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The Pet Travel Scheme ("PETS") is a system which allows animals to travel easily between member countries without undergoing quarantine. A Pet Passport is a document that officially records information related to a specific animal, as part of that procedure. The effect is to drastically speed up and simplify travel with and transport of animals between member countries, compared to previous procedures, if the regulations are followed.
PETS was originally introduced for the benefit of animals entering or returning to the United Kingdom from other European Union countries, since historically the UK had very strong controls to safeguard against rabies including a compulsory 6 month quarantine period on imports of many animals. On October 1, 2001, several European Union countries introduced the PETS scheme, under which animals from any member country may freely travel (with the correct procedure) to any other member country on approved carriers. Over time the scheme has rolled out to other countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The pet passport itself comes in multiple forms, sometimes a pink A4 sheet, sometimes a small blue booklet. It contains the microchip or tattoo number of the animal, the certification that it has had a rabies vaccination, and needs to be signed by an officially approved veterinary surgeon.
The passport is not to be confused with a much smaller folder (sometimes purple coloured), routinely issued by vets, which records the complete vaccination history of the pet.
Details of procedure
Every country has different requirements, both for export and import of animals, although some features are common to all.
- Subcutaneous (below the skin) microchip implant that meets the International Society of Pharmacovigilance (SoP) specification.
- Certified rabies vaccination, with some kind of prior period of time or evidence the vaccination is working (commonly blood serology tests to confirm the vaccination has "taken" and a delay of some months to confirm the animal is rabies free initially)
- Animal treated for ticks, fleas and tapeworms between 24 and 48 hours before boarding the outbound transport. The time limit is usually enforced strictly (ie no less than 24 hours and no more than 48 hours before check-in)
- Vet's letter or certificate confirming fitness to travel and/or no obvious signs of disease.
- Government certification that the vet's export documentation and certificates are in order for travel.
- Sometimes certain carriers or import/export points only, will allow animals.
In some countries the formal passport is needed. Others will accept documentation in any form, so long as it is clearly evidential of the procedure being followed. Usually the animal and its papers are checked thoroughly both on boarding or export, and again upon arrival.
The Pet passport alone can be used to enter some countries if it records all relevant information (e.g. the UK), but it will not suffice to enter many countries. For instance Guatemala, in common with almost every country operating such a scheme, demands that all imported pets have a rabies vaccination, but will not accept the Pet Passport as proof of said vaccination. They need to see the proof of the rabies in the animal's vaccination records.
Tapeworm treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1–5 days) before scheduled arrival time.
Specific country regulations
- Tapeworm treatment – (dogs only): before entering the UK, all pet dogs (including assistance dogs) must be treated for tapeworm. The treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1–5 days) before its scheduled arrival time in the UK. There is no mandatory requirement for tick treatment. No treatment is required for dogs entering the UK from Finland, Ireland or Malta).
- Transport of small dogs and cats into the passenger cabin - British law precludes all animals entering or departing from the UK either in the cabin (some airlines do allow small dogs/cats in the cabin on departing flights only provided that specific requirements are met regarding the container the pet will travel in) or in the hold as 'excess' or 'checked' baggage. All animals (except guide dogs) travelling to or from the UK must travel in the hold as manifest cargo.
Other useful information
The PETS scheme is not yet standardised. This leads to much confusion. Every journey between any two countries should be researched separately to ensure that the animal will be accepted for travel upon arrival at the departure point.
- The major delay in obtaining a pet passport is the time requirement for the rabies vaccination. The implications are:
- An animal may get a valid rabies vaccination and serology check, and then apply for a passport on the spot, at a later date.
- An animal whose rabies vaccination is allowed to go out of date (typically 1–2 years) by even one day, without a booster, must start with a new vaccination and delay.
- Because PETS is European wide, the regulations may differ for travel within, and outside, Europe. Pet owners should take care since the requirements for travel to a destination may be quite different from the requirements upon returning.
- A suitable and carrier-approved travel crate may be required, which must have the correct food and water containers as set out by the relevant bodies.
- Animals should not be sedated for air travel, since altitude can affect medications. Most airlines will not accept tranquilised animals nowadays. Instead, they are kept in a dark, heated, pressurized hold, which encourages them to sleep for the duration of travel.
- Larger animals may be restricted to airline routes which can accommodate their crates. Not all airlines will carry animals, and charges vary widely - check with each airline before travel.
- Some routes will not fly animals if the temperature is adverse
- Many airlines are unable to provide details of formal procedures, you may need to check with a vet or the consulate of the relevant countries to confirm details.
- Since airline staff are often (at present) poorly trained or uncertain, and conflicting information may be provided, at present it is sensible to double check and document all information supplied.
- In airlines, animals may travel as excess baggage or cargo. "Excess baggage" (in effect treating the crate and animal as another suitcase) ensures they travel on the same flight and is often much cheaper.
- The UK restricts incoming flights to only ship animals as cargo. A cheaper alternative around this aberration in the rules is to fly to some other European city, such as Paris or Amsterdam, and then travel to the UK by rail or ferry instead, which do not have this restriction.
- Travel by Ship: Cunard Line's "Queen Mary 2" kennel programme is available on all Transatlantic Crossings between New York and Southampton in either direction, and is managed by a full-time Kennel Master who takes care of responsibilities such as feeding, walking and cleaning the ship’s 12 spacious kennels. Travelling dogs and cats also receive a complimentary gift pack. Five other crew are assigned to the kennels to assure that all pets are loaded into the lifeboats should the need, however unlikely, arise. All pets are fitted with their own life jacket. The kennels and adjacent indoor and outdoor walking areas are open throughout the day, enabling guests to spend significant time with their pets. Reservations for the kennels may be made at time of booking, and are based on availability. Contact Cunard for fees, details and additional requirements. All animals must be in compliance with the Pets Travel Scheme and in possession of a pet passport.
List of countries exempt from rabies quarantines
A correctly prepared cat or dog may be imported without quarantine into the United Kingdom from the following countries under the Pet passport scheme, but only by an authorised transport company: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France*, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Vatican, Antigua and Barbuda, Ascension Island, Australia, Barbados, Bahrain, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia*, Guadeloupe, Jamaica*, Japan, Réunion*, Malta, Martinique*, Mauritius, Mayotte*, Montserrat, New Caledonia*, New Zealand, St. Helena, St. Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan[vague], United States of America, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.
Note: *=France or French DOM (Départements d’Outre-Mer)*Although Jamaica is a qualifying country under the EU Regulation, Jamaican law currently prevents the involvement of that country in PETS. PETS-prepared animals may not enter Jamaica and animals may not be prepared for PETS in Jamaica(Source:Defra).
- Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 2364: The Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) (England) (Amendment) Order 2004. Office of Public Sector Information. 2004-09-17. ISBN 0-11-049813-5.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Travelling with pets.|
- EU website: Travelling in Europe - Pets
- Official UK government site
- Rules for importing pets to the United Kingdom
- EU regulations on pet movement Q&A
- RTÉ News report on Pet Passports (RealPlayer video stream)
- EuroNews report on Pet Passports (RealPlayer video stream)
- Las Vegas pet travel - Travel check list, import/export regulations, state/city information, and international travel information.
- Ship-a-Pet-to-the-UK - A detailed article on shipping a pet to the UK from overseas (particularly from US).