Now that being able to travel again is on the horizon, you may be thinking about getting your pet a passport. We’ve put together a guide that covers:

  • What a pet passport is
  • How passports work after Brexit
  • What your pet needs for a passport
  • Taking your pet to an EU country
  • Taking your pet to a non-EU country
  • How to get a passport
  • If you need to get special insurance
  • Travelling to the UK from abroad

What is a pet passport?

A pet passport is an essential legal document that proves your pet, usually your dog, cat or ferret, is fit to travel and won’t need to go into quarantine on arrival.

pet passport

It holds information about your pet, such as their:

  • Microchip number
  • Date of birth
  • Description
  • Blood test results
  • Details of any tick and worm treatments
  • Vaccinations

It also holds information about you so that you can be reunited with your pet if they go missing.

Ultimately, it acts a bit like a human passport and allows your pet to travel abroad with you without having to be separated from you for any extended period of time.

How do pet passports work after Brexit?

Following the UK’s departure from the EU in January 2021, you won’t be able to use or get a pet passport from Great Britain (Wales, Scotland and England, as well as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) to travel to Northern Ireland or the EU. 

pet passport
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take your pet abroad with you: the pet passport has been replaced by the Animal Health Certificate, which works in a similar way.

Like the pet passport, the Animal Health Certificate includes your details, details of your pet’s vaccinations and details of the country you’re visiting. However, there are some differences:

  • Animal Health Certificates are only valid for one trip. So you’ll need a new certificate before every trip to the EU or Northern Ireland
  • Each certificate is valid for four months once you’re in the EU (or until the expiration of your pet’s rabies vaccine)
  • You can use it to return to Great Britain within four months
  • It will need to be issued by a licensed vet who has Official Veterinarian (OV) status from the Animal And Plant Health Agency
  • You must use the certificate within 10 days of issue
  • You can only use it to travel with dogs, cats and ferrets that are personal pets (so non-domestic pets can’t travel under an Animal Health Certificate)

It’s important to keep hold of your old pet passport, even after being issued with an Animal Health Certificate, as it will hold important and useful information about your pet’s microchip and vaccinations that can be referred to by your vet.

What your pet needs for a passport

There are certain conditions that your pet must meet in order to qualify for an Animal Health Certificate:

  • They must be at least three months old
  • They must be microchipped
  • They must have had a rabies vaccination at least 21 days before travel
  • If your pet is staying in the EU while you’re away and not travelling to or through any unlisted countries, they don’t need a rabies blood test

Once your pet is vaccinated against rabies, you won’t need to repeat the vaccinations – as long as they’re valid and up to date (each vaccine lasts around three years before a booster shot is required).

If you’re travelling with your dog, they must have tapeworm treatment – given by a vet and recorded in their Animal Health Certificate – at least 24-120 hours before travelling back to Great Britain. This helps prevent the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis being brought into the country – a significant measure, as it can infect humans.

pet passport

Travelling to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Finland or Malta with your dog? They’ll need to be treated for worms 24-120 hours before they leave Great Britain, so make sure you leave plenty of time for this before you set off. 

Every Animal Health Certificate must be issued by a vet with Official Veterinary status. Your vet will be able to tell you if they meet this requirement, or advise you of a colleague who does, and let you know what you need to do next.

Taking your pet to an EU country

If you’re travelling to Northern Ireland or an EU country and want to take your pet, it’s important that you have a valid Animal Health Certificate (which replaces the pet passport) before you set off. 

However, you can still use your pet passport if it was issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland (though it’s still best to speak to your vet before travelling).

Not only does your Animal Health Certificate allow your pet to travel to and within the EU and Northern Ireland, it also allows them to re-enter Great Britain without the need to quarantine on either side of the journey (very useful if you’re off on holiday!).

