Travelling with pets
Regulations regarding the carriage of animals are complex and vary from country to country and airline to airline. You are advised to contact the authorities in the destination country, as well as seek advice from your airline or a specialist pet travel agency before planning your journey.
Airlines will only carry animals if advanced arrangements have been made, as space is often limited. There are two options and your airline will be able to tell you which services they are able to offer:
- Accompanied baggage – most airlines will accept animals as accompanied baggage providing they are in a suitable container. They will travel in the baggage compartment where a suitable environment can be maintained (note – animals arriving in the UK may only do so as manifested air cargo).
- Air cargo – owners can arrange for their animals to travel as air cargo without making the journey themselves.
These vary depending on the length of the journey, the weight of the animal and the size of the container. Your airline should be able to give you an estimate of the costs.
It is advisable to avoid arriving at some airports at weekends when inspection staff may not be on duty. Unlike Heathrow and Gatwick airports, very few airports have reception centres where animals can be released and cared for until inspection is possible.
Taking pets out of the UK
You must comply with the requirements of the destination country. Some will only require an export health certificate, some will need proof of vaccination, whilst others will require you to obtain an import permit. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) operates an export helpline on +44 (0)20 7904 6347 or Fax +44 (0)20 7904 6395.
Arrival into the UK
Except for dogs and cats from specific countries that can comply with the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme, all pets will be required to undergo a period of quarantine. Arrangements must be made and confirmed before the journey commences.
Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)
Dogs and cats are now able to travel from a number of countries to the UK without the need to undergo six months quarantine provided they meet certain requirements. Only carriers approved by Defra may carry animals into the UK on specific routes.
To be considered for entry under the Pet Travel Scheme, a pet will have to meet the following conditions:
- It must be microchipped with an electronic chip.
- After it has been microchipped it must be vaccinated against rabies.
- After vaccination, a blood sample must be tested at a laboratory that Defra has approved. The blood test result must show that the vaccine has been effective. A pet may not enter the UK until six months have passed from the date that the blood sample was taken which lead to a successful test result.
- The pet must be accompanied by an official PETS certificate signed by a vet approved by the government of the country concerned, certifying that the above requirements have been met.
- Between 24 and 48 hours before being checked in to travel to the UK, your pet must be treated against ticks and tapeworm. This will also have to be recorded on an official certificate of treatment signed by a vet.
- Pets travelling from a non-European PETS country (and from Cyprus via Turkey) must travel in a sealed container.
- You will be required to sign a declaration that the pet has been resident in one of the eligible countries for the past six months.
- More information on this scheme can be found at www.defra.gov.uk.
It is important that, in addition to the health and documentation requirements, your animal travels in a suitable container which must be well ventilated, large enough for the animal to stand up, lie down and turn around freely. No part of the animal is allowed to protrude from the carrier and it should be both secure and leak proof. Airlines and specialist agents should be able to advise you on obtaining such a container. Sedation is not recommended as the effects of the drugs and altitude are not predictable.
Guide and hearing dogs qualify for the scheme and must meet the same requirements. Some airlines permit them to travel in the cabin.