July 2020)
  • Requirements for whether your dog, cat or ferret can visit EU countries from 2021 depend on what category of country the UK becomes on 1 January 2021
  • If you want to take your pet on holiday with you from January 2021, you will need to start the application process in August 2020 
  • If the UK becomes an “unlisted country” you will need to apply for a new animal health certificate every time you want to take your pet on holiday to an EU country

Pets can currently use valid pet passports until 31 December 2020. At the moment, the UK is in a transition phase. The country is no longer a member of the European Union, but during the transition period, UK citizens and their pets are still able to travel between member states under the same terms they have during membership. The transition period will end on 31 December 2020.

Dogs, cats and ferrets can currently travel with their owners on holiday to France, Spain, Italy and other EU countries (subject to additional coronavirus restrictions) under the Pet Travel Scheme (also known as PETS) without the need to spend any time in quarantine.

To get a pet passport and travel under the existing scheme, pets need to be vaccinated – including against rabies – microchipped, and treated for tapeworm. Certain other health tests are required for visiting areas of the EU with additional health risks. Pets who meet the health requirements can be issued with a pet passport from the vet and go on holiday 21 days afterwards.

If dogs have travelled to a country that is not free from tapeworm, they need to visit a vet for a tapeworm treatment between one and five days before travelling home to the UK.

Pet passports were valid for the life of your pet after issue, as long as your pet was given a rabies booster vaccination as needed, however from January when the UK becomes a “third country”, existing pet passports will no longer be valid for entry to the EU.

Read about current rules for taking your dog on holiday within the EU during the year 2020 here.

No. Regardless of what arrangement the UK and EU authorities come to, existing pet passports will no longer be valid for pets travelling from the UK to an EU country from 1 January 2021. 

However, some of the options would allow existing pet passports to be used for UK pets re-entering the UK on their return from a trip abroad (see below), as well as for EU pets entering the UK from the EU.

When the UK is no longer a part of the EU, it becomes what is called a “third country” for the purposes of pet travel legislation. There are three categories for third countries; "unlisted", "part one, listed” and “part two, listed”.

What this means in practice for taking your pet with you on holiday is not clear at the moment because the restrictions or requirements placed on pet travel have not yet been agreed by the British government and EU negotiators (as of July 2020). Dogs are currently able to travel to the EU from countries outside the union, so it’s safe to assume they will still be able to travel between the UK and the EU in some way, but there are currently a few potential options, listed below, based on what the potential arrangements might be.

The UK government previously issued advice stating that in the event of a no deal Brexit, the UK would become an unlisted third country until such a time as further arrangements are put in place. On 13 July 2020, the government reiterated its advice that pet owners should plan four months ahead of taking their dog to an EU country when the transition phase ends on 31 December 2020.

Pet owners are advised to plan for the scenario that the UK will become an unlisted country on 1 January 2021 (see below).

If the UK becomes an unlisted third country, any current pet passport your pet has been issued will become invalid from 1 January 2021. 

Requirements for taking pets on holiday would significantly increase from the current arrangements.

Owners would need to start off the process for taking their pet on holiday at least four months in advance of setting off on vacation. Extra requirements to prove dogs, cats or ferrets are not a rabies threat would be needed. These would be:

  • increased evidence of rabies vaccination. As now, pets will need a rabies vaccination before travel, but they will also need a blood test – called a titre test – to prove the vaccine has provided sufficiently effective protection from the disease.
  • earlier planning. The titre test would need to be carried out minimum of 30 days after an initial rabies vaccination. If the test result is satisfactory, pets would then need to wait three months after the date the blood was taken to ensure no symptoms of rabies arise.
  • animal health certificates. The vet who vaccinated your dog and carried out a successful titre test would need to issue the owner with an animal health certificate (AHC) confirming requirements had been met. This AHC would be valid from 10 days after the date of issue, and for up to four months for onward travel within the EU. Your pet will need a new AHC for each trip you make to an EU country.
  • reporting to officials on entry. When arriving in the EU, pet owners would need to report to a Travellers’ Point of Entry with their pet to show official documentation of microchip, vaccination, blood test and AHC.
  • returning to the UK. When you come back home from abroad your pet would need one of the following: a pet passport issued in the EU or the UK before 1 January 2021 (pet passports would not be valid for entry to the EU but would be valid for re-entry to the UK); an animal health certificate issued in the UK and within the four-month validity period; a UK pet health certificate
  • approved routes. Pet animals would have to travel on approved routes only. This rule would not apply to registered assistance animals.

Pets who are already vaccinated against rabies would require a titre test and the following three-month waiting time.

Pets who are already vaccinated against rabies and have also already had the titre test would not need to be tested again.

If you are planning on taking your pet to an EU country on 1 January 2021, you will need to begin the process no later than August 2020.

Dog owners travelling to Finland, Republic of Ireland or Malta

Anyone travelling with their dog directly to Finland, Republic of Ireland or Malta must give their pet a treatment against tapeworm between one and five days before arriving. Your vet will need to enter the details of this on the AHC after your dog has been given the treatment.

The UK government has previously stated it is hoping it can come to an arrangement with the EU that would enable the UK to be a listed country so that there would be little or no disruption to the current way of taking your pet on holiday. Cabinet minister Michael Gove reiterated in July 2020 he was “confident” that the UK could become a listed country because animal health risks that are present in some EU countries are not problems in the UK. 

Current pet passports would not be valid for entry to the EU in either scenario.

There are two types of listed country arrangements, which are called “part one listed” and “part two listed”.

Part one listed countries are able to operate under the same Pet Travel Scheme rules as countries that are members of the EU. If the UK became a part one listed country, there would be no change to the current health checks your pet needs, but the documentation would differ slightly.

You would need to apply for a UK pet passport, which is different from the existing pet passport. This would be valid for your pet’s lifetime, as long as their rabies vaccinations were kept up to date.

Part two listed countries require dogs and other pets to have additional health check certificates and owners have to meet additional requirements:

  • A vet would have to issue an animal health certificate (AHC) stating your pet is vaccinated against rabies. This health certificate is a different document to the rabies certification document required under the PETS pet passport. 
  • The AHC would be valid for 10 days after the date of entering the EU, and then for four months of travelling within the EU.
  • When you arrive in the EU, you would have to visit a Travellers’ Point of Entry and show an official proof of your pet’s microchip, vaccinations and health certificates before being allowed to travel further. 
  • Your pet would need a new AHC for each trip to the EU

Different rules will apply for pets travelling from and to Northern Ireland. Read more about this here.

For the latest information, visit the government website.

— Page last updated 17/07/2020

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