Pet Passports: A Guide to Bringing Your Pet to the UK

Chelsea's Pet Dachshund Apple

According to the 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) Sixty-eight percent of US households, or about 82.5 million families, own a pet. I’m one of those people in the sixty-eight percentile. I have been lucky enough to own a miniature Dachshund since she was 7 weeks old. Apple is my fur-baby, and she is part of my family. When Christopher and I met it was very important to me that they both liked and respected each other. If I had to choose between someone or my dog, I’d pick her without hesitation! Luckily for Chris, they get along very well, and it’s obvious that he loves her as much as I do.

If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know that I have been preparing to move to the UK. Growing up I’ve heard horror stories about the UK’s lengthy quarantine period before being able to have your pets enter the UK with you. In 2002 the UK had their first rabies case in a 100 years! The rabies disease was contracted through a bat bite to a person in Scotland, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Quarantine is not a place I want Apple going. It’s emotionally hard on both you and your pet. There is little-to-no mental or physical enrichment. Not to mention it’s incredibly expensive! Here is part one of our guide to everything you need to know about brining your pet to the UK, in compliance of their Pet Travel Scheme.

Disclaimer: this is only our interpretation of the requirements. This is the guide that we will be following with our dog, Apple, but that does not mean it is complete or perfect. There is a lot to become knowledgeable about throughout the process of moving. So we would urge you to undertake your own research as well, and make sure you are familiar with the UK Pet Travel Scheme.  If you own a dog, learn how to prevent fleas in dogs since, an epidemic is amuck right now. If you have decided to go ahead with the process, congratulations, we hope that this guide helps you with moving your fur-baby to the UK.

The Pet Travel Scheme

Luckily for pet owners moving over or visiting the UK, they now can avoid putting their beloved pets through traumatising quarantine. The UK recently developed The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). This is a government regulated system that allows pets from certain countries to enter the UK without being quarantined as long as they meet the requirements prior to entry.

This also means that people who reside in the UK can go on holiday, taking their pets around the world with them (should they go that far), and bring them back without the need for quarantine. The Scheme: only applies to pet dogs, cats, and ferrets. If you don’t meet the entry requirements, you’re responsible for any fees or charges for your pet.

Entering from the EU or a Listed Country

Pets Travelling to the UK

You Must Follow These Guidelines to Bring Your Pet to the UK

Most people looking to move their pet to the UK will be either from an EU country or a non-EU but listed country. Before proceeding any further, please check that you are from one of these countries. If not there will be extra rules and and regulations you must follow.When entering the UK from within the EU or a Listed Country your pet needs to meet all of the entry requirements listed below:

Microchip: Your pet must be microchipped before entering the UK. Be sure the microchip number can be read by scanner before and after insertion. There is no brand specifics but the microchip itself must follow the International Standards Organisation (ISO) guidelines. American and European microchips are not entirely similar, so ask your Veterinarian before scheduling an appointment for microchipping, if their microchips are ISO compliant. The microchip must be registered with your current contact information, including a cell phone number.

By April 6th of 2016, It’s mandatory in England that all dogs are microchipped.

Rabies vaccination: Your pet must be microchipped first before being vaccinated. Once microchipping is complete and the identification can be read successfully you can then have your veterinarian administer the rabies vaccine. Your pet must be vaccinated against rabies in accordance with the recommendation on the vaccine manufacturer’s data sheet.

Unfortunately, If your pet has been vaccinated against rabies before it was identified by a proper ISO microchip, it will have to be re-vaccinated for rabies again. This is to make sure that your pet is correctly identified when it is vaccinated.

Wellness Check

A Complete Wellness Check Is Performed at the Health Certificate Appointment

Pet Passport or Official Veterinary Health Certificate: A health certificate will be required for their entry into the UK. Your pet must be examined by a veterinarian in order for a health certificate to be issued. Speak to your veterinarian right away to learn more about the instruction-process for your countries health certificate as some may involve further instructions.

This certificate basically indicates your pet is healthy to travel and is not showing signs of a disease that could be passed on to other animals or to people. Certain vaccinations must be up to date in order for a health certificate to be issued. As part of the exam, your veterinarian may check for heartworm disease and prescribe heartworm preventative medication.

Tapeworm treatment (for dogs only): No earlier than 5 days prior to your dogs departure, your dog(s) must be treated against tapeworm and recorded in the EU pet passport or the official veterinary health certificate. A qualified veterinarian must be the one to administer and record the treatment. It will not be accepted if you administer and record it yourself.

