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:

  1. Microchip (implanted and scanned)
  2. Rabies Vaccination and Certificate (must be at least 21 days old prior to travel)
  3. Rabies Antibody Titer Test (if you’re coming from an “unlisted country”)
  4. EU Health Certificate (Annex IV)
  5. Tapeworm Treatment (for dogs only)
  6. 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if your pet was given a 3-year vaccination right after the microchip that is now in its second or third year, it is no longer valid for entry into the UK.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.

Need help with your cat or dog’s move to the UK? 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


Air Travel, Airlines, Microchips


Cats, Dogs




Add a Comment

By Ashley on August 14, 2018 at 5:31 pm

Under the guidelines at the top of the page it says that the rabies vaccine must be at least 21 days old. On another website it says the rabies vaccine has to be less than 21 days old. I'm finding it hard to find any clarifying information on the internet. Does the rabies vaccine have to be administered before or after 21 days of arrival?

By on August 20, 2018 at 10:31 am

Hi Ashley - we understand this is a confusing process! The rabies vaccination must be at least 21 days old by time of departure, so it must be given before your pet leaves the country. If the rabies vaccine is a 3 year vaccine, the vaccine must be given within the last year. Hope that makes sense! We have a team dedicated to relocating pets to the UK so if you are looking to hire a company like ours to navigate this process feel free to reach out to us for clarification!

By Jamie Broaddus on August 4, 2018 at 6:07 pm

Hi there! I will be moving to London in two years, and I've begun to look into the process for taking my cat with me, as I know it can be complicated. My cat has traveled with me on airplanes within the U.S. many time, so I assumed I would be able to take her onboard with me (in an airline-approved carrier, of course). However, I'm finding conflicting information regarding whether or not a cat can be transported in the cabin during transcontinental flights from the U.S. to the U.K. Are there airlines that allow this, or does the U.K. require cats to be kept in the hold during those transcontinental flights? Thank you for any help you can provide!

By on August 6, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Hi Jamie! Thanks for your question. The UK requires all pets to arrive as "manifest cargo" on their own plane ticket. This is perfectly safe as long as your cat is healthy and we are choosing a pet-safe airline. When you are ready to get started & you'd like more information about how our services work, please fill out our arrange a move form here and a member of our UK team will contact you. Looking forward to speaking with you soon!

By Melissa on July 25, 2018 at 10:42 am

Hi! I'm currently living in Manchester but left my two cats back in Colombia and I'm considering bringing them with me next time I go to visit. However, I'm clueless about the process, the costs and also the convenience for them traveling as cargo since it is such a long flight!Could you please give some advice?Thanks!!

By on July 26, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Hi Melissa! Colombia is considered an "unlisted country" in the eyes of the UK so you'll need to follow these requirements which can take approximately 4 months to prepare your kitties for travel. Also, all pets are required to travel as "manifest cargo" into the UK as this is a government rule so you'll want to make sure you are hiring a pet shipper like us to help with flights. Feel free to check out our blog post about how much does it cost to ship a cat to give you an idea of what goes into a move like yours. You are welcome to fill out our Arrange a Move form to speak directly with a consultant about potential plans & costs. Hope this helps!

By Eva on July 3, 2018 at 2:54 am

Hi there! My husband and I are planning on moving from Croatia to UK (Surrey) in two months beacuse my husband got a job there. So we are in the process of planning our relocation with our two small rescue dogs. Both of them have EU Passports, are microchipped and have their rabies vaccination renewed every year in february. They also get their tapeworm treatment here every three months. As I can understand, that should be enough for a safe import in the UK, or do we need to get some other documents/treatments before arriving? Also, I would really appriciate if you could advise me about the best way to safely transport them, as I am a bit insecure about shipping them in the cargo of a plane. The road trip seems to me like a better solution and a door-to-door service (especially because they love driving and travelling by car), but I am also worried is it duable in that 5 days period and how much would it cost to arrange such a thing. Thank you so much for any tips and advice, they'll be a huge help for us at this point.

