Pet passports: taking your pet abroad

10 September 2015

We look at the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) and what pet passport requirements there are, plus share some tips for travelling with your pet.

The concept of a pet passport was first proposed in a Monster Raving Loony Party manifesto – so, they weren’t that mad after all. Pet passports are now essential if you wish to take your beloved cat, dog or even ferret abroad.

Pet passports are part of PETS, Pet Travel Scheme, which replaced the trauma and cost of placing cats and dogs returning to the UK in quarantine; special catteries and kennels where they were kept for six months in case they showed any signs of rabies or other heinous diseases picked up abroad.

Times have changed, and provided you comply with the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) you can take your dog, cat – or even ferret – abroad with you, up to five of them, in fact.

What does PETS entail?

There are different criteria required depending on the destination but within the EU the regulations are standard:

  • A blood test
  • Vaccination against rabies, which can only be done after the animal is three months old. Travel is permitted after 21 days of the vaccination
  • Dog must be treated for tapeworm and ticks, which must be certified by your vet.
  • Written and signed proof of residency
  • An official PET certificate
  • The pet passport has to be renewed every two to three years, depending on the rabies vaccine used. Discuss renewal with your vet if you are unsure about when it will need renewing.
  • Whether you are taking your cat or dog abroad the animal should be chipped for identity as a matter of course. It is relative inexpensive; indeed it’s often free when part of a pet insurance of if you acquire a cat or dog from a rescue shelter or similar animal charity. Check that the microchip matches International Standards Organisation specification 11784 which is most commonly used across Europe. Check with your vet if you are going further afield.

Pet passports can be acquired from certain EU vets, and if your vet does not provide this service they should be able to recommend the nearest vet who does.

Insurance cover

Ensure that your pet is covered not only for vets’ fees in the case of accident or illness contracted abroad but that you have public liability cover for any accident or damage your pet may cause while abroad. Your domestic policy should cover such eventualities at home but not necessarily abroad. Ensure that you have cover and that you have it in writing, not simply the word of an insurance customer care person on the phone.

How much does a pet passport cost?

Microchipping costs are negligible or free. Documentation and inoculations etc will be around £200, but will vary depending on the individual costs of your vet. That’s before travel costs come into play.

How to travel

There are variables depending on type of animal, destination, method of travel or whether you are taking the pet with you or having it sent out later.

Many short-haul airlines, particularly the budget airlines don’t take animals. Those airlines that do take then, with very few exceptions, insist that the animals travel in the cargo hold and have their own restrictions – number of pets they’ll carry on any flight, non-pet travel days of the week. Check with your airline before you travel.

Some airlines will insist on you using a dedicated pet travel ‘agent’. These services will arrange documentation, collect your pet, either from your home address or a dedicated pick-up-point and deliver the pet to your destination address.

For European destinations by specially adapted road transportation, visit

For long-haul destinations, visit

Travelling conditions and pre-journey preparation

If travelling by air, the animals must be comfortable, have been ‘to the toilet’ beforehand and not been fed a heavy meal for some time before.

The pet must travel in a warm, leak-proof secure container with absorbent bedding, good ventilation and preferably with the animal’s favourite toy and bedding/blanket. The cargo hold in which it will be placed will be dark and heated allowing it to sleep on the journey.

Get your pet used to the container in which it will be travelling by letting it sleep in it for a few nights before embarkation.

A week or so before you travel, have the vet check your pet for a final travel all-clear, and have its nails clipped in case they get snagged in the crate.

Have two tags marked with home and destination address attached to the dog or cat’s collar, and tape the same details to the animal’s crate/container. And take a photo of the animal in in the highly unlikely event that it does get mislaid by the airline.

If travelling by road, you can let your dog be free so long as it doesn’t cause distraction to the driver. Try to stop every two hours to let the dog stretch its legs. Cat and ferrets must be held in secure containers at all times.

Will Brexit affect pet passports?

The UK has not yet left the European Union and so nothing has changed and you can still take your pet abroad with your passport until the rules change, which could be in two years time. If you plan on travelling closer to the time the UK leaves and are unsure whether you can still use your pet passport then consult your vet to check your paperwork is correct and up to date.

The pet passport is specifically for the EU so it will need to be replaced, but it is likely that it would be a very similar system and the paperwork required could be almost identical. Animals travelling into EU countries from non-EU countries do have stricter requirements but this is often due to coming from a country with rabies, which is not a problem in the UK.

Taking your pet somewhere hot? Read our guide to caring for a dog in hot weather.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.