Check with your veterinarian to ensure they use the correct treatment, specifically required active ingredient Praziquantel, or an equivalent product.

Approved transport company or an approved route is mandatory unless you’re travelling between the UK and the Republic of Ireland (all other rules still apply). Only certain pre-approved routes and transportation companies can be used to bring pet dogs, cats and ferrets into Great Britain under the Pet Travel Scheme. This means these routes and service provides have been approved by APHA to come into the UK. For pets arriving by air, the transport company may delegate those checks to a third party, such as an Animal Reception Centre.

Guide dogs or assistance dogs

Guide Dogs

Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs May Travel in the Cabin

The requirements for assistance dogs travelling in the EU pet travel scheme is the same as the pet dogs. However assistance dogs have more approved routes than people travelling with pet dogs.  As being an assistant dog, they can still travel in areas on other forms of transport where other animals aren’t allowed, ex. In the aircraft cabin.

Pets entering the UK from outside the EU

Owners of pets entering the UK from outside the EU are required to complete Customs formalities. An agent, travel company or airline will do this for you for a fee. It is highly recommended to discuss these charges before you travel as they might be included as part of a package.

Other Notes

Be aware that in the UK exists a Dangerous Dogs Act.Breeds of this type are prohibited:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

It is important to note that, in the UK, dangerous dogs are classified by “type”, not by breed label. This means that whether a dog is considered dangerous, and therefore prohibited, will depend on a judgment about its physical characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited ‘type’. This assessment of the physical characteristics is made by a court.

If you think that you and your partner are going to permanently relocate your pet, or visit the UK with them, then we would love to hear from you. We, ourselves, are going to be moving our dog to the UK once our Fiancé visa is approved, but we want to hear your experiences too. We know that people’s experiences with bringing their pet to the UK can vary, and want to provide as much information as we can to help you out! So let us know in the comments below your experiences. We’ll be covering more about pet travel to the UK soon!

– Chelsea

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Chelsea Martin

Chelsea Martin is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She has been training dogs professionally since 2007, and is the Head Coach for Dogs Trust Dog School Nottinghamshire. She met Chris on a trip to England in 2013, Married him on New Year’s Eve – celebrating 2016 as husband and wife!

  • Chanel

    Hi Chelsea

    After reading this post and going to the UK gov site, I want to be clear on the documents I need. Since I am entering the UK from USA, my dog will only need an official veterinary health cert and deceleration… not a pet passport. If I’m reading correctly pet passports are only issued in the UK or EU countries?

    • Hi Chanel,

      Yes, that is correct. The Official Vet. Health Certificate is fine to use if you are from the US, because we do not technically have Pet Passports. Once you are in the UK you will need to get your dog a pet passport through your new veterinarian. The US health certificates can only be made good from 10 days prior to your travel date. The USDA will need to check it over, send it back to your vet, then 5 days before your intended travel date, your vet will need to provide dewormer and mark that on the certificate. Then you should be good to go.

      My dog’s veterinarian personally provided me this webpage when I first inquired about moving to the UK.

      http://1.usa.gov/1RU1OUg

      Kind regards,
      Chelsea

  • Gabby McDonnell

    I’ve recently been approved for my fiance visa, so now I’m worried about how to move my 3 cats to the UK from the USA. I cannot for the life of me find an airline that will allow me to bring them (either in cabin or cargo). Even some airlines that say on their websites they allow pet travel to the UK, say otherwise when you call them to confirm. Which airline have you decided on? Thanks

    • Hi Gabby,

      May I ask what state you are flying your cats from? If I flew Apple, my dog, to the UK from the US she would have to specifically fly out of Newark NJ, to arrive in London because that was the only pre-approved flight route I could find for the US. I didn’t want her to have layovers so I took advantage of the fact I live so close to Canada and booked her a direct flight from Vancouver BC. to London since it is an approved route.

      Which airlines have you looked into so far? I’ve heard a lot of people using British Airways to ship their pets, http://bit.ly/1Qpaj9G

      • Gabby McDonnell

        Hey Chelsea,
        I’m in Tallahassee, Florida. Delta told me they only allow one pet to travel with you period. Lufthansa told me they don’t allow pets to travel to the UK via passenger plane. I’m starting to get really worried. Thanks

        • Unfortunately our fur babies have to ride in cargo to arrive in the UK following the PETS travel scheme. It made me very angry because I felt it was so unfair to the animals to put that much unnecessary stress onto them and risky conditions too. It truly breaks my heart, but I promised Apple that it was one time only. Have you specifically asked these airlines for live pet transport?