By on July 3, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Hi Eva! Thanks for the questions! You don’t need a third-country official veterinary certificate if your pets were issued with a pet passport and the treatments are still valid. They will need a final vet visit & tapeworm treatment before leaving Croatia though. We typically recommend air travel for pets as we want to get from point A to point B as quick as possible. As long as your pups are acclimated to a travel kennel and you are choosing a pet safe airline, the trip should be just as safe for them - as it is for you traveling! In terms of costs, there are a few variables in every pet move. Feel free to check out this blog post for more information, and if you'd like a consultation with a representative, please fill out our Arrange a Move form. Looking forward to hearing from you!

By Emily on June 25, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Hi, our rescue aussie mix has quite a bit of anxiety, particularly when left alone and with strange handlers or other dogs. My husband and I have considered moving to the UK or Europe, but the idea of travelling overseas with her makes me nervous because I don't want her to be in distress for the long flight alone. I understand she would have to be in cargo which is temperature and pressure controlled, but is there any way for someone to ride in cargo with her - whether a courier or ourselves? I would be more than happy to ride in an uncomfortable seat in cargo if it meant I could stay with her throughout the trip.

By on July 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Hi Emily! Unfortunately, humans are not allowed to travel in the cargo hold & the UK requires all pets to arrive as "manifest cargo". However, the most important aspect to any pet move is to make sure your pup is acclimated to their travel crate - tips & tricks can be found here! We've moved plenty of pets with anxiety and as long as they felt comfortable in their travel crate, they had a successful journey! Please let us know how we can help!

By Dave on June 19, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Hi, We have a kitten (in Canada) that we would like to send to our daughter in London, UK. Is this possible/feasible/practical?

By on July 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Hi Dave! Thanks for your question. You can definitely send a kitten to your daughter in the UK. However, this would be considered a "commercial" shipment which would require a good bit of paperwork as well as some additional import taxes. Since this kitten is not traveling as a part of household move (and not within 5 days of the pet owner) it would make things a bit more complicated - but not impossible! If you'd like additional information on our services and if this is within your budget, please fill out our Arrange A Move form and a consultant will reach out to you. Hope this helps!

By Dave on July 2, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Hi, Turns out that we have some friends visiting the UK in a couple of weeks. So we’ll send the kitten with them. Although it seems they may have to declare the kitten as theirs. Thanks, Dave

By yasmine on June 4, 2018 at 9:33 am

my cat miaows a lot when we out him in a crate will he still be allowed on the cabin with me?

By on June 5, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Hi Yasmine! Unfortunately, pets cannot arrive into the UK in-cabin. The UK requires all pets to arrive as "manifest cargo" on their own ticket in the cargo hold. This is perfectly safe, climate controlled & pressurized - as long as your cat is healthy. Also, there is an issue of comfort, and we believe that cargo travel when done correctly, is less stressful so that they are not overwhelmed by other sights, sounds or smells. If you'd like to learn more about our services & how your kitty can safely travel to the UK, please fill out our Arrange A Move Form here. Looking forward to hearing from you!

By Hilary on May 28, 2018 at 11:51 am

Hi there,I am hoping to bring my Jack Russell to the UK for a 2 year working holiday with the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. I've looked everywhere online, including emailing the contact email that is posted on the site for pet importing, and I can't seem to find out whether or not there is any legislation that prevents importing a dog while on the Tier 5 visa. I was wondering if you knew whether or not this is allowed. Thanks so much, very helpful blog.Hilary

By on May 29, 2018 at 11:15 am

Hi Hilary!

As long as you can show paperwork that you will be arriving into the UK within 5 days of your pup, you should not have any issue importing him into the UK (regardless of your visa status). The rule of thumb we follow is that unless your pets originated in the UK, they suggest applying for a Transfer of Residency (ToR). This will avoid you having to pay VAT taxes. If you don’t apply for the ToR for your pup, a fee will be imposed upon entry. You can read more about the ToR here.

My recommendation would be to reach out directly to HMRC for any additional clarification. Below is their contact information:

If you need to reach them to follow up, their phone number is 01144 3000 588454.

Hope this helps!

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