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Practical tips for pet travel abroad post Brexit

kayley_maxwell

19 June 2021

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Great Britain is most definitely a nation of pet owners, as the recent boom in pet ownership during the pandemic has shown. However, as travel starts to open up again slowly, many of us will be thinking about what to do with our pets when it comes to holidays. Of course, one option is to put them into kennels or a cattery, or perhaps to have someone come and look after them. But why not consider taking your pet on holiday with you instead? Pet travel abroad is not as difficult as it first seems. After all, they’re part of the family and can join in with your adventures!

Planning ahead

But before you reach for the ‘book’ button, there are some things to consider. First of all, is your pet happy to travel? Some dogs and cats can suffer from car sickness, anxiety or stress (although if they do, speak to your vet, as medication can help). If you’re going to be making a road trip, then make sure you plan everything with your pet in mind. You might consider rationing their food intake – little and often is better than a large meal. You’ll also need to stop every 2-3 hours for a comfort break, give them time to stretch their legs and have a good drink of water. One of the advantages of paying tolls to drive on French motorways is the availability of large, open places to walk dogs on a lead well away from the traffic (unlike Germany or Italy).

A perfect (and safe) way to travel

Eurotunnel 

If you’re considering pet travel abroad and going to be driving, then the Eurotunnel is a fantastic option. Your pet will stay in the vehicle with you for the crossing, so that you can reassure them, and it’s super-quick. There’s also a walk/play area after check-in with agility equipment to help them let off a bit of steam. Anyone who has a reactive dog might want to give it a wide berth though, unless it’s completely empty!

Accommodation

Another plus point for driving in Europe is that there are lots of pet-friendly hotels available that can be found with a simple online search: something of a blessing for those of us who usually struggle to find somewhere to stay with our pets in the UK. Usually, you only have to pay 5 or 10 Euros extra per pet. And, even better, in some countries, your pet is allowed into restaurants with you. In Italy, for example, unless it specifically states that dogs are not allowed, they can go with you. You’ll probably even find the restaurant owner offering a bowl of water, doggy treats and lots of fuss while you enjoy your meal!

Trying out the beds on the ferry

Ferries

If a ferry crossing features in your journey, then this does take some forward-planning. Definitely do your research beforehand and check on forums, not just the ferry website. Some companies insist that pets are put into a kennel/cattery area, and others that they remain in the vehicle (not great for pets that suffer from separation anxiety or cannot deal with the heat experienced on a car deck). The best option is to find a ferry company that allows pets on deck or pets in cabins. Many overnight ferries will offer a pet cabin option for an additional fee. These are perfect for anyone travelling with a reactive pet – and you can usually get a good night’s sleep into the bargain. However, do think about your pet’s toileting needs, particularly for very long ferry journeys. This is where the forums are perfect as you can ask other veterans of pet travel abroad how they’ve got around these issues.

Plan your return

Before you head back home, there are also some things to consider. You’ll need to find a local vet to administer the worming tablets within five days before landing back in Britain. So, make sure you seek one out and book an appointment if necessary (many now have online booking systems that make life much easier). 

If travelling back via Eurotunnel to Britain, you’ll need to go to the pet check-in centre, where your documents will be examined, and your pet scanned for its microchip.

Although it requires a good degree of research and planning, taking your dog abroad (or any pet for that matter) and sharing adventures together is an absolute joy, as you can see from this well-travelled dog!

Happy to be in the sun

Documentation

Entering the EU or Northern Ireland

Many people who have travelled in the past will have a pet passport for their beloved pet; however, you are no longer able to use a pet passport that has been issued in Great Britain to travel to EU countries or Northern Ireland. So if travelling to these countries, your pet must have the new animal health certificate or an EU pet passport issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland.

When travelling from the UK to any EU country or Northern Ireland, you must have the correct documents and vaccinations. Your pet will need the following (this also applies to service animals):

 

  • An animal health certificate. If you are a repeat traveller, your pet will need a new animal health certificate for each trip. The certificate is valid for four months.
  • A valid rabies vaccination 
  • A microchip
  • If travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta, you will need a tapeworm treatment for your pet. 

One of the key steps in planning pet travel abroad is to make sure you check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements. In particular, if you’re travelling with a dog, check that it’s not a banned breed in that country.

Swimming in Lake Garda

Travelling back to Britain

Pet travel to UK after Brexit has not changed that much, with the exception of requiring an animal health certificate if originating from Great Britain (rather than using the previous UK pet passport). When bringing a pet into the UK, the rules differ depending on which country you are travelling from. 

Your return pet transport to UK will require the following documentation and vaccinations: 

  • A microchip 
  • An EU pet passport or the new animal health certificate – the latter will need to be valid for four months for re-entry into Britain. 
  • A valid rabies vaccination – your pet will also need a blood test if travelling from a country that is not listed on the UK gov website
  • Dogs must also have a tapeworm treatment.

It’s important to make sure you have all the relevant documents and vaccinations for your pet before you enter the UK, as your pet may be put into quarantine for up to four months, and you will be required to pay for any fees or charges. 

Can I take my dog on a plane? 

The answer to this is yes, you can take your dog on a plane, although the rules will vary depending on the airline. Some airlines will allow you to take your dog in the cabin with you, as long as your pet pooch is small enough (usually below 5kg) to fit in a pet travel carrier under the seat in front of you. If your pup is bigger, they will need to go in the cargo hold. 

Before you travel, you will need to check that the company you are travelling with will accept your pet to travel and, if travelling with more than one pet, how many they will accept. Also, you will be required to check if the company requires proof that your pet is fit to travel; this can be a letter from your vet or having certain information in your pet passport. Finally, make sure you have authorisation in writing if somebody else will be travelling with your pet.

Essential items for a stress-free road trip

Having organised all the relevant certificates, ensured that the vaccinations are up to date and the microchip scans correctly, now you can start packing for your adventure! We would suggest the following items to make your pet’s experience is a good one:

  • Suitable pet travel carrier to ensure the safety and security of your pet
  • Travel sickness medication from your vet or a calming spray if your pet gets stressed
  • Keep your vet’s details handy in case you need to make a call for advice. 
  • Water and food bowls (take a large container of water that you can use for topping up) 
  • Lead and a spare for dogs (a long line is perfect if your dog’s recall is not 100%)
  • Collar with name tag (ensure it has contact details for when you are away)
  • Muzzle for dogs – some ferry companies insist that all dogs are muzzled while onboard
  • Any medication your pet requires
  • Update your details on their microchip ID/add your temporary address 
  • Bucket, disinfectant, wipes or cloths in case of accidents or sickness
  • Poop bags
  • Bed/toys 
  • Towels for dogs that like to take a dip in water
  • First aid kit (bandages and antibiotic powder are very handy for cuts and bites)
  • Tick remover 
  • Note that pet food (wet or dry) containing meat derivatives is no longer permitted. If your pet requires a special diet for medical reasons, you are only permitted 2kg – so plan carefully. Otherwise, if you are using the Eurotunnel, you can stop off in Calais to stock up on both pet and human food for the rest of your journey.
Look out for dedicated dog beaches

Final thoughts

There’s no doubt that there is great joy to be had in bringing your pet with you on holiday. Some people have even taken the concept of a pet even further, such as the German girl who enjoys regular trips abroad with her donkey!

For the rest of us, although the paperwork, rules and regulations can appear somewhat daunting, particularly now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, with a good dose of organisation and planning, pet travel abroad can be great fun, and there is no reason not to continue enjoying those wonderful trips together.