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Taking Pets Overseas: Essential EU Rules

Traveling from the UK to Europe with the family pooch is not uncommon nowadays. Major ferry companies report huge increases in continental pet travel on popular south coast channel routes.

PET TRAVEL: The wellbeing and comfort of your dog or cat must be your primary practical consideration.

Taking pets overseas needs a little preparation and some knowledge of the rules for flights or car journeys with animals.

So, before you take your pet on holiday abroad, take a moment to review the EU pet travel rules. This article includes essential information on rabies vaccinations, pet passports, and worming.

P&O ferries carry around 20,000 dogs and cats per year on their popular Dover-Calais route.

The growing trend on animal vacations is popular with EU member countries. As a rule, the EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows easy cross-border travel for animals often without requiring quarantine.

There is overwhelming popularity in pet travel overseas. But, all dog lovers should not overlook the facts. Pet journeys in planes or vehicles can be stressful even for some tame animals. So, it is reasonable to accept that cats and dogs are usually more comfortable traveling in cars and large boats.

But, pet owners must always choose a travel option that suits the pet’s best interest and safety. Choosing whether to take them away with you, or leave them in comfortable surroundings with trusted care at home, is a tough decision.

The EU Pet Travel Scheme

EU Pet Travel rules apply to most cross-border journeys. It covers those within continental Europe for pet dogs and cats. But, it may not be the relevant law in other countries. European Union rules state that your pet will need:

  • An EU Pet Passport.
  • A Micro Chip (fitted before rabies injection).
  • A Rabies Vaccination (21 days before travelling).
  • Tapeworm Treatment is also required for dogs.

Special Notes for Taking Pets Overseas

  1. Taking Pets Overseas with UK PassportsThe vet should record the pet’s microchip number on the pet rabies vaccination documentation.
  2. Dogs must have the treatment for tapeworm one to five days (24 – 120 hours) before their arrival back into the UK.
  3. The pet should travel out of the UK via an authorized carrier and route during the journey abroad:
    • Most of the large reputable ferry companies meet this requirement for sea travel.
    • Check the Defra www.gov.uk listings if you are planning an air route for your animal.
    • Live animals are not allowed on many budget airlines including easyJet and Ryanair.
    • But, most low-cost operators often make exceptions for
      guide dogs.

4. Obtain and sign a ‘declaration of owner not accompanying pet during its journey‘ if you do not travel with your pet.

The document is available on the Defra website. The form must go with the pet and its passport throughout the journey. As a rule, this avoids extra inspections and charges on arrival.

RSPCA Guidelines for Taking Pets Overseas

The guidelines and recommendations by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are specific. The RSPCA issues guidelines about a pet’s welfare while travelling abroad. A ‘Transporting Your Pet‘ factsheet is available at rspca.org.uk

  • You should never leave animals unattended inside a car on a hot day.
  • Leave some windows open for ventilation if an animal is in the car.
  • The temperature inside a vehicle can reach 117F within an hour if the outside temperature is 72F (22 Celsius).
  • Check the rail company’s pet policy and inform their staff if you intend to travel by train with a pet.
  • Pets might need to remain in the car or in a designated container area during a ferry journey.
  • Like certain other hand luggage restrictions, animals cannot travel in aircraft cabins and must travel in the hold. There is an exception allowed for registered guide dogs.


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