Confused about pet travel after Brexit? We feel your pain! Listen up!
Hi guys, it’s Danny the Traveller here with Rocky.
Right now, as of this writing, I can hop in my car and take a ferry from the UK to Europe with Rocky and nothing else but his UK pet passport in hand and so can you.
But that can all change on 31 October 2019 when the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union in what is otherwise known as Brexit, perhaps you’ve heard of it? (Update: the UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020 but there is a transition period that will be in effect until 1 January 2021.)
Maybe right now, you’re in the UK and planning a trip to the alps or anywhere else in Europe for the holidays with your four-legged pooch pal. If that’s the case then you might want to listen up!
Brexit will without a doubt change pet travel to Europe and if the UK leaves without a deal, pet travel will get far more complicated.
The worst case scenario of a no-deal Brexit will see the vacation you planned to the alps with your dog or cat or ferret get postponed by several months due to the headache of paperwork, tests and certificates.
Gone would be the days of simply hopping in a car and driving from the UK to France with your dog/cat/ferret and pet passport.
Instead, pet owners will now have to face some restrictions and a laundry list of checklists before they can hop on a simple 1-hour ferry ride to France.
They’ll have to shell out hundreds of pounds for vet visits and health certificates as well as blood tests.
Listen, the UK is a nation of pet lovers. In the UK, pet ownership is on the rise and many consider them to be part of the family and people are taking them on holidays, etc.
In the UK, it’s estimated that 12 million (44% of) households have pets with around 51 million owned pets, according to 2018 data published at the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Data from PDSA (Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals) puts the number at 49% in the UK.
According to Quartz, about 300,000 British pets travel to continental Europe each year using their pet passports.
So it’s easy to see how important the issue of Brexit is for pet owners who travel to the EU.
Pet travel after Brexit is an issue that I don’t think has received enough attention in the press and one that impacts many people. These new rules won’t only affect pet owners. Those with guide and assistance dogs will also have to go through this tedious process.
So Brexit means lots of changes for pet travel and so far it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.
Now, let’s take a look at these changes, shall we?
The Pet Travel Scheme
Right now the UK is part of what’s known as the EU Pet Travel Scheme. What does that mean?
It means that if you have a UK or EU pet passport, then traveling between the two areas is very simple for you at the moment.
That shiny blue pet passport carries all your dog’s necessary records but once the UK leaves the EU, the UK will then be considered a ‘third country’ under the EU Pet Travel scheme as it will no longer part of the EU.
Under the EU pet travel scheme, there are three categories for a ‘third country’:
- Part 1 Listed
- Part 2 Listed
After the UK leaves the EU, it will be included in one of those categories although which one exactly has not yet been determined.
If the UK leaves without a deal, it is likely that the UK will be considered an ‘Unlisted’ country and this would make travel to Europe far more complicated-and that UK pet passport-useless for travel to the EU (but don’t throw it away yet, it’s not completely useless!).
If there is a deal, then the UK will likely be considered a Part 1 or Part 2 Listed country.
So what do these potential scenarios look like?
The worst case scenario for many pet owners who travel from the UK to the EU would be a no-deal Brexit. Why? It would suck the fun out of pet travel and potentially make it a long and arduous process, not to mention, expensive!
As I mentioned before, the UK is likely to be treated as an unlisted country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme if it leaves the EU without a deal.
So in a ‘no-deal’ scenario, if you want to travel with your pet to any country within the European Union then you’ll have to take the following steps…deep breath….
1. You must have your dog, cat or ferret microchipped (microchipping is mandatory in the UK for dogs) and vaccinated against rabies before it can travel. You have to have this anyway to get a pet passport, so no big change here. However, the new rules would now require your pet to have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after its last rabies vaccination (whether that’s a booster or initial vaccination).
2. Your vet must send the blood sample to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory.
3. Then the results of the blood test must show a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
4. You must wait 3 months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you travel.
5. The vet must give you a copy of the test results and enter the day the blood sample was taken in an animal health certificate.
According to the official government guidelines, if the blood test result is not successful despite your pet being up to date with its rabies vaccinations, then you’ll need a repeat vaccination and then a blood test taken at least 30 days after the repeat vaccination.
This could mean you have to start preparing 4 months in advance with your dog if you are planning to take them to Europe from the UK.
I don’t know about you, but I much prefer the simpler and more cost-effective method of pet travel we’re using now. But I’m aware that things always change.
Another change that will happen under the no-deal ‘unlisted country’ status would make it mandatory for dogs traveling from the UK to EU listed tapeworm-free countries (Finland, Republic of Ireland and Malta) to be treated for tapeworm 24 to 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before arriving in one of those countries, since the UK will no longer be a part of the EU.
It’s quite a change because right now, there is no need for tapeworm treatment if you’re traveling to those countries with your pet.
So if you haven’t got all of these ducks in a row by the time Brexit rolls around, then you can kiss that long holiday in the Alps with your pet goodbye!
Oh and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s still the whole business of the EU health certificate.
EU Health Certificate
In the no deal scenario, once you have done all the rabies procedures you must then take your pet to an official vet no more than 10 days before travel to obtain an animal health certificate.
To get this health certificate, you must take proof of:
- your pet’s vaccination history
- your pet’s microchipping date
- a successful rabies antibody blood test result
Also, if you’re headed to the mandatory tapeworm treatment countries I mentioned above, then your vet must enter full details on the animal health certificate following treatment.
