Taking your pet abroad

Planning a trip abroad? With careful planning and the correct documentation, you can take your pet along with you. Here’s what you’ll need to know to make your adventure a success.

Some pet-owners feel uncomfortable leaving their companions in kennels or catteries, or with trusted pet-sitters – in fact, 43% say they base their holiday choices around their pet. Instead, they would rather take their cat or dog abroad with them to join the fun. Perhaps you are moving, or going away for a long time, and taking your pet along is really important to you.

Here’s what you need to know to help make your adventure a success.

The Paperwork

The PETS Travel Scheme allows pets (specifically cats, dogs and ferrets) re-entry to the UK, as long as they comply with the regulations. Protocol for entry to the country you’re visiting may be different to the UK’s, check this with the individual country’s embassy before making firm plans with the sun lounger.

Before you pack your flip-flops, make sure you get your pet their very own passport which, like your own, acts as a licence to come in and out of the country. Your vet can issue you one, or will be able to recommend a vet who can, but always allow a few days to get this approved.

The pet passport is applicable if you and your pet are coming from an EU country or other country that the UK accepts passports from. Pets coming from listed countries and non-listed countries will need a third-country official veterinary certificate.

Both documents are used to record treatments your pet has received as a condition of travel, of which there will be a few.

Complying with the PETS Travel Scheme

To follow the rules of the PETS Travel Scheme, your pet will need to be microchipped. This is a sensible thing to do as a ‘pet parent’, and is a legal requirement in the UK for dogs over 8 weeks of age.

Your pet then needs to be vaccinated against rabies; the scheme says you have to microchip before vaccinating, otherwise it won’t count. The rabies vaccination must be given at least 21 days before travel, and your pet needs to be 12 weeks old before they can receive it; this means they’ll be travel ready from 15 weeks old.

If you’re returning from an unlisted country, your pet will need a blood test to prove they’re rabies-free first.

Dogs who have been taken abroad will need to be treated for tapeworm before coming home. The treatment must be given no less than 24 hours before returning, and no more than 5 days before
re-entry. Dogs travelling from Finland, Ireland, Malta and Norway are exempt from this rule.     

It’s really important to pay attention to the PETS Travels Scheme guidelines, as pets who don’t meet the entry requirements will need to be quarantined for up to 4 months or, if you travelled by sea, refused entry.

Getting There

The transportation of your pet of course requires some consideration. There is a list of approved air, sea and rail carriers and routes; when booking your transport, be sure to check that they are approved, and from which airports, ports or stations you can depart from and return to. Prices will vary by carrier – as will documentation requirements.

By rail

There is only one approved rail route for travelling with pets – Folkstone to Calais via Eurotunnel le Shuttle. Assistance dogs, however, are welcome on most journeys.

If you are headed to France however, the Eurotunnel is a great option (doggy berets are optional). Check in at least 45 minutes but no longer than 2 hours before your shuttle departs, then you and your pet can stay in the comfort of your car for the 35-minute crossing. They can also stretch their legs in the dedicated exercise areas with artificial grass.

By air

Flying with your pet has become much easier and more popular in recent years, as the percentage of private flights that include pets has doubled to 4%. If you’re flying, the guidelines vary for each airline, so be sure to investigate when booking. Most carriers will require pet check-in at a different location to baggage check, sometimes through a third-party handler. In addition to the PETS Travel Scheme requirements, your pet may need a medical certificate from your vet stating their fitness to travel.

On most flights, pets will travel in the hold, with the exception of medically-approved service animals. However, on some flights, small animals are allowed to keep you company in the cabin, with the weight limit varying.

In all cases, your pet will need to be housed in a well-ventilated, airline-approved pet crate. The guidelines vary, but your pet should be able to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably. The floor must be solid and leakproof; food and water bowls should be attached to the front door of the crate, and filled without the door being opened. If your pet is travelling in the hold you’ll need to attach their food to the top of the crate prior to check-in.

Some carriers have restrictions on transporting particular breeds of dogs or may enforce stricter rules. If your dog is considered a snub-nosed dog, or is listed under the dangerous dog act (including cross-breeds), then be sure to enquire about this before making any further travel plans.  

By sea

Travelling with your pet by ferry is a great option for passengers boarding by car, but many ferry companies will not allow foot passengers to bring pets.

Your cat or dog can be left in your car during the journey (though you will not be able to stay with them), or in on-board kennels or a pet-friendly cabin. If your pet is staying in the car, they must have access to water and the car must be well ventilated – consider window grates or leaving the front windows ajar.

Whenever your pet is outside of the car, they must be muzzled – so make sure to purchase one well in advance and get your pet comfortable wearing it.

You’ve arrived!

In your holiday-planning process, be sure to book pet-friendly accommodation. Many hotels don’t allow pets, but there are lots of self-catering holiday homes and villas that you and your furry friend will be comfortable in. Access well-known comparison sites, many of which have a pet-friendly filter option. If you’re planning a beachy holiday, check seasonal or time restrictions for accessing the beach.

Travelling with your pet can be a memorable and exciting experience for all the family. However, before making arrangements, it’s important to contemplate whether taking them along is the best option for their wellbeing. Consider their behaviour and how they might react to the various aspects of travelling and being away from home – after all, you know your pet better than anyone.

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