The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was launched in 2000 to allow for easier travel with dogs, cats and ferrets between certain countries without the need for quarantine.
Is it safe for pets to travel abroad?
Regulations were put in place to prevent the spread of zoonotic disease, i.e. those that can pass from animals to humans, such as Rabies. Preventative measures used to include Tick Borne Diseases but since the controversial 2012 changes, in order to harmonise pet travel across the EU, it concentrates only on Rabies and Echinococcus multilocularis - a tapeworm that can cause significant human disease.
Dogs from the UK will have no natural immunity to several vector borne diseases found in Europe. These include Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Heartworm and Leishmaniasis. When taking your dog abroad it’s important to consider these diseases and discuss preventative parasite treatment, including for ticks, sand flies, mosquitoes and heartworm with your vet prior to travel - even though it is not a legal requirement for the PETS passport.
How do you get a PETS passport?
Currently PETS requires that the dog is microchipped, vaccinated against Rabies (minimum age for vaccine is 12 weeks) and waits a minimum of 21 clear days before travel with the vet issued Pet Passport in to the UK. The dog must be vet checked and given a tapeworm tablet by a vet 24-120 hrs prior to (re)entry to the UK and the passport stamped, signed and date/time marked to prove compliance.
How many dogs travel under the Pet Travel Scheme?
DEFRA figures show that the number of dogs using the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) has increased over the years and that it reached the 300,000 mark for the first time in 2018. Whilst many of these dogs will be British dogs re-entering the UK on British issued passports, it has been shown by Dogs Trust that PETS is being used to import puppies from central and Eastern Europe for commercial gain. It is illegal to use PETS to import dogs to the UK for sale. The government has been urged to review the travel scheme legislation and consider limiting the number of animals that can travel to five per non-commercial consignment rather than five per person. In addition, extending the post rabies vaccination wait to 12 weeks, rather than 21 days, would make the puppies older and less desirable for sale in the UK once imported.
Will Brexit affect the Pet Travel Scheme?
Brexit will affect the PETS regulations and from 1 January 2021 there will be changes to the current rules for travelling with your dog to EU countries, depending upon which category the UK is placed on 1 January 2021. In the current scheme there are 3 categories of country:
Part 1 listed - these operate under similar rules to EU member states. Owners will need to obtain documents from an official vet and have a UK pet passport issued and maintained, this will replace the EU passport.
Part 2 listed - as well as obtaining and maintaining the UK pet passport, owners will need to obtain an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) from an official vet no more than 10 days before travel. Pets need to enter the EU through recognised Travellers’ Point of Entry (TPE).
Unlisted - If the UK becomes unlisted, the current UK issued EU pet passport will not be valid for travel to the EU. As well as a microchip and rabies vaccine, pets will have to have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination. This blood sample will be tested at an EU approved laboratory to check that the dog has responded adequately to the vaccine. There will then be a three month wait from the date of the successful blood sample before the dog is allowed to travel. Your dog will need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) to be issued by the vet for each trip to the EU. The vet will check your dog’s fitness to travel and check the microchip, vaccination and rabies blood testing paperwork. If everything is in order the AHC will be issued with the date of the blood sample and you’re issued with a copy of the test results. Your dog’s AHC will be valid for 10 days after the issue date for EU entry via a Travellers’ Point of Entry (TPE). It allows onward travel within the EU, and return to the UK, for 4 months from the date of issue. If the blood test does not show an adequate response to the vaccine, a repeat rabies vaccine will be required and another blood test is taken at least 30 days after the repeat vaccination.
Plan ahead and do your research before you go
To make sure you’re able to travel abroad and return to the UK with your dog, it’s safest to plan ahead at least 4 months and always check the latest advice with your vet and the government website https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad. Certain countries have specific requirements that must be adhered to, so it’s best to check the rules online for each country you plan to visit, before every trip abroad.
Alison Lambert MA VetMB MRCVS
Alison graduated from Cambridge University, in Veterinary medicine and surgery, in 1999. She initially worked in mixed practice before concentrating on domestic animals for the next 16 years. When Alison isn’t working as a vet, she is helping the Red Dog Company make the very best luxury dog beds and accessories available.