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The Animal Health Certificate: travelling abroad with your pet

For so many of us, pets are part of the family, so it is natural to want to take them on holiday. A little bigger than our normal blogs, this detailed guide to taking your pet (dog, cat or ferret) to and from Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the European Union (EU), post-Brexit, should help you through the new rules – though please note that the ultimate responsibility for checking every step of the way falls to you, dear owner.

Can I take my pet abroad on holiday?

Does the Pet Passport still exist?

Since Brexit, taking your much-loved family pet to the European Union (EU) or Northern Ireland (NI) is, thankfully, still entirely possible – it just needs planning!

Pet Passports issued in Great Britain (GB) are no longer accepted in the EU or NI and have been replaced by an Animal Health Certificate (AHC).

Only dogs, cats and ferrets can travel on an AHC; for any other species of pet, you must check the entry requirements of the country you are visiting.

Stop press!! On 15 September 2021, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA announced that checks on all pet dogs, cats and ferrets travelling from GB to NI would be suspended indefinitely while negotiations between the UK government and EU continue. Head to the DAERA website for more details.

How long does it take to get an Animal Health certificate?

You need to plan well ahead to do everything necessary before your departure.

You must also plan for your return, since, if you are travelling with a canine companion, you’ll need to visit a vet before you come back to GB from the EU (though not if you are returning from Malta, Finland, Norway, NI or the Republic of Ireland).

See the appropriate section below to work out your timescale.

What do I have to do to get an Animal Health Certificate?

Depending on both your starting point and your destination, select the section(s) that applies to your journey to see the summary of what you’ll need, including correct documentation, Rabies vaccination, microchipping and tapeworm treatment for your pet.

  • Section 1 covers travel with your pet from GB to the EU or NI
  • Section 2 covers travel from the EU or NI to GB, whether returning at the end of a holiday or visiting GB from your home in the EU.
  • Section 3 covers travel with your pet to the EU or GB from NI, where the rules are different and you still require Rabies vaccination and a valid Pet Passport (not an AHC) as part of the Pet Travel Scheme.

Please note that if you have a pet passport issued in an EU country then you can still use this to take your pet to the EU or NI and you do not need an AHC for your pet.

Section 1

Travelling from GB to the EU or NI

Make sure that you read all the relevant sections below!

1a) For all dogs, cats and ferrets and all journeys in this category:

If you are heading to NI, see the Stop press announcement at the beginning of our blog and follow the link to check this is still current. Otherwise, these are the rules:

  • Your pet must first be microchipped, before or at the time of Rabies vaccination
  • Your pet must then be vaccinated against Rabies* and this must be at least 21 days before your trip
  • You must visit a vet who is an Official Vet (O.V.) to get an AHC issued, no more than 10 days before travelling. Take proof of the microchipping date and the Rabies vaccination to your appointment.
  • Check whether Section 1b below will apply to you.
  • You must enter the EU or NI only through a designated Travellers' Point of Entry (TPE). The Eurotunnel terminal and all major ports are TPEs and here you may need to present your AHC along with proof of your pet’s microchip, their Rabies vaccination and their Tapeworm treatment (if required).

*The primary vaccination for Rabies is a single injection, at or after 12 weeks of age.

Rabies boosters are generally required every 3 years; check on your vaccination certificate or AHC to find out when a booster injection is due.

Blood tests following Rabies vaccination are not now required for the journeys covered in this article.

How long is an Animal Health Certificate valid for?

Your pet’s AHC will be valid for entry into the EU or NI for 10 days from the date of issue (which is classed as Day 1) and onward travel within the EU or NI and re-entry to GB for 4 months after the date of issue.

Can I make multiple trips with my pet on an AHC?

No! Your pet will need a new Animal Health Certificate for each trip to the EU or NI.

1b) For dogs only, travelling directly to NI, the Republic of Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta:

Your dog will require tapeworm treatment (against Echinococcus multilocularis).

This must be done by an Official Vet (OV), no less than 24 hours and no more than 5 days (120 hours) before arriving in any of these countries, and written up on your AHC.

How many pets can I have on one AHC?

You can travel with up to five pets on a single Animal Health Certificate.

To take more, you must either provide written evidence that they are taking part in a competition, exhibition or sporting event or comply with different animal health rules for the commercial import of animals into the EU.

Further information can be found at www.gov.uk/taking-your-pet-abroad

What do I need to do for repeat trips to the EU or NI?

