On Taking Dogs to the UK

Mar 28, 2012    /    luna the traveling pooch, travel how-tos

I’m leaving for Europe in a couple months. God, it feels good to say that. Leaving. Europe. Couple months.

But I digress. The reason for this post is all of the research I’ve been doing on traveling abroad with your dog. Obviously, it’s a couple months before I leave, but I thought this information would be useful to a number of you…so I’m posting it early. Once I actually travel with Luna, I will update this research to reflect anything unforeseen and/or talk about my own journey as well. But, for now…here’s what my research has yielded.

UPDATE: We are here in Scotland, safe and sound and happy. Research below is updated to reflect our full experiences.

Please note that these directions are for taking your dog from the US to the UK. BUT, they also generally apply to the EU or listed non-EU countries (like Argentina or Australia). You should double-check things if you are coming from an unlisted third country.

Luna to-go

Okay. Steps.

1. Research the UK’s current regulations. I’m going to tell you what they are. But things change. So you should always double-check the requirements before you take my word for stuff. For current UK requirements, visit DEFRA.

2. Get your pup microchipped. Microchips must comply with international standards (for Europe in general and the UK specifically, this means ISO norms #11784 and #11785, which is a 15-digit chip). Note that you must have your pet microchipped FIRST—before you do any of these other steps.

http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/travel/pets/pet-owners/

3. Get your pup vaccinated against rabies. After he/she is microchipped, you’ll have to get a rabies shot…even if he/she is already vaccinated. Make sure to do this at least 21 days before you leave the US, as the UK has a 21-day waiting period after the shot before your dog can enter.

Please note that the UK only recognizes the rabies vaccine as good for one year (the same vaccine in the US is good for three years), so your dog’s vaccine must be more than 21 days old and less than 12 months old when you go to the UK.

4. Treat your dog for tapeworm. Tapeworm treatment should happen one to five days before you leave. Your vet will need to put the tapeworm information on the veterinary form. (Tapeworm treatment, for those of you who don’t know, is just a pill your dog has to swallow. Easy. Quick. Painless.

5. Have your vet fill out a veterinary certificate. If you’re coming from the US (or another approved country), you’ll need to have your vet fill out a certificate (download it here). This lets the UK know that your dog is healthy and has its microchip and so forth.

NOTE THAT: your vet must be APHIS certified in order to fill out the certificate. If your vet isn’t APHIS certified, ask if they can recommend one that is. Or find an APHIS vet here.

NOTE THAT: The paperwork must be filled out within 5 days of departure (they say 10, but the tapeworm treatment must be within 5 days and you’ll need that treatment before you get your paperwork). Make your vet appointment and plan to visit the USDA office appropriately.

6. Get your USDA stamp of approval. After you have the treatment and your paperwork, your vet should fax the paperwork to the USDA to make sure everything is correct. Once the USDA responds with either changes (which your vet should make and then fax the paperwork back) or approval, you will need to call the nearest USDA office and ask for a time to get your paperwork stamped. (You can also overnight the paperwork to them sometimes along with a stamped and self-addressed envelope for them to overnight it back, but honestly I wouldn’t take the risk of it getting lost in the shuffle.)

Once you have a time, take your paperwork and your checkbook down to the USDA office and get everything stamped. They’ll charge a small fee (around $35) and they usually only take checks or money orders, so don’t forget your checkbook!

7. Travel on an approved route. You can get a list of approved routes on the embassy website. As of this writing, they include: Manchester or London via plane, as well as a number of ferry or train destinations from mainland Europe (and Cunard Cruise Lines from New York).

PLEASE NOTE: you’ll need to book a cargo spot for your dog and notify the airport/arrival authorities of your arrival date and time to get pre-approval. For Manchester airport, the appropriate authorities are Pets on Jets; for other airports or routes, the authorities may vary and you should be able to find the latest contact info on the DEFRA website. You’ll need to pay a fee (as of this writing, 300 pounds) and fax over your vet forms and they’ll send you a form which approves your dog for transport (letting the airline know it’s okay to send him/her over). Then, they’ll meet you at the airport (or ferry or whatever), make sure your dog’s microchip matches your paperwork (by scanning the microchip and comparing the number to your paperwork), and approve your dog for entry into the country.

