Relocating your whole family to a new country or continent can be tough, especially if you have kids. And it won’t be made any less traumatic by the prospect of leaving a beloved pet behind. But the news is good! It’s now easier than ever before to bring your pet to the UK—and, depending on your home country, your pet will likely be able to avoid a long spell in quarantine.
The UK Government Pet Travel Scheme
This is a set of rules issued by the United Kingdom Government which outlines the procedures necessary for bringing dogs, cats and ferrets into the country. If you have the documentation to prove that you have completed the required measures, you will be able to bring your pet into the UK without having to quarantine it. However, failure to comply may result in your pet not being allowed in being subjected to several months in quarantine, for which you will be charged.
The pet travel scheme requires:
- your pet must have a microchip by which it can be identified
- it must have been vaccinated against rabies
- you will need the appropriate documentation for travel
- your pet must have been treated for tapeworm
- you may only bring your pet into the UK using an approved transport company on an authorised route
These rules apply to animals coming from the European Union or from one of a number of listed countries outside the EU that have been approved by the Department for Agriculture. The USA and Canada are both on the approved list.
The exact details of these requirements, including time periods for vaccinations, blood test requirements and documentation details can be found at www.gov.uk/pet-travel-information-for-pet-owners.
Transporting your pet
Your pet must be transported by an approved transport company and may only enter the UK at certain points and via approved routes. These companies are responsible for checking that your animal meets all the requirements of the pet travel scheme. Pets are not permitted to arrive in the UK on private boats or planes. As soon as you know you wish to bring your pet into the UK, visit the pet travel scheme website and check on the list of approved routes and transport companies to work out the logistics of the move.
Although some assistance dogs may be allowed to travel in the cabins of aircraft, most dogs, cats and ferrets do have to travel in the cargo hold. It is usual that the transport company will request a veterinary statement proclaiming that your animal is fit to travel. Upon embarkation, the transport company should check your pet’s microchip and all of your documentation. If you are entering the UK by rail or sea once your pet has been satisfactorily checked, you will be given a badge to display on your car for the duration of the journey. If you are coming in by air you will need to check your animal in at the departure airport and then collect it again on arrival in the UK, where it will be checked at the airport’s animal reception centre.
It’s worth knowing that customs clearing and veterinary checking for an animal arriving in the UK, particularly if it has come from outside the EU, may take up to four or five hours. During this time, you will not have access to your animal.
If upon arrival your animal fails any of the checks, it may be detained in quarantine at your expense. There are additional regulatory requirements if you’re travelling with more than five pets, or if you are bringing in dogs, cats and ferrets for sale or rehoming.
If for some reason your pet can’t comply with the required entry criteria, you may have to book it a place at an approved quarantine centre. Your animal transport company will be able to deliver your pet directly to the quarantine centre of your choice—and for obvious reasons this should be as close to your final destination as possible. A list of approved premises and a map can be found on www.gov.uk/pet-travel-quarantine.
Pets which have been booked into quarantine may only enter the UK at certain ports or airports—the ports include Eurotunnel Folkestone, Dover, Harwich, Hull and Portsmouth, while the airports are Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Prestwick.
Travelling with other animals
Within the European Union, there are no special regulations for travelling with rodents, rabbits, birds, ornamental fish, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles — and these species may move freely within the European Union. Pet rabbits and rodents from outside Europe are required to stay in quarantine for four months because of the risk of rabies.
If you wish to come to the UK with a pet bird, you will need a pet bird import licence as well as a veterinarian health certificate. If it is a member of an endangered species, you will need special import and export permits.
The hardest thing about moving abroad with an animal is not being able to explain to your pet exactly what’s going on. If you are packing and feeling stressed in the days running up to the move, your pet may pick up on the fact and also become nervous. So do everything you can to keep their routine as normal as possible right up until it’s time to leave. If you have a cat, keep them in from the day before, just in case you can’t find them on the big day.
Depending on the length of your journey, think carefully about the timing of when you can feed your pet. If they are travelling in the cargo hold of the aircraft, you will have no access to them during the flight. Make sure you follow all the instructions provided to you by the transport company that will be responsible for your pet during the journey.
Once you’re able to collect your pet at the airport, try to reassure them with a familiar toy or blanket and be prepared to give them extra care and attention when you arrive at your new home. Get back to the normal routine as quickly as you can, although cats may need to be kept indoors for a considerable length of time to stop them running away.
Despite the fact that approximately half of the UK population own a pet, a lot of landlords will not let their property to pet owners. So if you are going to be bringing an animal with you, be sure to tell any estate agents you consult when looking for a property. Moving a pet into a rental property that forbids animals could see you in breach of contract and possibly evicted, so it’s just not worth doing. Additionally, some landlords will ask for a higher deposit if you want to keep a pet in their property—this is to cover any additional wear and tear caused by the animal over the course of the letting.
The Dogs Trust has launched a scheme called Lets With Pets (www.letswithpets.org.uk) to try to encourage more landlords to allow pets and to give advice to pet owners wanting to rent property. Their advice to pet owners is to allow more time to find a suitable property, to be flexible as to the property type and location and if necessary to offer to pay a higher deposit.
Anyone who’s had a pet will understand just how much of a family member a beloved dog or cat can become. Moving abroad is stressful for owners and pets but with careful planning and forethought you should be able to minimise the trauma and settle your pet into their new home quickly. And in an unfamiliar place, coming home to your pet after a day at a new job or new school can be just the tonic your family needs.
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