          • Gabby McDonnell

            Yes, they keep routing me to (non-airline affiliated) animal cargo companies that want to charge over a grand for one animal. I clicked on that link you sent for the British Airways cargo, but I don’t see any prices. My closest International airport is Jacksonville International, which is about a two hour drive from home.

          • They want you to speak to someone in order to give prices because everyone’s situation varies. I am paying close to $1,500 to fly my miniature dachshund on Air Canada cargo. Vancouver is an hour and a half drive away if the traffic is in my favour and there are no long waits at the Canadian border, but if traffic and bad and there are long border waits, It will easily double my travel time. Unfortunately with the PETS travel scheme, transporting our fur kids is not an easy task.

            Big airlines to try other than BA. would be Delta and Virgin. You could also check out IPATA and see if they have any carriers that they recommend too.

          • Gabby McDonnell

            Hello Chelsea, I inquired about flying my cat IAG Cargo, and it’s about $1,005 per cat. They also mentioned that their fee covers a “customs pet fee” of over $500 in the UK which I never saw mentioned on the government website. Is this actually a thing you’ve heard of?

          • Gabby McDonnell

            Also, do ALL of the health certificates have to be also signed off on by a USDA office? Because I’ve been reading about that on other country’s websites, but didn’t see it specified on the UK one.

          • Hi Gabby,

            It isn’t clear on the UK website at all – we had to make some enquiries to various pet travel agents, airlines and vet practices to find out but yes all health certificates need to be signed off by a USDA office (from what we have been told).

            All the best,
            Chris

          • Hi Gabby,

            It isn’t clear on the UK website at all – we had to make some enquiries to various pet travel agents, airlines and vet practices to find out but yes all health certificates need to be signed off by a USDA office (from what we have been told).

            All the best,
            Chris

          • Hi Gabby,

            Yes – the customs clearance charge does exist. When your cat arrives in the UK it will be processed by a customs clearing agency. If your cat is arriving into Heathrow, the clearing agency will be James Cargo Services (JCS). They do charge a fee for their services – sometimes this is charged by the airline, if not then it is charged by JCS direct when you pick up your cat.

            More info can be found here: http://bit.ly/23aGWNd (see “What does it Cost?”).

            All the best,
            Chris

          • Hi Gabby,

            Yes – the customs clearance charge does exist. When your cat arrives in the UK it will be processed by a customs clearing agency. If your cat is arriving into Heathrow, the clearing agency will be James Cargo Services (JCS). They do charge a fee for their services – sometimes this is charged by the airline, if not then it is charged by JCS direct when you pick up your cat.

            More info can be found here: http://bit.ly/23aGWNd (see “What does it Cost?”).

            All the best,
            Chris

          • They want you to speak to someone in order to give prices because everyone’s situation varies. I am paying close to $1,500 to fly my miniature dachshund on Air Canada cargo. Vancouver is an hour and a half drive away if the traffic is in my favour and there are no long waits at the Canadian border, but if traffic and bad and there are long border waits, It will easily double my travel time. Unfortunately with the PETS travel scheme, transporting our fur kids is not an easy task.

            Big airlines to try other than BA. would be Delta and Virgin. You could also check out IPATA and see if they have any carriers that they recommend too.

    • Hi Gabby,

      May I ask what state you are flying your cats from? If I flew Apple, my dog, to the UK from the US she would have to specifically fly out of Newark NJ, to arrive in London because that was the only pre-approved flight route I could find for the US. I didn’t want her to have layovers so I took advantage of the fact I live so close to Canada and booked her a direct flight from Vancouver BC. to London since it is an approved route.

      Which airlines have you looked into so far? I’ve heard a lot of people using British Airways to ship their pets, http://bit.ly/1Qpaj9G

  • Ann DV

    I had to admit moving my cat from the US to the UK was more stressful than getting my fiancee visa (and that was also stressful). And just about as expensive! When I found out I would be moving last November, I began researching and starting the process. I still didn’t find out until two days before I flew in February whether or not she’d be coming with me.

    The main issue was the health certificate (to enter the UK) and the 700 form (for the animal to fly out of the US). I had my vet fill it out the Monday (a week) before I left, and I overnighted it to the USDA. I got it back, rejected, on Wednesday. It had been completely botched. I panicked. I talked to the airline, who was pretty chill about it–as I began to learn, this happens a lot–and the agent sorted out some back-up flights, but told me that I should fly the following Monday as planned, no matter what. I called a friend and tearfully blubbered at them and they figured out why I was upset, and told me they’d care for my cat if worst came to worst until I could find an alternate way to get her to the UK. Then I talked to the USDA again and managed to get an in-person appointment at their office (about 70 miles away) on Friday morning. I was lucky to get that appointment.

