The pet travel regulations are primarily designed to promote free movement throughout the European Union and protect human health, based on a risk assessment for the spread of diseases of zoonotic importance; they are not concerned with the protection of individual animals. BSAVA has prepared a poster to help inform owners of the health and welfare implications of taking their pets abroad.
Tick and Tapeworm Controls
Ticks carry a range of diseases that can affect both humans and animals. Some of these diseases (such as Lyme Disease) already occur in the UK, while others are much more prevalent in parts of Europe (see section on diseases risks abroad). Tapeworms are common in the UK and rarely cause problems. However, in parts of Europe there is a particular tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) which, although it does not cause illness in your pet, can cause a serious illness in people (alveolar echinococcosis).
It is therefore important, for both your pet’s and your own health, to provide your pet with protection while you are away as well as complying with any regulations for re-entry into the UK.
Rabies and Vaccination
The UK is currently free from rabies; however, it is important to be aware that rabies does still occur in parts of Europe. Even countries like France and Spain have seen occasional cases in illegally imported dogs in recent years and both Norway and Italy have reported cases. Read the most up-to-date guidance about rabies in bats from DEFRA.
It is a requirement to have your pet vaccinated against rabies before travelling abroad and it is important that any animal entering the UK complies with the regulations. If you or your pet are bitten while abroad, you should seek appropriate medical/veterinary advice.
Always think about your pet's welfare
While it may seem like a nice idea to take your pet abroad with you, it is important to think about the welfare of your pet and the possible stress caused by the journey; changes in climate while abroad and any possible disease risks. It is also important to check whether your pet insurance provides cover while abroad and whether there are any restrictions.
Visit your vet for up-to-date advice
There are regulations that need to be followed if you plan to travel with your pet. While the new regulations make travelling in Europe easier, the disease situation is constantly changing so it is important to discuss appropriate preventive healthcare before each trip.
When travelling abroad, your pet may be at risk from a number of diseases that don’t normally occur in the UK, such as leishmaniasis, heartworm and tick-borne diseases. Before you go, it is important to be aware of the diseases that may occur in the areas that you will be visiting, and take advice from your veterinary surgeon on how to minimise the risk for your pet.
Leave your pet at home
Having considered all the information, you may decide that it is more appropriate to make alternative arrangements and leave your pet at home while you are away.
The pet travel scheme allows people to take their dog, cat or ferret in and out of the UK without quarantine, as long as they meet the rules of the scheme. The pet travel rules apply to all domestic dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owners (including assistance and guide dogs). You are responsible for ensuring your pet meets all the rules for entering the UK under the pet travel scheme.
If you are looking to bring animals into the UK for sale of re-homing, then you will need to comply with the rules governing trade in these animals.
The main requirements of the scheme are that all dogs, cats and ferrets entering the UK (or other EU country) will require:
- vaccination against rabies
- a pet passport issued by an authorised vet (or third-country certificate issued by an official vet)
- a waiting period after primary vaccination and prior to travel
- entry with an approved transport company on an authorised route
Detailed requirements, including any relating to tick or tapeworm treatments, along with up-to-date information for different countries, can be found on the Defra website.
Pets travelling from the UK to EU countries will need to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travelling between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Countries outside the EU will continue to set their own entry requirements; therefore, you should check the requirements with the authorities from the country concerned and Defra as soon as you know you are going to travel.
After your pet has been vaccinated, it will need regular booster vaccinations. These must be kept up to date and be given the 'valid until' date in the relevant section of the EU pet passport or third-country official veterinary certificate.
Booster vaccinations are valid for entry to the UK and other EU countries from the date given, provided they are given on time (according to the instructions in the vaccine manufacturer's data sheet where the previous vaccination was given).
If the revaccination date is missed, your pet will not meet the conditions of the scheme, will have to be vaccinated again and have to wait 21 days before it can move under the scheme.
While your veterinary practice will provide advice, you are responsible for ensuring your pet meets all the rules for entering the UK under the pet travel scheme. Make sure you have had the procedures carried out in the correct order and that your pet's documentation is correctly completed. If you do not, your pet may not be able to enter the country or may have to be licensed into quarantine on arrival. This will mean a delay and will cost you money.
Changes designed to improve the security and traceability of the pet passport came into effect on 29th December 2014. This includes a new-style passport which includes details of the issuing veterinary surgeon and laminated strips designed to cover those pages with the pet’s details, microchip information and each rabies vaccination entry. This will help prevent anyone tampering with this information once it has been completed by a vet. Existing passports remain valid for the lifetime of the pet (or until all the treatment spaces are filled), so if you already have a passport for your pet you do not need to get a new one.
