What is The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)? [2023 GUIDE]
What is better than going on holiday? Going on holiday with your beloved furry friend!
Under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), you are able to bring your dog, cat or ferret abroad with you. Regularly, it is wrongly assumed that pets must endure a painful length quarantine period when going abroad. However, with a Pet Passport, under the PETS your pet can travel through certain borders with ease. Generally, pets will require a microchip and a rabies vaccination to qualify for travel. However, different countries have additional requirements when it comes to importing and exporting pets.
In this article we will discuss the Pet Travel Scheme in detail.
Table of contents:
- What is the Pet Travel Scheme?
- What are the requirements to comply with the Pet Passport Scheme?
- What countries are included in the Pet Travel Scheme?
- What are the requirements for the UK Pet Travel Scheme?
- Which countries are exempt from quarantine under the Pets Travel Scheme?
- When was the Pet Travel Scheme introduced?
- What if my pet doesn’t pass the requirements for the Pet Travel Scheme?
- What is the most common reason for failing requirements for the PETS?
- Can my puppy or kitten travel with me?
- Are tattoos an acceptable form of identification?
- Is there a limit to the number of animals that can travel under the care of one person?
What is the Pet Travel Scheme?
The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is a system which allows animals to travel easily between member countries without undergoing quarantine. A pet passport is a document that officially records information related to a specific animal, as part of that procedure. The effect is to drastically speed up and simplify travel with and transport of animals between member countries, compared to previous procedures if the regulations are followed.
What are the requirements to comply with the Pet Travel Scheme?
Most countries require the following to qualify for travel:
- Microchipping – all dogs, cats and ferrets must have a microchip implant. A microchip is a permanent method of electronic identification. The chip, around the size of a grain of rice, is implanted subcutaneously (just under the skin) between the shoulder blades at the back of your pet’s neck. Each chip has a unique number that is detectable with a microchip scanner.
- Rabies vaccination – all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies. This procedure is mandatory even if your pet already has a current rabies vaccination. In this case, your pet will need a rabies booster to keep them up to date. For pet travel in Europe, the rabies vaccine should be administered by a veterinarian with a minimum of 21 days before travel. Some countries may differ and always check with your local veterinarian for the procedures to follow.
Some countries require the following to be permitted for entry:
- Tapeworm, tick and flea treatment – some countries require animals to be treated for ticks, fleas and tapeworms before boarding the outbound transport. There is usually a time restriction when it comes to administering these treatments. For example, a tapeworm treatment must be administered between 24 hours and 5 days before entering the UK, Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta.
- Additional vaccinations – some countries will require additional vaccinations, such as those against distemper, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, parvovirus, bordetella and hepatitis.
- Rabies blood test – some countries need evidence that your pet’s rabies vaccination is working by taking a rabies blood test (also known as Rabies Titer Test). Your pet’s blood sample will be taken by a vet and send to an approved laboratory for testing. Your pet’s blood must contain at least 0.5 IU/ml of the rabies antibody. Normally, you will then need to wait 3 months before traveling.
- Health certificate – many countries require a veterinarian’s letter or certificate confirming that your pet is fit and healthy to travel and has no obvious signs of disease.
- Government certification – in some cases, you will need to get health certificates approved. For example, all animals leaving the US must have their health certificates endorsed by the USDA.
In some countries, the formal passport is needed. However, others will accept documentation in any form so long as it provides clear evidence of the procedure being followed.
Requirements vary widely between countries, so it is best to check those for your destination country before traveling with your pet.
In the next section we will discuss which countries are included in the Pet Travel Scheme, making it easier to travel.
What countries are included in the Pet Travel Scheme?
With an EU Pet Passport, dogs, cats and ferrets can travel freely within the EU, and some non-EU countries without quarantine. The countries in each category are listed below.
EUROPEAN UNION (EU) COUNTRIES AND TERRITORIES
|Czech Republic||Denmark||Estonia||Faroe Islands|
|Finland *||France||French Guiana||Germany|
* When traveling to UK, Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta, dogs must have a tapeworm treatment within 24 hours to 120 hours (1-5 days) of entry.
