A move abroad isn’t complete without bringing the whole family along – and that includes your beloved family pets.
In some situations, pets travelling abroad will need to be placed in quarantine for up to six months before they are allowed to enter a country. On the one hand, this is an important measure in preventing the spread of devastating diseases like rabies. On the other hand, being separated for so long can be extremely tough on pets and owners alike.
If the thought of quarantining your furry friends fills you with dread, why not look into getting them a pet passport instead?
What is a pet passport?
The Pet Travel Scheme, or PETS, was introduced in the UK back in 2000. Under the scheme, owners can apply for a pet passport for their cat, dog or ferret, allowing them to travel between participating countries without enduring a lengthy stay in quarantine. Over the years, more and more countries have joined the scheme including EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.
A pet passport contains essential vet-verified information about the health of your pet, including whether they are up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations.
What must a pet passport include?
You need to get a vet to complete your pet passport. They must include details of:
- Your pet’s ownership
- The animal’s appearance
- Your pet’s microchip or marking
- Their vaccination history
- Relevant treatment history and blood test results
Your vet also needs to provide their own details as an approved issuer of pet passports.
In some cases, you may not actually need a pet passport. For example, a veterinary certificate can be sufficient if you are entering an EU country. This is a shorter and simpler health certificate that must be used to enter a country within 10 days of being issued by your vet.
Do all countries have the same requirements?
No. It is really important that you research the requirements for the country you wish to travel to as, sadly, the PETS system is not yet standardised. That means different countries will have different pet importation requirements. Some will also insist you bring additional documentation along with your pet passport, some will require your pet to travel as manifest cargo rather than in the cabin with you.
We’ve put together some information about the requirements for a few of the most popular relocation destinations:
The requirements for importing your cat, dog or ferret into the UK vary according to which country you are travelling from. All pets must:
- Be microchipped
- Have an up-to-date rabies vaccination
- Travel with the correct documentation
The UK currently accepts pet passports from all EU countries, as well as some countries like Norway. All other countries are categorised as either listed or unlisted. Unlisted countries are those that may have a higher incidence of rabies and/or less robust veterinary procedures.
Prior to 2012, pets travelling from unlisted countries would have been placed in quarantine for six months. Now, it’s possible to avoid this by having your pet vaccinated against rabies and then sending blood samples to be tested at an EU-approved laboratory. If the vaccination is shown to be successful, then you just need to wait another 3 months before entering the UK. When entering the UK, you will also need to provide an official veterinary certificate.
If you are bringing a dog, it must have been treated for tapeworm no less than 24 hours and no more than 5 days before it enters the country. This needs to be recorded by your vet in your pet passport or veterinary certificate. There are also extra virus checks required for pets travelling from Australia and Malaysia.
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The United States of America
For cats and dogs to enter the US, they will need:
- Proof of an up-to-date rabies vaccination OR proof your pet has lived in a rabies-free country for at least 6 months
- Inspection by a vet for screwworm if travelling from certain countries
- A veterinary certificate (in English)
- Proof of age for puppies or kittens
- Microchips are not required, but are recommended.
Some US states will have their own additional rules on importing your pets, so remember to check that out. You should also be aware that certain US cities have banned certain breeds of dog. For example, it is against the law to own a pitbull in some cities.
The rules for bringing your cat or dog to Australia depend on which country you are travelling from but are among some of the strictest.
All animals, except those travelling from Group 1 countries like New Zealand, must hold a valid import permit and spend a mandatory 10-day period in quarantine. If you are travelling from a country which is not in Group 1,2 or 3, your pet will not be permitted directly into Australia. Instead, you will have to travel via a Group 2 or 3 country, perhaps spending up to 6 months there, and then follow the procedures for importing pets from that country.
Australia does not accept the 3-year rabies vaccination, so you must have your pet vaccinated within one year of entry. Pets will also need to undergo a rabies titer test with a licensed vet prior to arrival. If this shows the rabies vaccine has been successful, your pet is eligible to enter the country no sooner than 180 days after their blood sample reached the testing lab.
All pets must be microchipped and have been treated for parasites within the required timeframes for travel.
How much does a pet passport cost?
Vets can set their own fees for issuing pet passports so costs will vary. But as a rough idea, the entire process should cost around £200 (that’s €225, US$260 or AUS$330) - including vaccinations and microchipping. When you compare that with the cost of quarantine, which can run into the thousands, it’s peanuts.
Is there anything else I need to do?
Check your travel company is approved for transporting pets into your destination country. Some countries only allow pets to enter via certain routes and with pre-approved travel providers.
You should also make sure your pet insurance covers travel overseas. If not, remember to extend it or switch to new cover so you’re covered for vet expenses abroad.