[UPDATE: Brexit may change UK-EU dog travel rules. Here’s the official page on the topic.]
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.
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.
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.