** Includes St Barthelemy and St Martin (French part of the island)
LISTED NON-EU COUNTRIES
|Andorra||Antigua and Barbuda||Argentina||Aruba|
|Belarus||Bermuda||BES Islands(Bonair, Saint Eustatius and Saba)(6)||Bosnia-Herzegovina|
|British Virgin Islands||Canada||Cayman Islands||Chile|
|Croatia||Curacao (5)||Falkland Islands||Fiji|
|French Polynesia||Guam||Hawaii||Hong Kong|
|Monaco||Montserrat||New Caledonia||New Zealand|
|Norway||Russian Federation *||Saint Maarten ***||San Marino|
|Singapore||St Helena||St Kitts and Nevis||St Lucia|
|St Pierre and Miquelon||St Vincent and the Grenadines||Switzerland||Taiwan|
|Trinidad and Tobago||United Arab Emirates **||USA ****||Vanautu|
|Vatican||Wallis and Futuna|
* The Russian Federation consists of 88 subjects (regions). Please note that the following Republics are not part of the Russian Federation: Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
** The UAE consists of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Al Fujairah.
*** Formally known as the Netherland Antilles. The BES Islands are Bonair, Saint Eustatius and Saba.
**** The mainland United States of America as well as American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
An unlisted country is any country not listed above.
These countries have not applied or been accepted for listed status because of higher rabies incidence or less robust veterinary or administrative systems. The rules for taking your pets to these countries, or returning to the EU from these countries are different than they are for EU member states and listed countries.
What are the requirements for the UK Pet Travel Scheme
Traveling to the UK from an EU or listed non-EU country
When traveling to the UK from an EU or listed non-EU country, your pet will need the following:
- A microchip – this is the first procedure you should consider. A microchip has a number unique to your pet and will help authorities to properly identify them. You must get this first, as a rabies vaccination is invalidated without a microchip number attached to it. If you get your pet’s rabies vaccination before getting a microchip, it will not count.
- Rabies Vaccination – your pet will need to be vaccinated against rabies. Even if your pet already has a current rabies vaccination, he or she will need an additional rabies boosters. Immediately after your pet has been vaccinated, make sure that your veterinary has recorded the subsequent information on you pet’s medical documents
- date of birth/age
- microchip number
- when and where the microchip was inserted
- vaccination date and product name
- date its booster vaccination is due
- batch number
- Tapeworm treatment – before entering the UK, all pet dogs (including assistance dogs) must be treated for tapeworm. The treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1–5 days) before its scheduled arrival time in the UK. (There is no mandatory requirement for tick treatment. No treatment is required for dogs entering the UK from Finland, Ireland or Malta).
- To travel with an approved transport company on an authorised route – your pet must travel with companies and on routes that have been approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (previously known as the Animal Health and Laboratories Agency). In case of pets travelling by plane, the company may assign those checks to a third party, i.e. the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow airport.
- List of authorised carriers and routes can be found here.
There may be some additional requirements if you are traveling to the UK from an unlisted non-EU country. Please refer to the section below if you are travelling from an unlisted. non-EU country.
Traveling to the UK from an unlisted non-EU country
When traveling to the UK from an unlisted non-EU country your pet will need the following:
- A microchip – this is the first procedure which you need to consider. The microchip will help authorities to properly identify your pet. You must get this first, as a rabies vaccination is invalid without a microchip number attached to it. If you get your pet’s rabies vaccination before getting a microchip, it will not count.
- Rabies Vaccination – you need to vaccinate your pet against rabies. This procedure is compulsory even if your pet already has a current rabies vaccination. In this case, your pet will need a rabies booster to keep them up to date. When you take your pet to get vaccinated, make sure that your veterinary has recorded the following information on you pet’s medical documents:
- date of birth/age
- microchip number
- when and where the microchip was inserted
- vaccination date and product name
- batch number
- date its immunisation vaccination is due
- Rabies blood test / rabies titer test certificate – all dogs, cats and ferrets must have passed a rabies blood test to show that their rabies vaccination was successful. Your veterinarian must take your pets blood and send it off to an EU Approved Laboratory. Your pet’s blood sample must show at least 0.5 IU/ml of the rabies antibody. You must then wait 3 months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you are permitted to travel.
- Tapeworm treatment – before entering the UK, all dogs must be treated against tapeworm. This even applies to dogs who reside in the UK and are returning from being abroad. The treatment must be administered by a vet between 24 hours and 120 hours (1–5 days) before your scheduled arrival time in the UK. (No treatment is required for dogs entering the UK from Finland, Ireland or Malta).
- Animal Health Certificate (AHC) – you must obtain an AHC from an authorised veterinarian no more than 10 days before travel. Make sure that your vet is authorised to issue AHCs before booking your appointment. The AHC will be valid for:
- 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU
- onward travel within the EU for 4 months after the date of issue
- re-entry to the UK for 4 months after the date of issue
- To travel with an approved transport company on an authorised route – your pet must travel with companies and on routes that have been approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (previously known as the Animal Health and Laboratories Agency). List of authorised carriers and routes can be found here.
