Like it or not, Brexit will be impacting many aspects of life in the United Kingdom, and pet travel doesn’t escape. From the date that Brexit rolls around, currently delayed until 31st January 2020, pet travel between the UK and Europe will change. Although given that a deal still hasn’t been reached, the exact changes haven’t been finalised, 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?
Changes Travelling with a Pet from the UK to Europe
If you are planning to travel with your pet form the UK into the EU, the UK government is currently recommending pet owners to prepare well in advance, including a rabies titre test. Except for a list of exempt countries (“listed third countries”, including many other European countries, the USA, Canada, etc.), pets travelling into the EU are required to have a rabies titre test at least 3 months before entering the EU, with a successful result.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK government advises that it will become an “unlisted” country. This means that if currently your dog is not vaccinated for rabies, your dog needs to be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, wait at least 30 days, have a titre test, then wait at least 3 months, before it can travel to the EU, a total time of 4 months. You’ll also then need to get an EU health certificate (Annex IV) within 10 days before travelling to the EU. Finally, you will also be required to enter through one of the designated Travellers’ points of entry (see this page for listing by country). Refer to this communication for more information.
However, will this really occur or be enforced? For starters, based on my own experience and that of other travellers, currently if you travel with a pet from the UK to Europe your pet’s passport is not usually checked. (Just when travelling the other direction, with the UK requiring a 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 it’s hard to know, given the unpredictability of bureaucracy.
Secondly, surely the UK will at some stage be added to the list of exempt countries in the EU rules, for which a rabies titre test is not required. In particular, the subset of countries (such as Switzerland and Norway) whose pet passports are recognised by the EU, so that an EU health certificate is also not required. Once this happens, the process to travel from the UK to the EU would be exactly the same as it currently is.
The relevant UK government agency says they are “seeking technical discussions with the European Commission to allow the UK to become a listed third country on the day we leave the EU” and that they “will continue to press the Commission to discuss this option with us.” I assume this is regardless of whether a deal occurs or not. (Or if there is a deal, this will definitely go ahead?) So fingers crossed that this happens, and it’s a smooth journey for pets travelling to the continent.
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 changes for pets. EU pet passports will continue to be accepted, as well as EU health certificates issued in the UK and UK pet health certificates.
For travellers taking the Eurotunnel or catching a ferry from France or elsewhere in the EU across to the UK, the same requirements for a pet passport, 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.
The only exception would be that EU health certificates issued elsewhere to travel firstly to the EU, would not longer be valid to then travel into the UK (during its four months of validity). But considering you need to head to the vet anyway to get a worming treatment done, either get an EU pet passport at this stage or a UK health certificate.
However, be mindful of the requirements when you then return to Europe. As discussed above, technically a rabies titre test will be required to return into the EU, the same as if you crossed into some of the Western Balkans countries that have this requirement. The good news is that if you have this before leaving the EU, there is no three month waiting period. But also see my discussion about this point.
What About in the Future?
While there are no plans to change the rules for pets travelling to the UK, now that the UK is no longer tied to the EU rules on the movement of pets, I wouldn’t be surprised to see changes in the future. Before the current pet travel scheme for the UK was introduced, to bring it into line with the rest of the EU, the requirements were more onerous for pets travelling to the UK, including quarantine. This was mainly to retain the UK’s rabies-free status, plus to 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. Although luckily there seem to be no calls to re-introduce quarantine – despite fears expressed by some parties when this was removed, the UK has remained protected from rabies with its current quarantine-free regulations.
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