PLEASE NOTE: as of this writing, the UK does not allow animals to come in as carry-ons, even if they are tiny. The only exception to this rule is service animals and ESAs.

If you don’t want to have your 20-lb-or-less dog be cargo, you can often carry him/her on to other European countries and bring him/her into the UK via ferry or train on certain approved routes. This means going first to somewhere like France or Belgium, getting a pet passport (and the tapeworm treatment), and then heading to the UK on an approved ferry or train.

[NOTE: You should also always travel with copies of your rabies vaccination paperwork. You will need it in order to re-enter the U.S. and some airlines require it in general as well.]

Finally, here’s the official DEFRA documentation.

And when it’s time to return to the US? The current rules for returning to the US from the UK are simple: you just need your dog’s up-to-date rabies certificate (if the vaccine was given in the US, the US recognizes it for three years, unlike the UK which only recognizes it as good for one year). Paperwork-wise, that’s it! The only other things you’ll have to wrangle are your travel plans (finding a pet-friendly airline, booking your dog as cargo or finding an airline that will allow your dog to fly in-cabin from the UK, etc.).

* This blog entry and other entries on this site are not intended as legal advice and may contain incomplete information. It is your responsibility to research and confirm all information provided herein. This is just the results of my own inquiries and experiences.

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23 Comments
  • Montecristo Travels
    March 29, 2012

    Wow – very very good! Clear and the easiest way to understand it all I have come across!! Well done!!!!

  • Gigi
    March 29, 2012

    Thank you! I hope all my research can help some other would-be pet travelers! And we’ll update this once we get to Europe if there are any other things to note.

  • Michelle @ Have Pet Will Travel
    March 29, 2012

    Hi Gigi,

    Excellent! Thank you for the handy links, downloadable docs and certificate. Looking forward to following you and Luna when you are there! Have a wonderful time!

  • Jorja
    May 8, 2013

    Hi Gigi,

    Great post! I was wondering if my dog needs any paperwork other than the vet certificate? What is the “microchip certificate” and the “rabies shot certificate” exactly? Are these things I should ask my vet for at the time of getting the chip/shot or do they come with the health certificate?

    Thanks!

    • gigigriffis
      May 8, 2013

      Hi Jorja,

      The only paperwork is:

      1) The veterinary certificate (which includes the microchip number and rabies information).

      And

      2) A copy of your original rabies certificate (which your vet can print out for you at any time – it’s basically one sheet of paper that says the vet vaccinated your dog against rabies and says when the vaccine was given – what’s important to remember here is that the UK only recognizes the rabies shot for one year, not three like the US).

      I recommend having your vet sign the rabies certificate in blue ink.

      and

      3) Depending what route you take in (see step 6 above), whatever authority you notify of your dog’s arrival should also send you a confirmation that you’ll need to carry with you. They usually email or fax this after they’ve seen your paperwork (I scanned and emailed mine to them a day before departure) and you’ve paid their fee.

      I don’t think there’s any such thing as a microchip certificate, though I do have a slip of paper that has my microchip number on it (I’ve never had to pull that out though).

      As long as you do all the steps in the right order, the veterinary certificate (stamped by the USDA), rabies certificate, and confirmation from the arrival folks should be all you need on arrival.

      Hope that helps!

      • Jorja
        May 8, 2013

        Thank you so much!

        And as far as you know, there are still no airlines that will allow her to fly with me as a carry-on from NY to London? She’s a mini dachshund.

      • gigigriffis
        May 8, 2013

        Sadly, no. It’s not the airlines that make the rules on that one. The UK has a law against pets flying into the country. That said, you CAN fly into Paris or Brussels or somewhere else in mainland Europe with a small dog in-cabin (just depends on the airline, but many of them fly in-cabin small pets) and then get a pet passport and take your dog across to London via ferry or car if you don’t want to stick her in cargo.

      • gigigriffis
        May 8, 2013

        Unless, of course, your dog is a service animal or ESA. If it is, you’ll need documentation, but it can ride in-cabin.