Age of vaccination
Since 29th December 2014, your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before it can be vaccinated against rabies for the purposes of pet travel.
The introduction of checks across the EU
If you travel with your pet in the EU, you may be asked for your pet’s passport when entering other countries. This is because all EU countries are now required to carry out some checks on pet movements within the EU.
Travelling with your pet
In most cases you will be expected to travel with your pet. Owners who cannot travel with a pet when they enter the EU, must do so within 5 days; owners can still authorise another person to travel with their pet, but again the pet and authorised person must travel within 5 days of each other. Pets that are not accompanied by their owners when they enter the UK under licence for quarantine may only do so via approved Border Inspection Posts (BIPs). For the UK, these are Edinburgh Airport, London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport.
Rules for travelling with more than five pets
Under the EU pet travel scheme, the number of pets that you can travel with is limited to five per person. Anyone looking to travel with more than five pets must comply with the rules governing the commercial trade and import regime.
The only exception to this rule is for pet owners who are travelling to attend a competition, show, sporting event or training for such an event. You will need to provide written evidence that you are eligible to make use of this exemption and will be asked to present this when you travel. All the pets accompanying you must be attending the event or training and they must all be aged over six months.
In addition you will need to complete a declaration confirming that you do not intend to sell or transfer ownership of your pets and you must bring this with you when you travel. For more information, contact the Import team at the Centre for International Trade - Carlisle
Changes to the Pet Travel Scheme from 29th December 2014
Changes to the Pet Travel Scheme have been introduced by a new EU Regulation (EU No 576/2013) which came into effect on 29 December 2014. The main requirements for travel with pets remains the same but changes have been introduced to strengthen enforcement across the EU, increase levels of compliance and improve the security and traceability of the pet passport. The Defra guidance can be viewed here, we also have a Pet Travel poster available here which you may also find useful., as well as articles in the BSAVA's Companion (members only).
What has stayed the same?
The requirements for dogs, cats and ferrets travelling to and from other EU Member States and approved non-EU countries essentially remains the same. Animals must:
- Be positively identified by means of a microchip (Tattoos are only an acceptable method of identification if they were applied before 3 July 2011 and are still legible)
- Have an up-to-date vaccination against rabies
- Be issued with an EU pet passport by an official veterinarian
- Wait 21 days after rabies vaccination before travelling
- Travel into the UK on an approved route
- Dogs must be treated by a vet for tapeworm between 24 and 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before arrival into the UK and the pet passport signed accordingly. No treatment is required for dogs entering from Finland, Ireland or Malta.
What has changed?
The changes include:
- new pet passports include laminated strips and a requirement for more contact details to be provided by the vet issuing the document and certifying the veterinary treatments
- a minimum age of 12 weeks before a pet can be vaccinated against rabies
- a requirement for all member states in the EU to carry out checks on their borders (the UK already checks all pets coming into the country through approved routes)
- a tighter definition of non-commercial movement, animals coming into the UK for sale or re-homing will need to comply with the rules governing commercial trade. Owners who cannot travel with a pet when they enter the EU must do so within 5 days; owners can still authorise another person to travel with their pet, but again the pet and authorised person must travel within 5 days of each other.
- Exemptions to the maximum of 5 animals rule for pet owners who are travelling to attend a competition, show, sporting event or training for such an event.
Full details of the regulations can be found on the Defra website here and information for pet owners can be found here
The regulations introduced a new format passport. Full guidance on completing passports is available at the relevant OV sections of the APHA website here
and also information available here
All pet passports issued from 29th December 2014 should be in the new format. Existing passports will remain valid for the lifetime of the pet (or until all the treatment spaces are filled), so owners who already have a passport for their pet do not need to get a new one.
Tighter definition of dogs, cats and ferrets
The current EU regulation specifically states that the only species of pet animal that can travel under the EU travel rules are:
- Canis lupis familiaris - domestic dog
- Felis silvestris catus - domestic cat
- Mustela putorius furo - ferret
The reason for this change is to make sure that wild animals can’t be moved under rules designed for pet travel.
This change will not affect the majority of pet owners. However, if for hybrids (such as a Bengal or Savannah cat, or a Wolfdog) then you must seek advice from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency regarding requirements for travel.
The regulations have introduced a minimum age for rabies vaccination of 12 weeks throughout Europe. This, along with the 21 day wait before travel, should mean that no animal enters the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme before 15 weeks of age.