    I went back to my vet on the Thursday with the USDA’s notes and had her fill it out again. On Friday morning, I drove the 70 miles to the USDA office, and found out my vet had filled it out incorrectly again, but I was there in person and armed with my cat’s entire medical history records and they let me correct the document–which was really kind of them. (She’d reversed the dates regarding the microchip and rabies booster, which is a pretty critical part of the document.) But I finally got the literal stamp of approval.

    I talked to the lady at the USDA office about it afterward, and she told me that my situation was common, and she was really impressed by how organized and informed I was. I couldn’t believe I was considered organized and informed considering how much of it went wrong down to the last moments!

    (I feel like I’m really egging on vets, and I don’t mean to–this generally isn’t something they do regularly, so it’s important that you know as much about the process as possible to help them. What makes the mistakes so stressful is the short 10 day window–it’s really tight to get problems corrected in that time frame.)

    Once I got the stamp of approval, all went well. I took her to cargo services at SeaTac, she flew on the same IcelandAir flight as me (in the hold), and she cleared Animal Reception at Heathrow in record time. I literally got the call from the customs agent that she’d cleared as we were walking through the front door of our London house. (I’d paid to have her delivered to us after going through reception because I’d been quoted 5 hours as a normal wait time and we didn’t have a car–turns out, it was only about 2 hours for her.) Two hours later she was at our front door, was jumpy but immediately starting exploring, and by the next morning, you’d have thought she’d lived here her whole life :) She’s an elderly rescue cat (14) with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, so I was really worried about flying her, but she didn’t take this move any worse than any of the local moves she and I have been through.

    I, on the other hand, refuse to my countries again in my cat’s lifetime ;)

    • Hi Ann,

      I’m so sorry about your experience, I have yet to write one up about mine – just not ready haha! I ended up flying Apple out of Vancouver BC. as it was cheaper to go through one of their pet travel agencies for us than it was to try and fly her from SeaTac. I used to work in a vet hospital so I was aware that she already had a iso-microchip, and that her vaccines were up to date & that her rabies would be valid for her paperwork.

      I had a consultation with her vet (my old boss) a year before we left to establish a plan. Working with our veterinarian and USDA was no issue. The same day her vet started her international health certificate I shipped it to our USDA office, and two days later it came back certified. Our veterinarian was impressed how fast our turn around was, honestly I was prepared for it to take longer too because in my experience working at that hospital it usually did take a while- but it was fast for us (yay). Deworming and finalising our papers were completed and then I scanned them for our pet travel agency… bleh.

      Despite our more positive experience with the veterinarian and the USDA, I still feel that the 10 day limit on completing everything is unreasonable. And not being able to book her flight until 14 days out from her intended travel date. That is just very wrong. It so much stress on you to not know when you’ll be done with the process and if it will even be completed by the time you have to go! Oiii I do not wish this stress onto anyone.

      I agree with you, this process was much more stressful on us than the spouse visa ever was! Our troubles came with our travel agents in Canada. UGH. They were so unprofessional with everything – especially their communication. Instead of handing me a bunch of documents to complete all at once, they’d send me a few at a time. So I would think “oh okay, I’m done with the papers, now it’s just waiting time for her flight” I’d then turn them in, only to be sent more. I was so upset that every time I assumed I was done, they surprised me with more paperwork. I had to ask for my receipts because they didn’t email them to me, her airway bill, and her flight itinerary! Oh and two days before Apple was to fly out her current agent went away on vacation. I knew it was coming up because it was in the footer of her email, but I had to ask for the new agent contact info that was taking over our case for her. I never experienced anything like this. Clearly they didn’t care about anything!

      Terrible experience, but despite the customer service aspect everything else worked out fine. I still had to work for a few days, so Apple flew out 4 days before I did. Chris picked her up from Heathrow and she was very excited to see him. I promised her from the start that I would never fly her again, I don’t think it’s fair for the animals. But she’s my family and there was no way I was going to re-home her because I was moving – no way!

      Like your kitty, Apple has settled in to our home really well. She loves going for walks along the canals and going to the parks, we just get pointed at and harassed by children because we have a “cute sausage dog” :P

      Feel free to keep in touch on my fb if you’d like, we PNW girls need to stick together ;3

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

      • Ann DV

        Ugh, sorry to hear you had trouble, too! There are just so many places for something to go wrong! I didn’t go through a service, did it all myself.

