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Updated 21 Sep 2015

Travelling internationally with your pets can add an extra level of stress to an already high-pressure transition, as even the most dedicated pet owners aren’t born with the knowledge it takes to plan a safe and smooth pet relocation. Luckily help is available in the form of online resources, expert assistance, and online communities where pet owners like you can receive, and someday offer, advice. 

For now, here’s an overview of the pet import rules for the UK and EU to help you start your journey on the right foot.

Pet travel to the UK

First, you can start by referring to a credible entity like the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the official government source for information about importing pets. 

Here is where you’ll find information about vaccines, the Pet Travel Scheme, and the UK arrival process. Note that the requirements will vary based on the country in which you’re starting; pets travelling to the UK from another EU country will have a slightly different “to do” list than those coming from “listed” and “unlisted” countries.

Generally speaking, however, pets coming to the UK will need the following:

  • Microchip

  • Rabies Vaccine

  • Pet Passport or Official Veterinary Certificate

  • Tapeworm Treatment (Dogs Only)

You must also use an approved entry route and may need to fill out a document stating you do not plan to sell or transfer ownership of your dog. The UK has a few rules specifically meant to deter commercial pet shipments, which is why pet owners must also travel within five days of their pet.

Upon arrival, pets will be taken to an official animal reception centre near the airport, where their health and paperwork will be inspected. Depending on volume and where your pet is arriving from, this process can take anywhere from two to five hours so pet owners should plan accordingly. 

This all may sound a bit complicated, but the good news is that there is no quarantine for pets who have completed the correct paperwork and vaccines. 

Pet travel to EU countries

Pets travelling within the EU or to the EU with a pet may consult with an official source like the European Commission website to find detailed instructions, but here is a general overview of what pets need:

  • Microchip

  • Rabies Vaccine

  • Pet Passport or EU Health Certificate

Just like for the UK, pet owners must travel to EU countries within five days of their pet and there is no quarantine necessary if all requirements are successfully met. 

Additional pet move considerations

Before undertaking a pet move, it is also recommended that you spend time on the following:

  • Choose a pet-safe airline

  • Choose an airline approved travel crate and allow your pet plenty of time to acclimate to it

  • Discuss any health questions you have with your vet

  • Consider enlisting professional pet shipping assistance to avoid delays and complications

Living in the EU with pets

Most pet owners find that EU countries are fairly pet-friendly, but it’s always wise to do a little research and crowdsourcing before you move to find out about vet services, pet stores, dog parks and vaccination and leash laws. 

Being a prepared and respectful expat makes it easier to start settling in to your new home quickly and smoothly, which your pet will surely appreciate. 

Hire a pet relocation company

To minimise red tape and to better acquaint yourself with principles of pet ownership in a foreign country it's best to hire a pet relocation service. These professionals are prepared to deal with the bothersome bureaucracy, as well as to advise you on what to expect after arrival.

– Article written in September 2015


About the Author

Caitlin Moore works for PetRelocation.com, a pet travel company that arranges the door to door relocations of pets worldwide. She can be reached at marketing@petrelocation.com.

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