Pet Travel to Europe and the Pet Travel Scheme
The most popular travel destination in the world and the one we get the most questions about is undoubtedly Europe. It is filled with beauty, history, great food and adventure. It has also become easier for pets to enter and enjoy the Member States with their owners.
History of the Pet Travel Scheme
For more than 100 years, the United Kingdom had a strictly enforced quarantine program in effect. If you brought in a dog, cat, or ferret, and they had to spend six months in one of 80 quarantine kennels in Great Britain, with virtually no exercise and with only the kennels' contracted veterinarians to check them out. There were no uniform statutes governing these kennels; the kennel owners voluntarily agreed to provide respectable care, but this often was lacking.
The final straw came in 1987, when Lady Mary and Sir John Fretwell returned to England from their final post in Paris. "We came back with our basset hound," Lady Fretwell says, "and it was a terrible quarantine experience. Our beloved Bertie, our favorite of all the bassets we've had over the years, was a different dog after this horrible experience, and died soon afterwards. This pushed us into doing something about the quarantine situation in the UK."
The result was an organization called "Passports for Pets," and because of the untiring efforts by the Fretwells and 10,000 members and many volunteers who pushed for changes in the pet entry system, there is now in place a specific method of bringing cats and dogs into the UK and EU without going through quarantine.
On February 28, 2000, the first phase of the Pet Travel Scheme was implemented and the first pets arrived at Folkestone via the Eurotunnel Shuttle Service and Ferries. Since that time, thousands of pets from designated non-EU countries have come into the United Kingdom without quarantine and with surprisingly few problems.
Pet Travel Scheme Today
Over the years, the Pet Travel Scheme has changed. The most recent change was in December, 2014 where the concept of commercial versus non-commercial transport was legislated. (see more about this below)
To import your dog, cat or ferret to any European Union country, it must be microchipped first. No vaccinations that are given before the microchip count. Even if your pet's current rabies vaccination has not expired, it still must be re-vaccinated for rabies at the same time or after the microchip is implanted.
The next step depends on which country you are entering the EU from. If it is a high-rabies country, then you must wait for a minimum 30 days after the rabies vaccination (do not count the day of veterinary visit) before getting your dog, cat or ferret a rabies titer test. The sample must be sent overnight in a refrigerated blood pack to an approved laboratory for processing. Assuming your pet's antibody levels are at least 0.5 IU/ml, then your pet can enter the EU without quarantine 3 calendar months after the day the blood was taken for the test.
Good news is that the EU will consider your pet's titer test valid for the life of your pet as long as its rabies vaccination does not expire before booster shots are administered.
If your pet is entering the EU from any other country, it will not need the titer test. It can enter the EU after waiting at least 21 days after the rabies vaccination is administered.
One last thing: if your dog is traveling to the UK, Ireland, Norway, Finland Malta, it will need a tapeworm treatment administered by a licensed veterinarian between one and five days of entering those countries. This assumes that it is not entering any of these countries directly from another country listed here. (Entering the UK from Ireland, or entering Finland from Norway) In these cases, the tapeworm treatment is not required.
Commercial versus Non-Commercial Transport
The regulations of the Pet Travel Scheme apply only to non-commercial transport. The EU defines non-commercial transport as pets that are either traveling with or within 5 days of their owners or a representative of their owners. The purpose of their transport cannot be for resale or for adoption.
If you or a designated representative cannot travel with or within 5 days of your pet, it will travel under the Balai Directive regulations. (commercial regulations) You can look up the pet import regulations of your destination country and look under the Health Certificate category to learn about the different regulations. More information about your destination country pet import regulations.
How to Arrive
If you are flying to the EU, whether you fly with your pet in the cabin or they must travel in the cargo hold is an airline pet policy and differs with every airline.
It is the regulation of all commercial airlines that live animals must enter the UK and Ireland as air cargo. The reason for this is due to handling procedures once on the ground. Once landing, your pet will be collected by a licensed agent and taken to the Animal Reception Center for processing. This is where you will claim your pet.
There are several options to avoid the cargo requirement when flying to the UK and Ireland. You can fly to Paris, take a pet friendly train to Calais and take Le Shuttle through the Chunnel or a pet friendly ferry. Both alternatives will require that your pet travel in an automobile. You can also fly to Amsterdam, take the train to Rotterdam and board the DFDS Ferry to Newcastle. This ferry does not require that your pet travel in a car. DFDS also has a ferry sailing out of Dieppe, France that will accept foot traffic.
There are also many pet friendly ferries that will carry pets from the mainland to the UK. Find more information on pet friendly ferries.
Enjoy your trip
Compared to years past, it is much easier to travel to the EU now and there will be no quarantine if all requirements are met. You can always find current regulations to import your pet to the EU here.
The UK has been given an extension to withdraw from the EU until January 31, 2020. At that time, the UK will no longer be under the regulations of the Pet Travel Scheme. The changes in regulations will be posted when they are known further and this page will be updated at this time. Further information about Brexit can be found by clicking here.