The United Kingdom is a frequent destination for pet travel, which is why we cover the rules and requirements for importing pets there often. While there is no quarantine for cats and dogs in the UK if the import steps are followed correctly, building a safe and smooth move plan for your pet can be a delicate process.
Take a look at a few of our guidelines below to make sure you have plenty of information to successfully bring your dog or cat to the UK.
Need an expert to help plan your pet’s move? Contact us to set up a consultation with our UK pet travel team.
Pet Import Requirements for the UK
Because the UK is considered a rabies-free country, the import requirements must be strictly followed to prevent quarantine upon arrival. The order in which these requirements must be completed is:
- Microchip (implanted and scanned)
- Rabies Vaccination and Certificate (must be at least 21 days old prior to travel)
- Rabies Antibody Titer Test (if you’re coming from an “unlisted country”)
- EU Health Certificate (Annex IV)
- Tapeworm Treatment (for dogs only)
- Endorsement of Paperwork
The rabies vaccination rules became stricter in 2017, as DEFRA began enforcing that the primary rabies vaccination (the one given right after the microchip) must either be a 1-year vaccination or a 3-year vaccination still within the first year when the pet travels. This means that if your pet was given a 3-year vaccination right after the microchip that is now in its second or third year, it is no longer valid for entry into the UK.
Also, the UK is now requiring pets to be covered under a “Transfer of Residency” (ToR) declaration in order 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 in this blog.
EU Pet Passports
Many people believe that their pet needs an EU Pet Passport to travel to the UK. Although an EU Pet Passport does simplify the process, it is not necessary for importing pets into the UK. An EU Pet Passport can only be issued by an official veterinarian in the European Union (EU) so if your pet is coming from another country outside of the EU and does not have an EU Pet Passport yet, you’ll need to follow the above-listed requirements.
Pets that have an EU Pet Passport with an expired rabies vaccination listed or a vaccination that was updated by a veterinarian who was not in the EU will also be required to follow the import steps listed above.
On the other hand, if your pet does have an EU Pet Passport and the rabies vaccination was recorded by an EU veterinarian and is still valid, your pet will only need the EU Pet Passport to travel to the UK. The airline your pet is traveling with may still require a health check within 10 days of travel to ensure your pet is okay to fly, but an endorsement of this health certificate is not required.
Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Pet Travel
If you’re planning pet travel to the UK (or anywhere in the EU), you’ve probably heard of the 5-Day Rule. Since 2014, pet owners must travel to the UK within five days of their pet’s arrival in order to avoid the move being labeled as a “commercial” shipment. While you can still import your pet as a commercial shipment, the health certificate will be different, the timeline for completing the health certificate is much tighter, and the import taxes are higher.
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, the arrival process for a commercial move may take more time than a non-commercial move considering the stricter requirements.
Leaving the UK with Pets
In order to leave the UK with your pet, you’ll need to follow the pet import requirements for your destination country prior to 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 in the future, we recommend getting in touch with 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.