  • Roxanne
    March 12, 2014

    Do you have any advice on picking a dog carrier that can be used in cabin on most international flights? Believe it or not, i’m having the hardest time finding one in a pet store. Most pet stores claim their carrier is IATA approved, but they look flimsy or the more rigid ones don’t look like they would fit under a seat. I also have two dogs which are about 12 lbs (or less) each.

    • gigigriffis
      March 12, 2014

      Hi Roxanne!

      I use the Sleepypod Air. It’s flexible enough to smoosh a little if the seat is a little low, but rigid enough to keep its shape. I’ve had mine for over two years now and it’s still holding up great. Luna loves it (I always leave it open on the floor in our places and whenever she is feeling nervous, she goes inside; I call it her safe space). And, of course, with our lifestyle, I use it all the time. I’ve had to replace the bottom padding once (but it’s removable and replaceable, so no big deal there), but otherwise the thing is basically like new.

      I’ve flown with it on Delta, Volaris, and United (if I am recalling correctly) and traveled with it on a variety of trains and buses of varying seat sizes as well.

      Here’s a much longer review of it: http://gigigriffis.com/things-i-love-sleepypod-air-a-review/

      Hope that helps!

  • Mary Russell
    May 8, 2015

    Thank you gigigriffis for all the great information

  • Helen
    November 8, 2015

    I absolutely love this! I plan on taking my baby girl from Australia to England in a year or so and this is very helpful

  • Jenna
    December 12, 2015

    This post is by far the best info I have come across with regards to preparing to travel with my esa dog to the UK! Thank you so much!!

    My only issue I seem to be having is with our airline (wowair)

    Emotional support animals aren’t recognized as service animals in the UK which means they are not allowed to travel the in cabin .- wow air had not mentioned this!!

    if anyone has had any luck getting their esa dog inside the cabin flying to the UK it would be greaty appreciated if you could share your experience!

    • gigigriffis
      December 12, 2015

      Hi Jenna,

      Luna was able to travel in cabin to the UK via Delta as an ESA. The UK does not allow pets to travel in cabin, so just make sure you specify you’re bringing an ESA and make sure you are clear with the arrival authorities, as they will need to meet you at the gate to check your dog’s microchip and paperwork. WOWAir, since they are not a US airline and since you’d probably be traveling through Iceland, may have different rules. (Layovers abroad change things, so it’s best to do a direct flight if you can.) But American-based airlines that fly directly to the UK should be fine as long as you cross your Ts and dot your Is.

  • Jenna
    December 13, 2015

    Thank you so much!

    I called gatwicks pet information desk & it now sound as if he will be allowed providing we sent them all the correct paperwork. THANK GOODNESS!

    We’re due to fly this coming Friday & have an appointment on Tuesday to get coopers pet passport.
    How long did it take for the USDA to stamp & send Luna’s vet certificate back to you?

  • GSW
    December 5, 2016

    On crossing UK/France via chunnel – I am researching because my wife doesn’t want her ESA dog in the hold so we might fly to Paris then train to Calais – there is a tax service called Folkstone Taxis that operate back and forth from Calais to Folkstone – sounds like a perfect solution to the Eurostar impass.

    • gigigriffis
      December 7, 2016

      Oh, if you’re flying from the states, your wife can fly with her ESA cabin. You just need to jump through a few extra hoops (contacting Pets on Jets or whatever airport authority receives dogs to have them meet you at the gate and paying them a hefty fee, for instance). American airlines are legally obligated to transport your dog from the US in cabin as long as you have the proper documentation. Just call before you book to make sure they’re not going to give you trouble. We flew Delta with no problems.

  • JBR
    April 5, 2017

    Dear Gigi,

    I am hoping you could help me answering a few questions :) Your posts has been really helpful so far!

    I recently moved to London from Norway (Paris by flight and then by car from Paris to London through the tunnel). I am currently having a break from my studies, because of a mental health related disability.

    Because of my boyfriends work, I was hoping to join him in New York for two months, but I won’t do it without my dog..

    My questions are:

    1) Can my current (norwegian) doctor issue a letter that meet the ESA requirements, or is it only american doctors who may do this?

