When you move countries for work, retirement or other reasons, it’s easy to have a check list of all the things you need to do in terms of practicalities and paperwork. If it is just you or you and your family, responsibilities can be shared and systematically sorted out. But if you are moving your pets at the same time, it can be stressful for you and your menagerie. Huge consideration is needed, particularly if your pet has never travelled before, or only travelled on short car journeys.
Depending where you are moving to, each region has different complexities, but if you are part of the European Union, the red tape is far less – however, with the advent of Brexit, there may be changes in the current arrangements in the not too distant future.
Let’s make it clear – 85% or even more of the pets moved abroad are dogs and cats. The expatriation of the more exotic pets is not so easy and there are much stricter quarantine rules applied. For the purpose of this article, we are concentrating on dogs, as other animals will require different procedures in place, even though there are some basic similarities on rules of travel and entry to a foreign country.
Every dog will need a pet passport and these are easily obtainable from your local vet. It is imperative when obtaining a pet passport that you check all the details on it, just as you would your own. There is no way back if you arrive at a port or an airport terminal and the information is incorrect or incomplete. You will not be able to travel, and neither will your pet.
Pet Passports need to be obtained 21 days in advance (minimum) of travel. This is the current legislation but it is advisable to check as regulations may change in the future.
A pet passport is valid for life, but only if vaccinations are up to date.
You will not be able to purchase a pet passport if your dog is not microchipped, but as this is now a legal requirement in the UK, you should not have a problem as a diligent owner. Please check that the serial number on the chip is the same as the one on their passports**,** otherwise you will not be able to travel and the passport will be invalid.
Even though incidents of rabies in the UK and the majority of Europe are rare, a rabies vaccination is still required and this should be done at the same time as the passport is being processed issued. Check the date of the vaccine with your vet – rabies vaccinations usually last up to 3 years, but some still need renewing yearly if you intend to travel backwards and forwards between countries.
You will also need tapeworm treatment for your pet and this should be given up to 5 days before travel, but not less than 24 hours before. The treatment will also be marked down on your pet passport
Worldwide requirements will vary, so always ensure that you check the up to date and relevant vaccination rules for your destination. Just imagine the stress involved to you and your pet – you have packed up your home whether for holiday or a few years, and will somewhat be in no mans’ land if you cannot travel to your holiday or permanent home.
As a precaution, it is also wise to get a ‘fit to travel’ certificate from your vet, so that you have been comprehensive in all aspects of travel – it is also helpful and less stressful for you to know that your pet was in good health before you left the UK.
If your pet is prone to travel sickness, ask your vet to prescribe a light sedative or other recommended treatment for motion problems, to help them through the journey.
On arrival, or even before your final destination, research the nearest qualified vets to your location, just in case your pet picks up an infection or other malady on the journey. It will save time and upset. Familiarising them with their new territory is also advisable.
Some of your pets may be used to travelling relatively long distances by car and are quite happy at doing so. Others don’t take to it too kindly, and a new experience of travelling abroad can cause them distress.
When you love your pets, you will always make sure that they are comfortable and surrounded by familiar toys, favourite smells and their comforting bedding.
For Europe, the best way to travel is by cross channel ferry or Eurotunnel, even though it will take longer. If you are moving home, the likelihood is that you will take your car anyway. However, pets must stay in the car for the duration of the journey with no exceptions, which can obviously be quite daunting when coupled with the motion and unusual sounds. Stay with your pet, or make frequent visits back to reassure them. Some cross channel options do not actually allow you to leave the vehicle yourself when carrying a pet, so check on the latest rules and regulations of your carrier. Make sure they have water, but hold back on the food!
Consider crating your dog if you feel that it would be better and calmer for them. On arrival at your departure port in the UK, there are often recreational exercise areas (definitely at Dover), so take the opportunity of giving your pet a chance to get out of the car. Facilities such as these are also available in France.
There are many specialist ‘pet by air’ travel services, and for longer distances you may consider this option. Some of the services are totally run by trained vets to ensure that your pets travel in customised crates (dogs) for their comfort and peace. These services include up to date information on country requirements for your pet, passport information, vaccinations etc etc. They will also ensure that your pet will fly the shortest possible distance from departure to arrival. Crates are often sprayed with a special pheromone and lined with the most comfortable bedding to reassure your pet. Pets will be collected from your home and transported to the airport in suitable vans by trained handlers and kept happy and comfortable whilst they wait for their flight.
Your pet, unless a registered assistant dog will have to travel in the hold which is temperature controlled. On some flights to places within the USA, if they are toy dogs and under a certain weight, you may be allowed to take them in the cabin, but very few airlines allow it. Best to check the various options offered. It is obvious that adequate water and proper crating is paramount.
Important – with the advent of Brexit looming in a few months time, please do refer to the official UK Government website for up to date pet travel requirements at
Remember also, to insure your pet for travel abroad to cover any eventualities.