Pet passengers

news: Pet passengers

IT’S THAT time of the year when the annual summer holiday comes to mind. If you live in Portugal and are planning a trip to the UK, or live in Britain and want to travel abroad, it’s always a wrench to leave a loved pet at home while you disappear for a few weeks’ relaxation.

However, thanks to the introduction of the Pet Passport a couple of years ago, it is now possible to take your dog, cat or even ferret on holiday with you. Here’s how it works.

Pet dogs and cats (including guide and hearing dogs), that are resident in either the United Kingdom or one of the other qualifying countries, including Portugal, can enter or re-enter the UK without the usual six-month quarantine, provided they meet the rules of the Pet Passport Scheme.

To bring your dog or cat into the UK from one of the listed countries, you must first get it micro-chipped, then vaccinated against rabies. Thirty days after the vaccination, your pet should have a blood test to prove that it has a good defence level against rabies.

The Pet Passport Certificate will be issued by your vet if the blood tests show the rabies vaccination was successful. It’s important to remember that your pet cannot enter the UK until six calendar months have passed from the date that your vet took the blood sample, which led to a satisfactory test result. Once the vet has issued your pet’s documentation and the six-month period has passed, your pet can travel to and from the UK.

In order to enter the UK, you must go to a vet 24 to 48 hours before you are due to travel. The vet must treat your pet against tapeworm and ticks, and issue you with an official certificate. You must also sign a declaration to state that your pet has not been outside the PETS qualifying countries.

Ways to travel

Only certain transport companies and routes can be used to bring dogs, cats and ferrets to and from the UK, so always check before booking that the company is willing to transport your pet. The three most popular routes used are ferry, via the Channel Tunnel and by air.

Travelling by car and ferry

If you plan to travel by car or ferry, it is important to bear the following points in mind:

• If your pet is not used to being in the car for long distances, it is wise to acclimatise it by taking short trips and gradually lengthening them.

•Never allow your pet to ride with its head out the window. They could get hurt by flying debris, or develop lung infections or inner ear damage.

• Never leave your pet alone in a parked car – temperatures can rise quickly, posing a serious threat, even if the window is left slightly open. And, of course, there is also the danger of tempting a pet thief.

• As well as being micro-chipped, your pet should wear a collar with an ID tag printed with your home address, mobile phone number and any other pertinent information.

• Never let your pet out of the car without a lead.

• Allow your pet plenty of pit stops for exercise.

• Do not feed your pet in a moving car and remember to give him plenty of water during your travels.

• Be prepared – bring food and water bowls, a poop scoop, a favourite toy and bedding material for a sense of security.

When you arrive at the ferry terminal, try to get there in good time so that your vehicle can be positioned in the best place for the welfare of your pet. Travelling overnight is recommended, as your pet will be used to sleeping then. It is also better to feed your pet earlier in the day rather than just prior to travelling.

The Chunnel

A great way to make the journey to and from the UK is via Eurotunnel, which is very pet friendly and offers easy check-in facilities and pet exercise areas. Also, by keeping your pet with you throughout the 35-minute crossing, you can make sure your four-legged traveller is not distressed, hot or bored.


Flying may be the quickest route to and from the UK, but it can be the most traumatic for pets. First of all, check with your vet that your pet is capable of travelling well. Pug nosed dogs or cats (e.g. Boston Terriers, Boxers, Chow Chows, Pekinese and Persians) do not fly well because they are prone to breathing difficulties due to their short nasal passages.

• If your pet is highly strung, bear in mind that most vets will not prescribe sedation for nervous pets because, at higher altitudes, their effects on animals are unpredictable.

• Remember: your pet will be going in cargo, so consider early morning or late afternoon flights in the summer to avoid the heat.

• Clip your pet’s nails before the trip so they won’t get caught in the carrier’s doors or sides.

• Do not overfeed your pet as it is not good for it to travel on a full stomach. Do not leave food or water in the kennel; instead leave frozen ice cubes so your pet can drink incrementally. It helps to fasten the bowl to the carrier’s floor. You should also tape a packet of food on top of the kennel in case of emergency.

Health and welfare of

your pet abroad

If you are taking your pet out of the UK, you should bear in mind that it may be exposed to diseases that do not exist in Britain, e.g. heartworm and tapeworm. It will have no natural immunity to such diseases and may, therefore, be more likely to succumb to them.

Wherever you are travelling to, we strongly recommend that you consult your vet about your pet’s fitness to travel before you take it abroad. Depending on where you are going, your vet may be able to advise you on preventative treatments, on any other precautions you need to take and how to look for signs of ill health in your pet.

Happy travelling!

• For more information on how to travel with your pet, contact the Pet Travel Scheme Helpline – telephone: +44 (0)870 241 1710, fax: +44 (0)20 7904 6206 or email: [email protected]