Travel With Your Pet: Animal Health Certificate Replaces Pet Passport

Pet passports issued in the UK are no longer valid for travel to countries in the European Union. Here’s what you need to do to take your pet abroad and how to get an animal health certificate for your dog, cat or ferret.

Suzanne Worthington Published on 31 March 2021.
Travel With Your Pet: Animal Health Certificate Replaces Pet Passport

For many of us, our pet is part of the family and they come with us on holiday. The rules for the UK’s new start in Europe after Brexit mean that hopping across the Channel (or the Irish Sea) with our pet is now more tricky.

Post-Brexit, it’s still possible to take your pet abroad with you under the international Pet Travel Scheme but instead of a pet passport for trips to Europe, you’ll now need to get an animal health certificate. Here we explain what you need to do to get your pet ready for travel.

Do I need a pet passport to take my pet to Europe?

Since Brexit, pet passports issued in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) are no longer valid for travel to an EU country or Northern Ireland.

Instead, you’ll need an animal health certificate for your dog, cat or ferret if you’re travelling from Great Britain to a country in the EU or Northern Ireland, and you and your pet must arrive into an ‘approved point of entry’.

Your pet won’t need an animal health certificate if you have a valid pet passport issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland.

If you’re wondering why dogs, cats and ferrets are the three species of pet that need an animal health certificate to travel, it’s because they’re the most common domestic animals susceptible to rabies. Countries want to make sure they remain rabies-free - the animal health certificate proves to border authorities that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date.

If your pet isn’t a dog, cat or ferret, taking your pet, including a guinea pig or rabbit, abroad counts as ‘exporting’ a live animal. You’ll need to follow the rules for exporting when you leave Great Britain and the rules for importing when you return. The rules are different depending on the animal and the country you’re visiting.

Is my animal’s pet passport still valid?

Whether or not your pet’s passport is still valid depends on where it was issued:

  • If the pet passport was issued in Great Britain
    Since the Brexit deadline of 1 January 2021, you can no longer use a pet passport issued in England, Wales or Scotland to take your pet to a country in the EU or Northern Ireland. Instead, you’ll need an animal health certificate for your dog, cat or ferret.
  • If the pet passport was issued in the EU or Northern Ireland
    You can use the passport to bring your pet into the UK and to travel in the EU or to Northern Ireland. An EU or Northern Ireland pet passport is valid for life as long as your pet’s vaccinations and treatments are up to date.

What documents do I need to take my pet on holiday in the EU?

You and your pet must arrive into an ‘approved point of entry’ and you might be asked to show these documents:

  • your pet’s animal health certificate (see below).
  • proof that your pet has a microchip.
  • proof that your pet’s rabies vaccinations are up to date.

And if you’re taking your dog directly to Finland, Ireland, Malta, Northern Ireland or Norway:

  • proof that your dog has had an approved tapeworm treatment in the 24 to 120 hours before you arrive at your destination.

How do I get an animal health certificate for my dog, cat or ferret?

To get an animal health certificate, you’ll need to take your pet to a vet for an appointment specially for this service. The appointment must be no more than 10 days before you travel.

Check your vet can issue animal health certificates – only vets who are an ‘official veterinarian’ can do this. If your usual vet can’t issue a certificate, you can ask them to help you find an official veterinarian.

When you go to the appointment, you’ll need to take proof of the dates of your pet’s microchipping and vaccinations.

How long is my pet’s animal health certificate valid for?

Your pet’s animal health certificate is valid from the date of issue for:

  • 10 days for entry into the EU or Northern Ireland.
  • 4 months for onward travel within the EU.
  • 4 months for re-entry to Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales).

How long does it take to get an animal health certificate?

You’ll need to make an appointment with an ‘official veterinarian’ no more than 10 days before you travel. When you call to make the appointment you can ask your vet how long they expect the process to take.

At the appointment, the vet will carry out the checks and prepare the documents. You might get your pet’s animal health certificate straight away but it can take longer. This is because for some countries, your pet will need blood tests and other treatments so the certificate will take longer to prepare.

How old does my pet need to be before they can travel with me in the EU?

Your dog, cat or ferret must be at least 15 weeks old. This is because your pet needs to have a rabies vaccination to travel from Great Britain to an EU country or Northern Ireland. Your pet must be 12 weeks old before your vet will do the vaccination and after that, you’ll need to wait 21 days before you travel.

How much does an animal health certificate cost?

The cost varies depending on the vet you choose.

As a guide, here’s how much the Royal Veterinary College charges for these travel services (correct at 30 March 2021):

  • Animal Health Certificate £110
    This is the fee for the consultation appointment and finalising your documents. Any vaccinations or medication will cost extra.
  • Microchip £16.28
    This only needs to be done once.
  • Rabies vaccination £50.40
    Your pet will need a booster vaccination every three years if you want to continue taking them abroad.

Does my pet need a new animal health certificate for each trip?

Your dog, cat or ferret will need a new animal health certificate for each trip from Great Britain to Northern Ireland or a country in the EU.

If your pet’s rabies vaccinations are up to date, it won’t need a repeat vaccination each time.

If you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Malta, Northern Ireland or Norway with your dog, it will need tapeworm treatment for each trip.

Does my guide dog need an animal health certificate to travel with me?

Your assistance dog, such as a guide dog or hearing dog, will need an animal health certificate to travel with you. The rules for taking your assistance dog abroad are the same as the rules for pet dogs.

How many pets am I allowed to take abroad with me?

You can’t take more than five pets with you to the EU or Northern Ireland unless you’ll be attending or training for a competition, show or sporting event. If this applies to your trip, gov.uk explains what documents you need to take with you.

What happens when I return to Great Britain after travelling with my pet?

If you’ve correctly followed the rules for travelling abroad with your dog, cat or ferret, then returning to Great Britain (England, Scotland or Wales) should be straightforward.

You’ll be asked to fill in a declaration confirming that you aren’t going to sell or transfer ownership of your pet.

Ideally, your pet will arrive in Great Britain with you. If it arrives more than five days before or after you, you’ll need to follow the rules for importing living animals.

You must use an ‘approved route’ for re-entering Great Britain, unless you’re travelling from within the UK or from Ireland. This is because only some travel companies on specific routes are allowed to bring animals into Great Britain.

Lucky enough to be travelling by private boat or plane? You can only bring a pet into Great Britain this way if you departed from Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Do I need travel insurance for my pet?

It’s unlikely your own travel insurance will cover pets.

Check if the pet insurance policy you already have covers taking your animal abroad. Some policies for dogs and cats cover this but read the policy wording carefully to find out exactly what’s covered.

» COMPARE: Explore pet insurance options

Where can I get advice about taking my pet on holiday?

  • Your vet will be able to advise you about the best way to transport your animal and the treatments and documents your pet will need to travel abroad with you.
  • If you’re taking food for your pet, you’ll need to follow the rules about taking food from a non-EU country into Europe.
  • If you have an unusual query, you can ask the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) directly. (The APHA is part of DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.)
  • The RSPCA has helpful tips on taking your pet on holiday or what to do if you can’t take your pet with you.

» MORE: Travelling to Europe after Brexit

Now your pet is all set to travel, make sure you’ve checked the latest Government advice for the country you’re travelling to and checked your own passport is valid for long enough for your trip. If you’re going to Europe, gov.uk has a handy passport checker.

Source: Getty Images

About the author:

Sooze is a specialist financial services writer, working ‘on the inside’ to help businesses communicate clearly for over 10 years. Her work has been awarded Fairer Finance’s Clear & Simple Mark. Read more

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