    Further, if my doctor can issue the letter that meet the requirements:

    2) I understand that the easiest way to travel from the UK is with an american airline, because EU isn’t obliged by the ESA law. Is it easiest to fly out from Paris/Brussel or can you give any advise on traveling directly from UK to US with an ESA letter?

    3) Flying back from the US into the UK with my dog in cabin – I found this on Heathrow animal receptions centers website:
    “The UK recognises assistance dogs which are trained by an organisation that is a member of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) or Assistance Dogs International (ADI).
    Unrecognised assistance animals are those that do meet the criteria listed above. They are subject to a checking fee of £354 which the owner must pay direct to us.”
    Is this the fee you have to pay when your dog as an ESA arrives in cabin with an americal airline?

    Thank you so much in advance, any help will be much appreciated!

    • gigigriffis
      April 5, 2017

      Hey!

      1) I’m not sure about this. Your best bet would be to call the disability hotline of the airline you want to fly with and ask if they can accept a letter from a European professional. I’m guessing the answer is yes, but get them to confirm it and then have them email you that confirmation so that if anyone questions you about it at the airport you have confirmation (this is what I do anytime I have a question and get a confirmation on something from an airline – having a paper copy of the email is always a good idea just in case).

      2) I flew from London to the US via Delta Airlines with Luna. I think where I’d start is just finding a US airline route that works well for you and then contacting their disability hotline (usually regular customer service is less well informed about the regulations and policies) to confirm that you’ll be able to travel that route and confirm any current/updated requirements before you book.

      3) If you do fly from mainland Europe, it should be an easy matter. Even European airlines going to the US should recognize your ESA. Again, I usually just contact the airline before I book to make sure policies and regulations haven’t changed since the last time I flew.

      4) I did not have to pay any fee to have Luna in cabin on my Delta flight from US to Manchester in 2012. I did, however, have to pay Pets on Jets, which is the Manchester animal receiver. I believe the fee was around 200 or 250 pounds (though I don’t remember the exact amount since it’s been a few years). Here’s a piece I wrote on my whole process of bringing Luna to the UK: http://gigigriffis.com/how-to-take-your-dog-to-the-u-k/. Going to the UK from the US is a bit more tricky than the other way around (the paperwork is more complicated), but it’s definitely doable and unless something major has changed, you should still be able to take your ESA in cabin on a US carrier without paying a fee to the airline itself (just to the pet receiver who handles the route you choose).

      Hope that helps!

      • JBR
        April 6, 2017

        Thank you so much for getting back to me!

        I just spoke with the Animal Reception Center at Heathrow airport, who confirmed that I can bring my dog in cabin from the UK to the US without their involvement / paying fees. However, there is a fee to the reception center (366 pounds) when I’m getting back from the US into the UK. Also, I need to have a pet passport, rabies vaccine, microship and a tapeworm treatment – my dog already meet these requirements (except for the tapeworm treatment which he has to get in the US before flying back), so that isn’t to bad. I just need to send the reception center a copy of this before getting back, so that’s really positive! :-)

        I also called Delta Airlines, and it is not a problem that my doctor is European – the letter just has to meet the ESA requirements (as you listed in your article).

        Though, I was wondering if there is a more “official” site where I can find the specific requirements for the letter? I tried to search the internet, but I keep getting into websites trying to sell me an ESA document/letter.
        My own doctor would like to see exactly what he needs to write in order to meet the requirements.

        Thanks a lot for the good advise!

        • gigigriffis
          April 6, 2017

          I’m so glad it’s all getting sorted! The official requirements are the same ones listed on the airline website (I don’t think there’s a specific official template). The important thing is to make sure your doctor has the requirements listed on the Airline website. You can also ask the airline if you can email them a copy ahead of time to make sure it meets their requirements if you’re nervous.

        • gigigriffis
          April 6, 2017

          P.S. At first I thought you commented on my ESA post. That might answer any further questions if you haven’t already seen it: http://gigigriffis.com/the-skinny-on-emotional-support-animals/. Sorry for my confusion in linking to this one in my original answer!

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