September 15, 2020

The Heathrow Animal Reception Center (HARC) at the London Heathrow international airport is one of the busiest animal reception centers in the world. This state of the art facility sees thousands of live animals each year as their highly trained staff welcomes pets into their country or assists them as they transit through. However, due to the effects of COVID-19, the facility is taking extra precautions. Here’s how these changes will affect your pet’s journey if you are planning a relocation to The United Kingdom this year.

Large dog, Boris, moved to London
Boris’ journey to London was delayed by a week

Obtaining a Flight into the HARC

The Heathrow Animal Reception Centre is currently operating with a smaller staff to maintain social distancing. Because of this, fewer animals are permitted to arrive on a given day. In order to effectively enforce this measure, an airline must receive approval from the HARC before they can confirm your pet’s flight booking. If on your desired date of arrival, the HARC has already met their max capacity, the staff will propose the next available day and your relocation coordinator will go from there in reworking your plan.

So, what does that mean for you and your pet? Just like everything else in the pet travel world, keeping an open mind and remaining flexible with your travel date is key. As we have discussed previously, flight booking windows for pets traveling as manifest cargo are often just two weeks to ten days prior to the day of travel.

While we stress the importance of remaining flexible, if your travel date is important to you and your pet is traveling within 5 days of you, you may consider arriving into Manchester International Airport. This airport is a much less busy port compared to London and may be able to accommodate your pet more readily. Speak to your relocation coordinator to ensure this is a viable option for your family pet.

Maximus the cat moved to the UK
Maximus moved to the UK through HARC with us this year

Other Changes at the HARC

While the flight booking window has been our team’s largest challenge, a few other changes to the processes of importing pets through the HARC are: 

  • Pets arriving into London Heathrow must only arrive on weekdays. At this time, the staff will not be accepting pets that arrive between Friday night at 10 pm and Monday morning at 6 am. 
  • At this time, this pet owner waiting room has been closed. Previously, pet parents were welcome to lounge in the waiting room stocked with vending machines, comfortable chairs, and televisions. If you arrive before your pet has cleared customs you will be asked to leave. 
  • Customs clearance is taking longer than normal. Expect for your pet’s customs clearance time to take 6-8 hours (as opposed to the previous wait time of 4-6 hours).  

PetRelocation is dedicated to staying up to date as rules and regulations regarding international pet travel changes. This page will be updated as changes are made.

If you are planning to travel to the UK with your pet and have questions about how these changes may affect your journey, let us know!


PetRelocation Team


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