Taking your pets abroad

If you’re going abroad with your pet cat, dog or ferret, the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) could help avoid long quarantine periods when you return. Working guide dogs and hearing dogs may also travel on the scheme.

The PETS scheme

Pet travel rules are changing

On 1 January 2012, pet travel rules are changing, so you’ll have to meet different requirements if you’re travelling on, or after, this date

The scheme is designed to stop the spread of rabies and other diseases while still allowing pets to travel.

The UK has been free of rabies for many years, but mammals are still at risk in some other countries. All rabies-susceptible animals entering the UK have to spend six months in quarantine, unless they arrive under and meet all the conditions of PETS.

Most European Union (EU) countries and many outside the EU have joined PETS. You can check details and the full procedure for preparing your pet on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website.

To be eligible, your cat, dog or ferret must:

  • first be fitted with a microchip
  • then be vaccinated against rabies
  • wait 21 days from the date of their first rabies vaccination before travelling to another European Community country
  • not have visited any non-approved countries or territories for at least six months before they enter or re-enter the UK

Cats and dogs must also:

  • be blood tested with a satisfactory result by a European Union approved laboratory
  • wait six calendar months from the date the blood sample was taken before re-entering the UK

You must also ensure that your pet:

  • is issued with a pet passport by their vet
  • is treated by a vet for tapeworm and ticks, not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before checking in with a PETS-approved carrier for the journey back to the UK
  • travels into the UK on a PETS-approved sea, air or rail route

Before you go

You must book your return journey into the UK with one of the many PETS-approved carriers, on a PETS-approved route. There is only a limited amount of space and it is allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

You must book in advance or your pet will not be allowed to travel.

Taking care of your pet when travelling

These tips can help make your pet’s journey as comfortable as possible:

  • make sure your pet is as fit and healthy as possible to withstand the journey
  • give them a light meal about two hours before they travel
  • give your pet the opportunity to go to the toilet before it is put in its carrying container
  • let your pet ‘try out’ the carrying container before the trip
  • the carrying container should be well-ventilated, roomy enough for the animal to move around, safe and have adequate food and water for the trip, with easily refillable containers for a long journey
  • put a familiar-smelling cushion or rug in the container to help your pet settle

Returning to the UK

When returning to the UK, transport staff will check your pet passport to ensure the requirements of the scheme have been met. If there is missing paperwork or your pet has not been prepared correctly it may be:

  • taken into UK quarantine
  • returned to the country from which it has just come

Travelling with registered assistance dogs

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in partnership with

  • other UK assistance dog organisations
  • Defra
  • a number of UK airlines

has produced a set of guidelines for registered assistance dog owners wishing to use PETS.

Pets entering the UK on airlines under the Pet Travel Scheme must normally be carried in the hold. However, guide dogs or other assistance dogs are allowed to travel in the cabin with their owner on certain approved routes.

The disabled people section also gives more information on assistance dogs.

Useful contacts

ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licence)

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