At present we are still in the Brexit transition period during which most travel rules – for both humans and animals – stay the same.
But when the transition period ends on December 31st that will change, and the British government is now warning pet owners that they should begin preparations for travel at least four months in advance.
So if if you want to make a trip in January, you need to begin preparations in September.
At present the EU Pet Passport scheme allows for fairly frictionless travel for four-legged companions but that will no longer apply to the UK once the transition period ends.
From January, the UK needs to become a listed country in order to keep restrictions on pet travel light.
But with just five months to go this has not been agreed, and the UK still needs to thrash out a raft of other agreements with the EU, as well as the small matter of a trade deal.
The UK government's Brexit web page is therefore now telling pet owners: “To make sure your pet is able to travel from the UK to the EU from 1 January 2021, you should contact your vet at least 4 months before travelling to get the latest advice.”
The latest British government advice. Find more information on the UK government page here.
If the UK does not become listed before January 1st 2021, this is what will happen.
Going from the UK to the EU
1. Firstly if your dog, cat or ferret is not already, it needs to be microchipped.
2. Your pet then needs to have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after its most recent rabies vaccination (whether that is a vaccination or a booster).
3. Your vet then needs to send the blood sample to an EU approved blood testing laboratory (of which there are only two in the UK) which will check that your pet has the correct level of rabies antibodies in its blood. If the level is not high enough, then your pet will need a booster vaccine.
4. You cannot travel until three months after a successful rabies test.
5. When you get to within 10 days of your travel date, you then need to get an animal health certificate from your vet. To get the certificate you will need to provide; proof that your pet is microchipped, its vaccination history and the successful rabies antibody test result. The certificate will only be accepted at the border if it has been issued within 10 days of your date of travel.
6. You do not need a new blood test every time you travel, but you will need a new animal health certificate for each trip.
Going from the EU to the UK
Going the other way is easier, because the UK has stated that for the moment it will continue to accept Pet Passports. Your Pet Passport and microchip information will be checked at the border.
Tapeworm requirements for dogs will not change from the current system.
Going from the UK to the EU if you live in the EU
Good news for people who are resident in an EU country, as their waiting time for travel after the rabies test is slightly shorter – instead of waiting three months after a successful test they only need to wait 30 days, as long as the test is carried out in an EU country.
If you don't have the correct paperwork your pet could be put into quarantine for up to four months or they might be refused entry if you travelled by sea, and you will be held responsible for any fees or charges.
The above rules apply for all unlisted countries, which the UK will become automatically if an arrangement it not reached before December 31st. If the UK does gain listed status, the restrictions are lighter and the waiting times after rabies tests are generally shorter.
There are full details on the UK government site here, or there is a helpline on 0370 241 1710 which is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm (UK time) except on bank holidays.