    • Hi Ann,

      I’m so sorry about your experience, I have yet to write one up about mine – just not ready haha! I ended up flying Apple out of Vancouver BC. as it was cheaper to go through one of their pet travel agencies for us than it was to try and fly her from SeaTac. I used to work in a vet hospital so I was aware that she already had a iso-microchip, and that her vaccines were up to date & that her rabies would be valid for her paperwork.

      I had a consultation with her vet (my old boss) a year before we left to establish a plan. Working with our veterinarian and USDA was no issue. The same day her vet started her international health certificate I shipped it to our USDA office, and two days later it came back certified. Our veterinarian was impressed how fast our turn around was, honestly I was prepared for it to take longer too because in my experience working at that hospital it usually did take a while- but it was fast for us (yay). Deworming and finalising our papers were completed and then I scanned them for our pet travel agency… bleh.

      Despite our more positive experience with the veterinarian and the USDA, I still feel that the 10 day limit on completing everything is unreasonable. And not being able to book her flight until 14 days out from her intended travel date. That is just very wrong. It so much stress on you to not know when you’ll be done with the process and if it will even be completed by the time you have to go! Oiii I do not wish this stress onto anyone.

      I agree with you, this process was much more stressful on us than the spouse visa ever was! Our troubles came with our travel agents in Canada. UGH. They were so unprofessional with everything – especially their communication. Instead of handing me a bunch of documents to complete all at once, they’d send me a few at a time. So I would think “oh okay, I’m done with the papers, now it’s just waiting time for her flight” I’d then turn them in, only to be sent more. I was so upset that every time I assumed I was done, they surprised me with more paperwork. I had to ask for my receipts because they didn’t email them to me, her airway bill, and her flight itinerary! Oh and two days before Apple was to fly out her current agent went away on vacation. I knew it was coming up because it was in the footer of her email, but I had to ask for the new agent contact info that was taking over our case for her. I never experienced anything like this. Clearly they didn’t care about anything!

      Terrible experience, but despite the customer service aspect everything else worked out fine. I still had to work for a few days, so Apple flew out 4 days before I did. Chris picked her up from Heathrow and she was very excited to see him. I promised her from the start that I would never fly her again, I don’t think it’s fair for the animals. But she’s my family and there was no way I was going to re-home her because I was moving – no way!

      Like your kitty, Apple has settled in to our home really well. She loves going for walks along the canals and going to the parks, we just get pointed at and harassed by children because we have a “cute sausage dog” :P

      Feel free to keep in touch on my fb if you’d like, we PNW girls need to stick together ;3

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

    • Christina

      Hello Ann I just wanted to ask you a question about your experience. My husband and I will be moving in about 6 weeks and I am beyond stressed about getting our cats there. We had originally planned on moving them ourselves and not contacting a pet relocation agency but as it gets closer I am getting all kinds of different information that is really confusing me.

      You said you did this by yourself and flew through Icelandair. I was just wondering how you booked that flight and how many layovers you had? I am currently living in Oklahoma and Im trying to find the quickest route as not to put to much stress on the cats. Iv contacted a couple airlines like Finnair and Lufthansa which were on the approved list through the UK.gov website and they all tell me they can not fly on the same plane as me and they have to be booked through a separate cargo plane which I would rather not do.

      If you could give me any information you can or any help I would really appreciate it Im just really lost at the moment and don’t know if I can afford to use a shipping company.

      Thank you so much
      Christina

  • Chanel Montfort

    Hi Chelsea
    Will be starting all the required items for my dog Maya. Just want to be sure on some things. Since we do not have the pet passport here in the sates and need a health certificate, do you know if it is possible for me to get Maya’s microchip, rabies, all annual shots from the clinic to save money and then take Maya to a certified vet to sign off on the health certificate? All of that is so expensive, but there is a twice a month clinic that comes to the pet store to offer low cost vaccinations and microchipping.

    Thank you so much for your help

    • Hi Chanel,

      You will need a veterinarian to first implant a european iso microchip, and then administer a rabies vaccine 21 days afterwards – NO less and in no different order. All veterinarians are legally allowed to do this part.

      Going forward, you’ll then need to work with a veterinarian who is USDA approved, pay for the European health certificate, and have them fill this certificate out for you. I’d recommend a early afternoon appointment so you can quickly send off the health certificate, rabies certificate (signed & dated by the USDA approved veterinarian) and microchip certificate (signed & dated by the USDA approved veterinarian) to your local USDA office for approval.

      Are you going through a pet travel agency or directly through an airline?

      Only good things,
      Chelsea