  • Your pet will need a new AHC for each trip to the EU or NI (as outlined above).
  • If the Rabies vaccination is up-to-date, it will not need to be repeated.
  • Your dog will require repeat Tapeworm treatment if travelling to NI, Republic of Ireland, Malta, Norway or Finland (as outlined above).

Section 2

Entering or returning to Great Britain from the EU or NI

This section will apply whether you are returning to GB from the EU or NI after your holiday, visiting GB from your home in the EU, or returning to GB permanently.  

What documents do I need to return to GB from the EU?

Your pet must have one of the following when returning to GB from the EU. Click here for details of Part 1 and Part 2 listed countries (G.B. itself is Part 2 listed since leaving the EU):

  • The AHC issued in GB, which can be used for up to 4 months from issue – the same document that you went to the EU with at the start of your holiday.
  • An EU pet passport (issued in the EU or GB before 1 January 2021) – this is what you are likely to have if you are entering GB with your pet after living in the EU
  • A pet passport from a Part 1 listed country such as Madeira, Gibraltar or Norway.
  • A U.K. pet health certificate, issued for travel into GB only, from a Part 2 listed country such as Australia, Canada or Barbados, this option being only for pet owners living abroad outside the EU.

What route can I use to return to G.B?

You can only enter GB via certain travel routes and companies, so check carefully – though all major ferry routes and the Eurotunnel are accepted.

Your pet’s documents and microchip will be checked when entering GB.

Owners of assistance dogs returning from the EU do not have to travel on an approved route but must notify the Traveller’s Point of Entry (TPE) in advance of their journey.

Have I got to visit a vet before returning to GB?

For dogs only, treatment against tapeworms is required before entering GB:

  • You must make an appointment for treatment by an Official Vet (OV) in the country that you are travelling from.
  • This treatment must be approved in the country where it is applied and must contain the ingredient praziquantel.
  • It must be given no less than 24 hours and no more than 5 days before arriving in the UK.
  • The OV must record the treatment on your pet’s travel documents.

If you are going on a short break, you can have this tapeworm treatment given here, before you leave the UK – as long as you are back in the UK within 120 hours from when it was given!

Note: you don’t need to treat your dog for tapeworm if you are coming directly to the GB from NI, the Republic of Ireland, Finland, Malta or Norway, as these countries do not have the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis.

Do I need documents to enter GB from NI, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man?

No! Though to visit Northern Ireland from GB, you will require an AHC.

Further information:

For government guidance about travelling with your pet to and from GB, including travel outside of the EU, go to www.gov.uk/taking-your-pet-abroad

Section 3

Travelling to the EU or GB from Northern Ireland

If you live in Northern Ireland and want to travel abroad with your pet, the rules are different, because the EU Pet Travel Regulation continues to apply between NI and EU Member States. So, what does this mean for you and your pet?

  • You don’t need any documents to take your dog, cat or ferret to GB if you are not returning to NI, though it is a legal requirement that all dogs over 8 weeks old are microchipped.
  • If you are travelling to GB and then returning to NI, your pet must be microchipped and rabies vaccinated before obtaining a EU Pet Passport for NI travellers (or an AHC for GB travellers).
  • Note that pet passports issued in GB are no longer valid but NI pet owners can have their passports updated by their vet in NI, to allow them to travel before the new style UK (NI) pet passports are ready.
  • There is no change to the requirements for travelling with pets within the EU (including the Republic of Ireland) if you are travelling from NI.
  • As before, travel within the EU under the Pet Travel Scheme means your pet will need: – a microchip, implanted before the Rabies vaccination. – a Rabies vaccination (your pet must be at least 12 weeks old). – a minimum of 21 days from the date of the vaccine was administered before travelling – tapeworm treatment for dogs if you are travelling directly to Finland, Republic of Ireland, Norway or Malta – a valid EU pet passport

Does my dog need tapeworm treatment travelling to NI from the EU?

Yes! Everything in Section 2 under the heading “Have I got to visit a vet before returning to GB?” applies to you.

How do I get a new style UK (NI) Pet Passport?

You can contact your vet in NI to obtain a new style UK (NI) pet passport. This is a full list of veterinary practices that are participating in the Northern Ireland Pet Passport Scheme. Further information and guidance about travelling with your pet or assistance dog from NI to the EU or GB can be found from DAERA here.

A final word for all travellers with their pets….

The Vet on the Net team is more than happy to answer questions and guide you through the preparation for travel, whether you live in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.

They will also discuss what other, preventative treatments your pet can have, both before you go and while you are away, helping to protect them from diseases that they don’t usually meet in the UK.

Happy holidays!