As a nation of animal-lovers, it isn’t surprising that many pet owners want to take their pets on holiday with them too. While the RSPCA advises against taking cats, rabbits and other small animals on holiday if they aren’t familiar with travelling, as it could be too stressful for them, many pets are seasoned travellers and it just wouldn’t be a holiday without them.
Domestic staycations are simplest for pet owners, with a recent survey from Canine Cottages revealing that 75 per cent of dog owners are planning a UK holiday in 2024 with their canine companies. The growing rise in pet-friendly hotels, Airbnbs, campsites and cottages across the country means that the whole family can enjoy the break.
But for those who want to travel further afield, taking your pet overseas s possible – although it isn’t without complications. The rules around taking your pet abroad have changed since Brexit, so it’s important to brush up on them before you book. Here’s everything you need to know.
How to take your pet abroad to the EU
Before Brexit, you needed an EU pet passport to take your dog, cat or ferret on holiday to Europe or Northern Ireland. Now, you need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) which proves that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. You might also have to make sure that your dog has received tapeworm treatment if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta. These requirements also apply to assistance dogs.
You should also check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel.
Getting an Animal Health Certificate
You should get your AHC issued by your vet within ten days of your departure. The certificate will cover your trip to the EU, onwards travel within the EU and re-entry to the UK. Unlike the previous EU pet passports, you will need a new AHC every time you travel with your pet. This will likely cost around £100-£150, as long as your pet is already microchipped and up to date on their vaccinations.
Justine Shotton, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “Unlike the older and much simpler pet passports, AHCs are 9-12 pages long, which translates to a much more complex, time consuming and costly process.
“With more people planning trips in the months to come, we’d advise pet owners wishing to take their dogs, cats or ferrets abroad to consult a vet well in advance of travel to get all the necessary paperwork in order, to avoid any last-minute disappointments.”
To get an AHC, your pet has to be up to date with its rabies vaccinations or only needs booster doses to keep the vaccination up to date.
If your pet needs a rabies vaccination, you must wait 21 days after the vaccination date before you get an animal health certificate, with Day 1 being the day after vaccination.
Tell your vet you need an animal health certificate when you take your pet to get vaccinated. This gives your vet time to prepare it.
You will need to bring your pet’s microchipping date and vaccination history with you.
Your pet’s animal health certificate will be valid after 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
If you are travelling with another pet, then check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel, and don’t forget to check with the transport operator too, such as the airline, train or ferry company you are travelling with.
For example, LeShuttle operator Eurotunnel advises people travelling with pet rabbits that they need a Veterinary Certificate for French border controls. Pet rabbits (along with rodents, birds, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles) travel on LeShuttle free of charge and do not need to be added to a booking.
How to take your pet abroad to a non-EU country
If your upcoming holiday destination is outside of the EU, the process for bringing your pet along is the same as it was before Brexit.
You’ll need to get an Export Health Certificate (EHC) which proves that your pet meets the health requirements of the country you are travelling to.
Justine said: “Pet owners looking to take their animals from the UK to countries outside of the EU will need an Export Health Certificate signed by an official vet. As a first step, we’d recommend contacting your local veterinary practice for advice on completing the official paperwork and to check the Defra website (or DAERA if you are in Northern Ireland) for requirements specific to the country you are travelling to.”
You can look up the specific requirements for your pet and destination country here.