Like it or not, Brexit will be impacting many aspects of life in the United Kingdom, and pet travel doesn’t escape. From the end of the Brexit transition period on the 31st December 2020, pet travel between the UK and Europe will change. Although given that negotiations haven’t been finalised, the exact future details aren’t yet known, so it is even more important to be prepared. So, if you’re travelling from the UK to Europe or from Europe to the UK with your dog or cat after Brexit, what can you expect?
Breaking News for 1st January 2021
It has been announced that Great Britain (England, Sctoland, Wales, Channel Islands, Isle of Man) will become a Part 2 listed third country from 1st January 2021. Note that this will not apply to Northern Ireland; I believe Northern Ireland will continue to be treated the same as the Republic of Ireland for pet travel.
This means that a rabies titre test will not be required to travel from Great Britain to the EU, both continental Europe and the Republic of Ireland. However, an animal health certificate will be required. Additionally, if you are travelling with a dog from the UK to Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway (even directly), your dog will need a worming treatment administered by a vet.
The biggest change will be for pets travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. At the moment you don’t need a rabies vaccine or pet passport to travel to Northern Ireland. Now your pet will need a microchip, rabies vaccine at least 21 days before travel, worming treatment and animal health certificate. This may not be enforced during the early days of early 2021. For full details, see the above link.
For more details, see the UK government advisory. I will be fully updating this article and other articles as the details are finalised and published. Most official government websites, including the European Commission and Northern Ireland DAERA websites, have still not been updated.
During the Brexit Transition Period
During the current transition period, which lasts until the 31st December 2020, additional arrangements are being negotiated between the UK and the EU. During this period, the current rules on pet travel between the UK and Europe will continue to apply.
Basically, when travelling between the UK and EU countries, your pet needs to be microchipped and vaccination against rabies, at least 21 days before travel. Additionally, when travelling to the UK, your dog needs to be wormed by a vet between 24 hours and 5 days before entry into the UK. EU pet passports including those issued in the UK continue to be valid.
Changes to Travelling with a Pet from the UK to Europe
If you are planning to travel with your pet from the UK into the EU from 1st January 2021, the UK government is currently recommending pet owners to prepare well in advance. This is because at the moment it is not yet known if the UK will become an “unlisted” or a “listed” country” for the purposes of pet travel to the EU.
If the UK becomes an “unlisted” country, then your dog will be required to have a rabies titre test at least 3 months before entering the EU, with a successful result. This means that if your dog is not currently vaccinated for rabies, it will need to be microchipped, then vaccinated against rabies, wait at least 30 days before having a titre test, then wait at least 3 months before travelling to the EU. Further delays would occur if the rabies titre test result wasn’t successful.
This means the total preparation time for your pet could be four months. In order to travel to the EU on the 1st January 2021, you would need to start the preparation by at least 1st September 2020.
However, there is a high probability that the UK will become a “listed” country. This includes many other European countries that are not part of the EU, such as Switzerland and Norway, plus other countries such as the USA and Canada. In this case, pets travelling into the EU are not required to have a rabies titre test.
Additionally, pets travelling to Europe may require an animal health certificate (AHC), also known as the EU health certificate (Annex IV). An AHC will be required if the UK is an “unlisted” or a “Part 2 listed” country (rather than a “Part 1 listed” country).
You will need to visit a vet no more than 10 days before travelling to the EU. This certificate will confirm your pet has been microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and their rabies titre test result (if applicable). If you are travelling directly to Finland, the Republic of Ireland or Malta, your dog will also need a worming treatment between 24 hours and 5 days in advance, which will be recorded on the AHC. A new AHC will be required for each trip to the EU.
Note also that you will be required to enter the EU through one of the designated travellers’ points of entry. (See this page for listing by country.)
If the UK becomes a “Part 1 listed” country, an AHC will not be required. Instead, you will need to apply for a new UK pet passport (in contrast to the current UK-issued EU pet passports). If the UK becomes a “Part 1 listed” country, virtually no changes to pet travel would occur, except for the issuing of UK pet passports.
For the full details, including the latest updates, refer to this government communication.
Changes Travelling with a Pet from Europe to the UK
The good news for travellers heading in the other direction is that the UK government have promised that there won’t be any rule changes for pets travelling to the UK.
The same requirements for a microchip, rabies vaccine at least 21 days before travel and worming treatment between 24 hours and 5 days before arrival (except if you’re travelling directly from Finland, the Republic of Ireland, Malta or Norway) will continue to apply. A pet passport or health certificate will be required.
EU pet passports will continue to be accepted for pets travelling into the UK, as well as an AHC issued in the UK (for up to 4 months after the date of issue) and UK pet health certificates (for travel into the UK only). Presumably if the UK becomes a “Part 1 listed” country and issues UK pet passports, these will also be accepted.
The only exception would be that EU health certificates issued elsewhere to travel firstly to the EU would no longer be valid to travel into the UK. But considering you need to head to the vet anyway for the worming treatment, at that point get an UK pet health certificate or an EU pet passport.
Just be careful of the requirements when you return to Europe! A rabies titre test may be required to return into the EU, the same as if you crossed into some of the Western Balkans countries where this currently applies. If this is required, have it done before you leave the EU to avoid the three month waiting period.
What is the Likelihood the UK Becomes an “Unlisted” Country?
The majority of changes for travelling with a pet from the UK to Europe would occur if the UK became an “unlisted” country. This is the default status unless it applies to the European Commission to be listed and is accepted.
Given that the UK has up until recently been a member of the EU and is a rabies free country (not just a rabies controlled country), it would seem unlikely that it should remain an “unlisted” country. Most “unlisted” countries have a high level of rabies in the country, thus the extra requirement for the rabies titre test.
However, given that this is a bureaucratic step, it is hard to know for certain that it will occur for the UK before the 1st January 2021.
If the UK is an “unlisted” country, will the additional requirements really be enforced? At the moment, based on my own experience and that of other travellers, this existing requirements such as the existence of a pet passport are rarely checked. (Unlike when travelling the opposite direction, when the UK strictly checks for the worming treatment plus being more vigilant about rabies.)
Will France and other EU countries start enforcing the requirement of a rabies titre test for pets travelling from the UK, a country known to be rabies free? It doesn’t seem entirely believable, but perhaps that will occur.
What About Travelling to the UK in the Future?
While there are no plans to change the rules for pets travelling to the UK at the moment, now that the UK is no longer tied to the EU rules on the movement of pets, changes could possibly occur in the future.
Before the current pet travel scheme for the UK was introduced, that brought it into line with the rest of the EU, the requirements for pets travelling to the UK were more onerous. This included a period in quarantine. This was mainly to retain the UK’s rabies-free status, as well as keep out other diseases and pests.
According to this recent report from the British Veterinary Association, there are calls for the rules to be toughened and additional steps required. This may include increasing the waiting time after a rabies vaccine after which travel may occur (from 21 days to 12 weeks), reducing the window for the existing worming treatment, and re-introducing a tick treatment requirement.
At least they made no mention of re-introducing quarantine. Despite fears expressed by some parties when this was removed, the UK has remained protected from rabies despite the lack of quarantine.
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