Make sure your vet gives you copies of all of your pet’s veterinary treatments and vaccinations certificates. They must all contain the date of treatment.
Can I fly with a dog to the UK?
Yes, but only under specific circumstances.
British law bans all animals entering the UK either in the airplane cabin or as ‘checked or ‘excess’ baggage. Therefore, your pet (except guide dogs*) will need to travel in the aircraft hold as manifest cargo. Unfortunately many airlines do not offer cargo services, so quite often specialist pet travel agents must be used.
Furthermore, there are very strict rules when it comes to the carrier or crate that your pet travels in. You must ensure that the container is International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved. There are strict rules regarding the material, size and construction of the crate. You can find full details here.
UK law does not prohibit the transport of pets in the cabin or as hold baggage when departing from the UK. However, restrictions may be imposed by individual airlines or destination countries.
Which countries are exempt from quarantine under the Pets Travel Scheme?
Pets traveling between EU and listed non-EU countries
Pets traveling between EU and listed non-EU countries can travel freely without enduring a length quarantine. This is as long as they comply with the Pet Travel Scheme requirements (microchip and rabies vaccination). For more details on the requirements, check the ‘What are the requirements to comply with the Pet Travel Scheme?’ section above.
This is as long as pets are transported by an authorised travel carrier on an authorised route. More information on authorised carriers and routes can be found here.
For information on how to get an EU Pet Passport, check How to get an EU Pet Passport.
Pets traveling to an EU country from an unlisted country
When traveling from an unlisted country to a listed country, your pet will be able to avoid quarantine as long as you follow the EU entry requirements (microchip, rabies vaccination, blood sample at least 30 days after vaccination). You will then wait a further three months after the blood sample was taken. For more details on entry requirements, check the ‘What are the requirements to comply with the Pet Travel Scheme?’ section above.
This is as long as pets are transported by an authorised travel company on an authorised route. More information on authorised carriers and routes can be found here.
Pets traveling to or between unlisted countries
When traveling between non-listed countries, it gets a little more complicated as each country can have different entry requirements. We recommend that you check for your specific destination country, if it isn’t listed above.
When was the Pet Travel Scheme introduced?
The Pet Travel Scheme was initially set up in 2000 as a control measure to prevent rabies, ticks and other diseases from entering the UK. Prior to this, the UK was known for having very tough checks to protect against rabies. Bringing pets to the UK meant serving an obligatory 6 month quarantine period. Over time the program has rolled out to other countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Pet Travel Scheme has gone through many changes since 2000, making it easier for pets to travel to the UK, to EU countries and other listed non-EA countries (see more information below). Changes to the scheme introduced in January 2012 revoked the need for dogs to be treated against ticks. This change reduced the length of time after vaccination that a dog may enter the UK from six months to 21 days. Secondly, dogs are now required to have their tapeworm treatment between 24 hours and 5 days before travel, administered by a certified vet. Lastly, there is no longer a requirement to blood test a dog before travel.
A new requirement was introduced in December 2014, meaning that all dogs, cats and ferrets must be at least 12 weeks old before they can be vaccinated against rabies for the purposes of pet travel.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
What if my pet doesn’t pass the requirements for the Pet Travel Scheme?
When re-entering the UK, DEFRA may perform an inspection of your pet’s pet passport. If any element of your pet's passport or electronic microchip fails, your pet risks being re-exported or placed in quarantine at the owner’s expense.
What is the most common reason for failing requirements for the PETS?
Issues with dog's tapeworm treatment account for most of the failures. Most commonly, pet owners fail to arrange treatment within the defined timeframe.
Can my puppy or kitten travel with me?
Pets must be at least 15 weeks old to travel. Firstly, they must have been vaccinated on or after 12 weeks of age. They must then wait 21 days before they can travel.
Are tattoos an acceptable form of identification?
Tattoos can be accepted as a valid form of identification, in lieu of a microchip, as long as the tattoo was applied to the pet before 3 July 2011. The tattoo must be clearly readable and matched to the number in the passport/third country certificate.
Is there a limit to the number of animals that can travel under the care of one person?
One individual can travel with a maximum of five dogs, cats or ferrets, in total. Ten pets travelling with two people is acceptable as long as one of the people is an adult. The owner named in the passport must travel with the pets. Alternatively an authorised person can accompany the pets as long as they have a document from the owner named in the passport authorising them to accompany up to five owned pets.