As we’ve said, you’ll need a new Animal Health Certificate each time you travel from Great Britain to the EU or Northern Ireland, and each certificate:

  • Must be used within 10 days of issue
  • Is valid for onward travel within the EU for four months
  • Is valid for four months for re-entry into Great Britain

It’s also important that your dog undergoes worming treatment before travelling back home – or before leaving, if you’re visiting Norway, Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland or Malta. 

pet passport

To travel to the EU or Northern Ireland, your pet must meet the criteria needed for the issue of an Animal Health Certificate. This means they must:

  • Be microchipped (with their microchip number listed on their Animal Health Certificate)
  • Be vaccinated against rabies
  • Be treated for tapeworm

You might need evidence of these to hand when you arrive at your destination, as well as your Animal Health Certificate. And you should check if your destination has any other criteria that you’ll need to meet before travelling, including other vaccinations or restrictions. If you don’t, your pet may not be able to enter the country, or have to stay in quarantine for weeks.

There are also limits on the number of pets you can travel with, with five being the maximum (unless you’re attending a competition, show or sporting event, but this has its own rules).

Taking your pet to a non-EU country

If you’re planning to travel outside of the EU or Northern Ireland with your pet, you’ll need an Export Health Certificate (EHC). This document works in a similar way to the Animal Health Certificate, and shows that your pet fully meets all the health and safety criteria of your destination. 

You’ll need to apply online through the gov.uk website, and ask your vet to sign the certificate. They’ll need to see your pet to confirm that they meet all the requirements for travel, and that they’re healthy enough to go with you. If you live in Wales, Scotland or England, you’ll also need to fill in an export application form.

pet passport

Whatever your travel plans, remember that every country has different rules when it comes to travelling with animals, so it’s important that you know the local rules and quarantine procedures for your destination. For example, places like Australia and New Zealand have strict disease control measures, which means that your pet might have to go into quarantine when you arrive.

So do your research and plan carefully before you travel – including looking into any additional vaccinations that your pet might need – so that you and your pet can enjoy a safe trip away.

How do I get a passport?

As pet passports are no longer issued from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), you’ll need to get an Animal Health Certificate instead. This will need to be issued no more than 10 days before you travel.

These can be obtained from a vet with Official Veterinary status, who have legal authority to issue the certificates once they’ve given your pet a clean bill of health, are confident that your pet is over 15-16 weeks old, and are happy that they’re fit to travel. If your regular vet doesn’t have this status, they should be able to help you find one who does.

Your vet will also make sure your pet is microchipped, and check that they’re up to date with their rabies vaccinations. It’s a good idea to take all these details with you when you go to visit your vet so that they have a record of when and where your pet was microchipped and vaccinated.

You should therefore make sure you leave plenty of time to go through this process before you travel – ideally at least one month before you travel to the EU or Northern Ireland (though you may need a few months longer if you’re travelling outside of the EU).

Do I need to get special insurance?

You should always make sure you have valid and suitable insurance for your pets, and that it covers them for any trips abroad.

Special insurance shouldn’t be necessary. Your normal pet insurance may cover you for travel, providing you have all the relevant paperwork – including the Animal Health Certificate – in place, but it’s worth checking your policy before you set off. That way, you can add any extra cover as necessary and make sure your pet is totally covered while they’re away.

Travelling to the UK from abroad

You’ll need a valid EU pet passport if you’re travelling to Great Britain from the EU or Northern Ireland, as well as evidence that your pet is microchipped and has been vaccinated against rabies (don’t forget to wait 21 days after the vaccine has been administered before you travel).

If you’re bringing your dog, you’ll need to make sure they’ve had an approved treatment for tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) between 24 and 120 hours before you travel. This treatment must be administered by a vet and be approved for use in Great Britain (it should contain praziquantel to qualify).

pet passport

Wherever you’re travelling from (with the exception of Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands), it’s also essential that your pet has:

  • A pet passport (issued in the EU or a listed third country)
  • An Animal Health Certificate (if Great Britain is your country of origin, as this allows for travel to, around and from the EU)
  • A GB pet health certificate (you’ll need this if you’re only travelling into England, Scotland or Wales)

You must also travel along an approved route (if you’re not travelling within the UK or from Ireland), and fill in a form that confirms you’re not planning to sell your pet while you’re here. You can find out more at the gov.uk website.

If you don’t follow these rules, your pet may be refused entry or have to be put into quarantine for up to four months to make sure it’s safe and healthy. A last-minute change of plans that no one wants!

So whether you’re exploring Great Britain with your furry friend or heading off on a trip around the world, make sure your pet can join you by organising the relevant documentation and vaccines. Speak to your vet to find out more.