In theory all animals entering the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme should be having their documentation checked. Any information about cases where this is not taking place should be passed to Defra on firstname.lastname@example.org. However, it should be remembered that checks at ports will only check documentation against the microchip number of the animal. No attempt will be made to check the age of the animal so if veterinary surgeons are concerned that the animal has been imported before 15 weeks of age, or does not comply with the requirements, they should report this to the local authority.
Veterinary surgeons are reminded that responsibility for illegal imports rests with the local authority, usually Trading Standards or Environmental Health. Details of your local office can be checked here. It may be appropriate for veterinary practices to contact their local authority to ensure that they know how to report before the need arises.
If you are in the City of London or Greater London (the 33 Greater London Authorities), you should contact the City of London Animal Health and Welfare Team on 0208 897 6741. Any animal suspected of having rabies, or any other notifiable disease, should be reported immediately to your local APHA office.
Changes to quarantine from 29th December 2014
A new maximum quarantine period of 4 months was introduced on 29 December 2014. In order to be released from quarantine after 4 months, your pet must meet all the conditions of the pet travel scheme, except where they relate to rabies. Pets will continue to be vaccinated against rabies on arrival in quarantine.
What do if the microchip has failed or only works intermittently
In the event that you are unable to scan and read the original microchip or if a microchip only reads intermittently, refer to the relevant OV sections of the APHA website here
and also information available here
Further information can be found by contacting APHA
Pet Travel Scheme helpine
Pet Travel Section
Animal and Plant Health Agency
Hadrian House, Wavell Drive
Rosehill Industrial Estate
Pet Travel Scheme helpline: 0370 241 1710
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays). Find out about call charges here
A taeniid tapeworm endemic in much of Europe, from central France eastwards. Foxes are the main definitive hosts and voles and other small rodents act as intermediate hosts. Dogs are easily infected and although the adult parasite produces no clinical signs in dogs, it can cause a potentially fatal condition in humans (alveolar echinococcosis).
Read more on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website
Read more on the PubMed website
The microscopic eggs are infective immediately. Infection is uncommon but not impossible in cats.
In endemic areas it is recommended that dogs that have access to rodents are wormed monthly with praziquantel. It is also important to advise clients that the eggs can also be found in the dog’s coat especially if it becomes contaminated with fox faeces. It should also be remembered that dogs will need to be treated for tapeworm before re-entry into the UK.
Although the requirement to treat pets for ticks before re-entry into the UK has been removed the need to treat them before travelling abroad has not. While both ticks and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) are present in the UK, there are also species of tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and diseases (e.g. Erlichia canis, Babesia canis and Hepatozoon spp.) which are not. While the majority of ticks are found in pasture and woodland, it should be remembered that R. sanguineus can be found in domestic environments such as homes and kennels.
Acaracides should be applied before travel, animals should be checked regularly and visible ticks removed. It should be remembered that frequent water exposure may reduce the efficacy of the acaricidal product and products should be reapplied in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Other vector-borne diseases
Leishmaniasis is an infectious and potentially fatal disease caused by a protozoan parasite common in Mediterranean coastal areas and transmitted by phlebotomine sand flies. Despite the name, which relates to their brownish colour, the flies are found in woodlands and crevices in old buildings. The sand flies are active from May to October and feed mainly at dusk and dawn. Prevention involves avoiding the sand flies and the use of insect repellents such as those containing synthetic pyrethroids (do not use in cats), although repellents alone cannot be relied upon to prevent disease. A vaccine for dogs is now available in the UK.
Dirofilaria immitis (heartworm) is a nematode worm endemic in Mediterranean areas. Dogs are the primary definitive host; however, the cat is a susceptible if not ideal host. Microfilariae are spread by blood-sucking mosquitoes during feeding and the larvae migrate to the pulmonary artery and adjacent areas where they develop into adult worms. Many mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the parasite, including species present in the UK. While the synthetic pyrethroids have some repellent effect on mosquitoes, these should not be relied upon and preventive treatments such as Milbemycin or Selamectin should be given throughout the mosquito season, starting one month before exposure.
Rabies in Europe is predominately sylvatic rabies, with wildlife species, especially the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) accounting for approximately 80% of all rabies cases. While many western European countries have successfully controlled rabies in wildlife through the use of oral vaccination programs it should be remembered that sporadic cases do still occur, usually in illegally imported animals.
