Publication - Advice and guidance

Animal imports and exports: guidance

Published: 30 Jan 2017

This guidance applies only to import and export of farm animals and domesticated animals.

Animal imports and exports: guidance

EU Pet Travel Scheme

Changes to the Pet Travel Scheme were introduced by EU Regulation (EU No 576/2013) which came into effect on 29 December 2014. These changes were implemented in Great Britain (GB) by introduction of the Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals (Amendment) Order 2014 which amended the Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals Order 2011.

Although the main requirements of the scheme stayed the same, a number of changes were introduced to strengthen the regime, including: 

  • pet passport - a new style pet passport was introduced, however, if you already had an old style pet passport this will remain valid for the lifetime of the pet or until all the treatment spaces are used up
  • minimum age for rabies vaccination - from 29 December 2014 pets must be at least 12 weeks old before being vaccinated against rabies
  • rules for travelling with more than five pets - if you are travelling with more than five pets, you will need to comply with additional rules, unless you are travelling with pets aged over six months old to attend a show or a competition. It is necessary to complete a written declaration and present written evidence that the pets travelling are registered to attend such an event
  • pets travelling from non-EU countries - if your pet is entering the UK from a non-EU country on either a health certificate or a pet passport, a signed declaration is required to confirm that there is no intention to sell or transfer ownership of the pet and that the movement is within five days of travel of the owner or an individual authorised by the owner. It is not permitted under the pet travel rules for the time between movement of the owner and the pet animal to be more than five days either side, in such cases the rules for commercial movements should be followed instead

There was no change to the checking regime in Great Britain and it remains the case that all pets travelling with their owners or an authorised person on an approved route will be checked by the ferry, rail and air operators to ensure that they are compliant with the pet travel rules. These carriers are approved by APHA who will confirm that checking staff are appropriately trained.

It is important to remember:

  • the Pet Travel Scheme rules apply to all dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owners (including assistance and guide dogs)
  • if you are rehoming a pet dog, cat or ferret (i.e. from a pet rescue charity) or purchasing a puppy or kitten from outwith the UK - these movements are considered to be commercial and therefore these animals are not eligible to travel under the Pet Travel Scheme and the rules for commercial movements should be followed
  • you are responsible for ensuring your pet meets all the rules for entering the UK and that its documentation (i.e. pet passport) is correctly completed. If you do not, your pet may not be allowed to enter the country or it may have to be quarantined on arrival at your own expense
The current, full non-commercial movement of pet animals rules are detailed on the UK government website and should be consulted in advance of making travel arrangements.

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.


Tel: 0300 244 9874

Animal Health and Welfare,
P Spur
Saughton House,
Broomhouse Drive,
EH11 3XD