If you’re travelling to the United Kingdom with your dog, it’s far more difficult than travelling with a dog to other countries in Europe. This is because pet dogs flying into the UK can only fly as cargo. For this reason, whether you’re trying to fly a dog from the USA to the UK or from somewhere else in the world, you may want to consider some of the alternatives.
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Can You Fly to the UK with a Dog?
Dogs are able to fly to the United Kingdom, but dogs are not able to fly into the UK in the cabin or as check-in baggage. The UK government only permits pet dogs to fly to the UK as cargo, using an approved carrier to an approved airport.
For many owners of small dogs who understandably only fly their dog in the cabin, at their feet, this poses a difficulty. But even if your dog normally flies in the hold as excess baggage, in comparison flying a dog as cargo is a more complicated and expensive process.
When flying as cargo, dogs usually need to be booked through the separate cargo division of the airline, or a completely separate freight company. The cost to fly a dog as cargo is often quite expensive, far more than the cost of flying a dog in the cabin or as excess baggage.
Additionally, when you fly to the UK with a dog, even more charges apply, from agent fees to inspection fees. Expect these fees to total up to £600. You will also be charged a value added tax of 20%, based on your pet’s breed and the cost of their transport, although this can later be refunded. The cost of shipping a dog from USA to UK can be quite expensive when a dog flies directly to the UK. These charges don’t apply for dogs crossing to the UK by ferry or car.
Consider Flying to Paris or Amsterdam Airports
Instead of directly flying to the UK with your dog, instead consider flying to another airport within Europe, then travel by another option across the Channel, to travel with your dog to the UK.
The most popular alternative airports to fly into within Europe with your dog are Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. As well as being busy airports with a large number of flights arriving from all around the world, both of these airports allow you to arrive with a dog in the cabin (or as checked baggage).
Additionally, there are feasible options to then travel onwards to the UK with your dog as a “foot passenger”, without hiring a car. (With cars driving on the opposite side of the road in the UK compared to Continental Europe, forget about a one-way car hire to head to the UK!)
Taking a Ferry Across to the UK
Once you arrive in Paris or Amsterdam, there are multiple ferry options available to foot passengers with a dog to take you to the UK.
Taking a Ferry from France to the UK
From Paris, foot passengers with a dog are permitted on the DFDS Seaways ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven, on the southern coast of England. The ferry crossing takes about 4 hours, but once you add on the train journeys at either end the journey from Paris to London takes a full day. Read my review of completing this journey when I visited the UK.
Note that the other ferries between France and England do not permit foot passengers to bring pets onboard.
Taking a Ferry from the Netherlands to the UK
If you fly into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, you have more options. Firstly, there is the Stena Line ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich, on the eastern coast of England. This is an overnight or full day ferry crossing, with excellent pet kennels located onboard the ship. Read my review about taking this ferry or click here to find out more.
Secondly, there is the DFDS Seaways ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle, in northern England. While a longer crossing, this ferry has the unique advantage of pet-friendly cabins, as well as kennels. Read this review by someone else taking the ferry or click here to find out more about the DFDS pet-friendly cabins.
Finally, foot passengers can also bring a pet onboard the P&O ferry from Rotterdam to Hull. This ferry has pet kennels onboard and generally operates as an overnight crossing. Click here for further information.
A short train journey is required from the airport to any of the relevant ferry terminals in the Netherlands. Pets are allowed on trains in the Netherlands.
Using a Pet Taxi or Pet Transport Service
Instead of taking a ferry across to the UK with your dog, you could instead consider using a pet taxi or a pet transport service. These options are particularly popular for pets arriving in Paris.
With pet taxis, there are multiple providers that take advantage of pets being allowed in vehicles using the Eurotunnel, one of the quickest and easiest ways to travel with a pet in between the UK and France, as long as you have a vehicle.
Most frequently, people travelling with a dog just take a pet taxi between Calais Ville or Calais Fréthun and Folkestone Central stations. On either end, simply travel by train on the dog-friendly trains in France and the UK. The pet taxi typically costs about £100, on to of the normal Eurotunnel fees.
There are also some companies that are specifically set up to transport dogs longer distances between European countries and the UK. These companies can pick your pet up from Charles de Gaulle or Schiphol Airports and transport your pet to your address in the UK, while you fly to the UK or take the non-dog-friendly Eurostar. One DEFRA-certified company is Jane’s Euro Pet Taxi.
What About a Cruise Ship Across the Atlantic?
Another alternative if you’re bringing a dog from the US to the UK, may be to book a crossing on the QEII across the Atlantic, disembarking at Southampton in England. This is particularly popular with owners of larger dogs, that are too large to fly in the cabin on any airline. The QEII is one of the few pet-friendly cruise ships.
However, keep in mind that there a lot of demand for the pet kennels on the QEII, so the kennels are typically booked out a year or more in advance! It might be possible to put your name down on a waiting list, in case a berth becomes available sooner.
Paperwork for Travelling to the UK with Your Dog
While the United Kingdom is still in transition to leave the EU, the same rules and paperwork is required for importing dogs to the UK, as for pets travelling to anywhere in the EU. Note that the UK is one of the few countries in Europe requiring a worming treatment for dogs, administered by a vet between 24 hours and 5 days of arrival in the UK.
Once Brexit is finalised, the rules for bringing pets to the UK will still be basically the same, although a UK-specific pet health certificate will be required, rather than the EU pet health certificate (Annex IV).
However, if you’re firstly travelling to the EU and then onwards to the UK, things will be a little more complicated. Make sure you complete the requirements for your pet to travel both to the EU and to the UK. In particular, you will likely need two pet health certificates.
If you are planning to spend some time firstly in the EU, before completing your journey, your dog may need to be wormed in the EU, due to the short time frame of validity. In this case, you may look into getting an EU pet passport for your dog, to have recorded both the worming treatment and your pet’s rabies vaccination.
Note though that not all veterinarians will copy across your existing rabies vaccination (I’ve generally heard of this occurring in Germany) or that UK customs may question a rabies vaccination predating the pet passport, as was the case when I boarded my ferry to the UK. Either keep all your different paperwork as proof or consider getting a rabies booster shot in the EU, to be recorded on your EU pet passport.
What About When Leaving the UK?
While there are no restrictions on pets flying in the cabin or as checked baggage when leaving the UK, very few airlines offer this option, even European airlines. Double check with your airline, and consider crossing back over to Paris or Amsterdam to fly your pet out of Europe with more options.
I have checked with a number of American airlines, and haven’t been able to find a US airlines that flies dogs in the cabin when leaving the UK. American Airlines doesn’t fly pets in the cabin on any trans-Atlantic flights, while both Delta and United rule out pets in the cabin on flights both to and from the UK.
An alternative option for flying from the UK to the USA with a dog in the cabin is to fly via Canada, as it’s possible to fly a dog from the UK to Canada.
On the Air Canada website they specifically mention that they accept pets for travel both in the cabin and in the hold on flights from the UK. Another potential Canadian airline that you could use to fly out the UK with your pet is Air Transat. I’ve heard reports of someone flying this route a few years ago, although their current website is a little vague.