Comprehensive Guide: Moving Cats and Dogs to The UK

The United Kingdom is a popular destination for pet travel, so it's important to understand the rules and requirements for importing pets to the UK. While there is no quarantine for cats and dogs in the UK if the import steps are followed correctly, planning a safe and smooth move for your pet can be a delicate process. Follow these guidelines to ensure your pet's safe and happy journey to the UK.

Pet Import Requirements for the UK

The UK is a rabies-free country, so the import requirements must be strictly followed to prevent quarantine upon arrival. The order in which these requirements must be completed is:

  1. Microchip (implanted and scanned before rabies vaccine administration)
  2. Rabies Vaccination and Certificate (at least 21 days old before final vet visit)
  3. Rabies Antibody Titer Test (if coming from an "unlisted country")
  4. EU Health Certificate (Annex IV)
  5. Tapeworm Treatment (for dogs only)
  6. Endorsement of Paperwork

Stuart moved to the UK in 2017. 


Other Considerations for Pets Entering the UK: 

  • Pets should ideally arrive in the UK on a one-year rabies vaccine or a three-year vaccine in its first year of validity. If your pet is in the second or third year of their valid rabies vaccine, you must provide additional records to prove that your pet's rabies vaccine has never lapsed since their most recent one-year vaccine. Most pet owners find it easier to get a new vaccine before traveling. 
  • The UK requires pets to be covered under a “Transfer of Residency” (ToR) declaration to avoid Customs VAT upon arrival. To be clear, a ToR number is not required to import your pet into the UK. However, you will need to pay the Customs VAT if you do not have a ToR number at the time of your pet’s arrival. You can read more about the new rabies requirements and the ToR updates here.

Health Certificates and USDA Endorsement 

For export from the United States to any foreign country, your pet must have a country-specific health certificate issued by a USDA-Accredited Veterinarian. This health certificate must be sent to your state’s USDA office for endorsement. It must be issued within 10 days of travel and endorsed by the USDA.

Ask your veterinarian if they have the proper USDA accreditation. Failure to do so could result in extra time and expenses associated with additional appointments and testing. If you are working with a PetRelocation coordinator, we will work closely with your veterinarian to meet all complicated requirements. 

Estimated costs for endorsement: Up to five pets can be be documented on one international health certificate. If you are traveling with more than five pets, you will incur costs for two endorsements. Currently UK health certificates are $38 USD per endorsement. 

Crate Training and Traveling as Manifest Cargo 

Pets traveling into the United Kingdom may only arrive as manifest cargo. This is for your pet’s safety and accountability. This means it’s important to start acclimating your pet to their travel crate early and practice crate training often. If your pet is a very large dog, you may need a custom crate built to accommodate their size in manifest cargo. 

Estimated costs for manifest cargo airfreight: Fees range from $1,000 USD (Chihuahua) to $4,500 USD (Great Dane).


Scout, Sammy and Jo traveled to Scotland with PetRelocation 

Estimated costs for manifest cargo airfreightManifest cargo flights for pets are based on dimensional weight (or how much space your pet takes up in the aircraft). For international flights, these fees can range from $1,000 USD for a Chihuahua and up to $4,500 USD for a Great Dane.

Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Pet Travel

Pet owners must travel to the UK within five days of their pet’s arrival to avoid the move being labeled as a “commercial” shipment. This is often called the "5-day rule" and applies to all countries in the European Union.  If you cannot travel within five days of your pet, you can still send them a commercial health certificate. However, the timeline will be tighter, and a tax will be imposed upon your pet's arrival. 

Commercial pet moves require a health certificate to be completed (and endorsed by a government entity) within 48 hours of the pet’s departure. If you don’t have a government office (like a USDA office in the United States, for example) nearby, you may need to consider having your pet depart from a different city to make the short timeframe work. 

Once your pet arrives in the UK as a commercial movement, you will be expected to pay at least 44 GBP or more, depending on the size of your pet, in additional DEFRA taxes. Also, considering the stricter requirements, the arrival process for a commercial move may take longer than for a non-commercial move.

Leaving the UK with Pets

To leave the UK with your pet, you must follow the pet import requirements for your destination country before departure. Also, depending on what country you are traveling to, you may need to obtain an export certificate from DEFRA.

Even if there is only a slight possibility that you will return to the UK, we recommend contacting a veterinarian to issue an EU Pet Passport before leaving the country. Furthermore, it may be a good idea to have the vet in the UK also administer a Rabies Antibody Titer Test if you plan on traveling to an unlisted country. That way, you can avoid the 3-month wait period upon your return to the United Kingdom.

Do you have questions about moving your pet to the UK that we did not cover above? Let us know how we can help! 
We know planning a pet move to the UK can be an overwhelming experience -- contact us to have our UK team manage the details for you.


PetRelocation Team


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