Your pet’s animal health certificate will be valid for:
- 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU
- onward travel within the EU for 4 months after the date of issue
- re-entry to the UK for 4 months after the date of issue
Once you’re in the EU, pet owners traveling with pets will need to enter through a designated Travellers’ point of entry (TPE). At the TPE, you may need to present proof of microchip, rabies vaccination, successful blood test results and tapeworm treatment (if required) with your pet’s health certificate.
If that sounds like a lot of stuff to do before you travel, that’s because it is! We’re not even done yet!
However, there is a bright side to this. Once your dog has done the rabies blood test then they do not need a repeat blood test on subsequent and repeat trips to the EU if they have had a successful blood test and are up to date on subsequent rabies vaccination history.
Your pet will need a new health certificate for each trip to the EU, which would be yet another costly addition to your trip.
To get a new health certificate you must take your pet to an official vet no more than 10 days before you travel. Again, you must show proof of your pet’s:
- microchipping date
- rabies vaccination history
- successful rabies antibody blood test result
Additional rules apply if you’re going to the tapeworm treatment countries listed above.
On return to the UK, your pet must have one of the following documents when returning to the UK:
- an EU pet passport that was issued in the EU or in the UK prior to EU Exit (see it was wise not to throw that UK pet passport out yet)
- the animal health certificate issued in the UK used to travel to the EU (which you can use up to 4 months after it was issued)
- a UK pet health certificate (for travel into the UK only)
You must also travel on approved routes. Your documents and microchip will be checked when entering England, Scotland or Wales, however different rules apply in Northern Ireland.
You don’t need to travel on an approved route if you travel to the UK from:
- other UK countries
- the Channel Islands
- the Isle of Man
- the Republic of Ireland
The good news is that there will be no change to the current health preparations for pets entering the UK from the EU after Brexit so all of the UK entry preparations will remain the same.
So what if you’re already living in the EU as a UK national?
If you’re living in the EU and plan to travel with your pet using a UK-issued pet passport, the UK government advises you to speak with your local vet.
If you have a pet passport issued by an EU member state, you can use it to bring your pet to the UK. You can also use it to return to the EU, as long as your pet has had a successful rabies antibody blood test as well as the rest of the rabies blood test procedures as outlined above (waiting 3 months after date of successful rabies blood test, etc.)
Whew! That’s a lot of stuff to do just to prepare to travel to our neighboring country.
If there is a no deal, you’re looking at a prep time of at least 4 months as well as multiple vet visits just to visit France. And if you want to revisit, then you still have to shell out money as well as your time for a vet visit to get that health certificate.
I’ll tell you now that I’m planning a trip to Europe and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a deal is worked out so that the process stays as simple as possible.
Now, let’s look at the other scenarios.
Brexit with a deal
If the UK works out a deal then it would be categorised in one of these two:
Part 1 Listed
Part 2 Listed
Part 1 listed country status
If the UK becomes a Part 1 listed country, you must have your pet microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before travel. You’ll need to make sure your pet’s rabies vaccinations are kept up to date and make sure your dog has tapeworm treatment if needed.
You must also apply for a new document, the UK pet passport. You can use this for travel to the EU for your pet’s lifetime (or until full) as long as your pet’s rabies vaccinations are kept up to date.
I was a bit fuzzy on what they meant by this “new document” and by the sound of it, it may mean that I may have to obtain another new UK Pet Passport for Rocky. So I personally reached out to the UK government pet travel hotline.
“There is still some uncertainty around this,” the UK’s Animal and Plant Health Agency said. “As soon as the APHA knows, the guidance will be updated with this information. The APHA is planning for a worst case scenario where blue passports cease to be valid and the UK pet passports need to be issued.”
Rocky’s pet passport is still in good condition and despite our travels, he still has quite a few empty pages there so I would like to very much keep it, but in this scenario, it means I may have to obtain a new one.
Part 2 listed country status
If the UK becomes a Part 2 listed country, you must have your pet microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before travel. You’ll need to make sure your pet’s rabies vaccinations are kept up to date and make sure your dog has tapeworm treatment if needed.
Similar to the ‘unlisted’ scenario, you must also visit an official vet no more than 10 days before you travel to get an animal health certificate confirming that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.
Your pet will need a new animal health certificate for each trip to the EU if the UK becomes a Part 2 listed country. On arrival in the EU, pet owners traveling with pets need to enter through a designated TPE. At the TPE, you may need to present proof of microchip and rabies vaccination and tapeworm treatment if required.
If a deal is agreed and an implementation period is confirmed, you can travel with your pet to the EU under the current pet travel rules using your current EU pet passport. If you’re traveling with your pet for the first time you’ll have to visit your vet to get a pet passport.
What does it all mean?
Ok, so all that being said, Part 1 remains the most ideal scenario of the three as it wouldn’t require jumping through so many hoops just to travel with your dog across the channel.
So how does it differ from traveling with your pet now? It means more vet visits in addition to the possibility of a much longer waiting period before you travel. If you’re planning on traveling with your pet after 31 October 2019, you should start talking with your vet now.
As I said before these changes will also impact guide dogs and assistance dogs who still have to follow the same vaccination and treatment rules as pets, however guide and assistance dogs will still have access to other routes of travel not available to pets.
I sincerely hope that the government figures out a deal that would allow the country’s millions of pet owners to travel to their neighboring country with comfort and ease.
The UK is a country full of pet lovers who are increasingly taking their dogs to holidays. It would be a shame if their canine companions weren’t allowed to join them for a fun adventure in France, Spain or all of the other wonderful European countries.
So from me and Rocky we hope this helped you in knowing what to prepare for when you and your pup head to beautiful Europe and whether its beautiful alps, or the Mediterranean, may you enjoy your travels!
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