Risks to humans
While travelling pets will be protected by vaccination, it is important for clients to realise that they will not be and to get immediate treatment for any bite wound. It is also important to stress to clients the importance of not deciding to rescue strays of unknown health status as this risks introducing a number of diseases into the UK. Read more about rabies risks on the Public Health England (PHE) website here and the risk by country here
It is likely that the changes in the regulations will increase the number of pets travelling between the UK and Europe. This coupled with the loss of pre-entry tick treatment means that we are likely to see more of the “exotic” diseases mentioned above. While the risk of rabies entering the UK is still considered to be very low, and most likely to be brought in by an illegally imported animal, it would be wrong to be complacent and we must remain vigilant. Rabies is a notifiable disease and any suspect case should be reported immediately to APHA here. The suspected animal should be kept isolated and restrained along with any other animals that which have had contact with the suspect case. A veterinary officer will normally come to the practice immediately and will manage the investigation.
Classical rabies was eradicated from the UK in 1922. The last case of rabies in an animal outside of quarantine in the UK was a dog in Camberley in 1970. The last case of rabies in quarantine was reported in 2008. The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was launched in 2000 to allow people to bring in or travel with their pets, while ensuring the UK remains free from rabies and certain other exotic diseases. In total, 752,945 pet animals have entered the
UK under PETS since 2000 (ferrets have only been able to enter under the scheme since July 2004), and there have been no cases of rabies in any of these animals (Defra 2010). However, since 2001, nine rabid dogs have been illegally introduced in France, and all but one of these was imported from Morocco through Spain. Illegally imported dogs continue to pose a risk of rabies in otherwise rabies-free regions and both Italy and Norway have reported cases of Rabies in wildlife (see recent outbreaks).
It is thought that our island status makes it unlikely that terrestrial rabies will be re-introduced through wildlife and that the largest risk for rabies entering the UK would be through an infected animal imported into the country illegally. Defra have admitted that the changes to the Pet travel regulations that came into effect on 1 January 2012 do increase the risk of rabies being introduced to the UK. Although the risk is still very small, calculated to be one rabies introduction every 211 years, or one rabies case for 9,809,601 animals imported; however, these figures assume 100% compliance with the regulations (V.L.A. 2010).
Defra (2010). Zoonsis Report: UK 2010. London, Defra.
V.L.A. (2010). A quantitative risk assessment on the change in likelihood of rabies introduction into the United Kingdom as a consequence of adopting the existing harmonised Community rules for the non-commercial movement of pet animals.
Rabies in bats
Cases of bats infected with one of the two European bat Lyssavirus (EBL) subtypes, EBL2, have been confirmed in the UK as recently as 2008. One of these cases resulted in the unfortunate death of a bat worker in Scotland in November 2002. EBLV is transmitted through contact with an infected bat, for example through bites, scratches or saliva. All reported cases have so far occurred in Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii), a common species which often comes into human contact as it roosts in houses. Up to 8% of Daubenton’s bats carry antibodies to the virus. To date classical rabies has never been recorded in a native European bat species. You can read more here.
Defra’s Rabies Control Strategy is available here. Defra takes a precautionary approach to possible contacts with bats by bat workers and others handling bats on a routine basis as well as any incident where a member of the public has come into contact with a bat. A comprehensive range of advice is available from Public Health England (PHE) is available here, which includes recommended pre-exposure vaccination for those handling bats, and immediate precautionary administration of rabies vaccine for anyone bitten or scratched by a bat. ). Specific advice on pre-exposure prophylaxis is available here
Advice for veterinary surgeons dealing with bats
- Veterinary staff dealing with bats on a frequent basis should be vaccinated against rabies (see below). Handling of bats should where possible be limited to those staff that have been vaccinated
- Bats should always be handled with protective gloves. Latex gloves are suitable for the smaller species and light leather gloves such as driving gloves with disposable latex gloves on top are suitable for the larger species
- A suitable field guide (e.g. A Field Guide to British Bats, Greenaway and Hutson, 1990, Bruce Coleman Books, Uxbridge) should be used to familiarise staff as to the different bat species
- All bats acting strangely and Daubenton’s bats in particular should be handled with extra care.
- Suspicious cases should be reported to relevant government departments at local level – information is available here.
- If bitten or scratched by a bat, wounds should be cleaned with soap and water or a suitable disinfectant and medical advice sought
- Information on the need for post-exposure treatment can be obtained here
- The Veterinary Laboratory Agency carries out surveillance of submitted bat carcasses. All dead bats (not just suspected rabies cases) should be submitted to the National Reference Laboratory for Rabies, APHA, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB.
Rabies vaccines can be obtained from General medical Practitioners (GPs
Advice to clients
Clients should be discouraged from handling or approaching sick, injured or trapped bats. Assistance should be sought through the Bat Conservation Trust helpline on 0845 130 0228 or in Scotland, the Scottish SPCA (03000 999 999) or the Scottish Natural Heritage Batline on 01463 725000.