The Pet Travel Scheme
The Pet Travel Scheme allows pet cats, dogs and ferrets from certain countries to enter the Great Britain (GB) without quarantine provided they meet certain rules. The rules are in place to help keep GB free from rabies and certain other diseases.
Pets travelling to GB from Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man are exempt from these rules.
You can enter or return to GB with your pet cat, dog or ferret if it:
- has been microchipped
- has a pet passport or third country veterinary health certificate
- has been vaccinated against rabies – it will also need a blood test if you’re travelling from an unlisted country
- dogs are required to have a tapeworm treatment unless they are travelling to GB directly from Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway
If you intend to bring your pet to GB, it’s important to remember:
- the Pet Travel Scheme rules apply to all cats, dogs and ferrets travelling with their owners (including assistance and guide dogs). Your pet can travel with someone else if you’ve authorised it in writing. Your pet must arrive in GB within five days of you (or another person who has written authorisation from you)
- if you are rehoming a pet cat, dog or ferret (i.e. from a pet rescue charity) or purchasing a puppy or kitten from outwith GB - these movements are considered to be commercial and you will have to follow additional rules for commercial movements
- under the Pet Travel Scheme you cannot bring more than five pets to GB unless the pets are travelling to attend a show or a competition and are aged over six months old. It is necessary to complete a written declaration and present written evidence that the pets travelling are registered to attend such an event. If you are travelling with more than five pets and you are not attending a show or competition then you will have to follow additional rules for commercial movements
- the rules for bringing your pet cat, dog or ferret into GB will be different depending on the country the pet is travelling from. Pet owners are responsible for ensuring their pet meets all the rules for entering GB and that its documentation (i.e. pet passport or animal health certificate) is correctly completed. Pets that do not meet the rules may not be allowed to enter the country or may have to be quarantined on arrival at their owners expense.
The rules for non-commercial pet travel to GB are set out in The Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals Order 2011
The rules for commercial movements are set out in The Trade in Animals and Related Products (Scotland) Regulations 2012.
Trade in illegally imported cats and dogs
We know that some people are buying and selling dogs and cats that have been imported illegally from abroad. This trade puts the health of the animals, and the general public, at serious risk from diseases including rabies.
The UK has been free from rabies for many years. However rabies is still present in many countries across the world. This is why the UK has importation controls for pet animals. These controls are designed to stop rabies and other exotic diseases from being introduced into the UK.
All dogs and cats must first be microchipped and then vaccinated against rabies before entering the UK. Rabies vaccines are not effective in very young animals and this is why, with effect from the 29 December 2014, the European Commission have introduced a 12 week minimum age for rabies vaccination in pet animals. In addition, all dogs must be treated for the tapeworm (echinococcus multilocularis).
Help to fight the illegal trade in pet animals
The trade in illegally imported pets is driven by consumer demand; you can play a part in fighting this illegal trade in pet animals by following some simple guidelines.
If you are planning to buy a cat/dog or puppy/kitten, we recommend that you seek out as much information as possible about your new pet.
It is equally important whether you are buying a pedigree or a cross bred animal that as a minimum you:
- view the animal and its documentation before you buy - if it was born outside the UK it must have either a pet passport or a third country health certificate
- its documentation needs to confirm the microchip number, that it was vaccinated against rabies at no less than 12 weeks of age and for third country imports, had a subsequent blood test 30 days after vaccination. For dogs, it should also show that it has been treated for tapeworm
- check the animal's history by speaking to a previous owner - if you are buying a puppy or kitten, you should always ask to see it with its mother and the rest of the litter
- never buy a puppy younger than 8 weeks old
In addition you should:
- buy your animal from a reputable supplier - advice on buying a dog or cat is available from a range of organisations, such as the Dog Advisory Council, Scottish Kennel Club, the Dogs Trust and the SSPCA. If you have doubts about an animal speak to your vet before agreeing to buy it
If your new pet is found to be illegally imported and non-compliant with disease control rules, then you may find yourself having to pay for costly quarantine and veterinary bills. If you are unable to meet these costs, this may leave the local authority with no option other than to euthanase (put down) the animal.
Additional advice on buying a puppy is available.
Page last updated: 9 October 2020
Tel: 0300 244 9874
Animal Health and Welfare,
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