The British government has warned that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, travelling between Britain and the EU with a pet will get a lot more complicated.
It is currently warning pet owners: “To make sure your pet is able to travel from the UK to the EU after Brexit, you should contact your vet at least four months before travelling to get the latest advice.”
So anyone planning a trip at Christmas time, for example, needs to start now.
Under the current Pet Passport scheme, travel with an animal is relatively simple, but because this is an EU scheme it will cease to apply to Britain after Brexit.
The British government is currently stating that it will allow Pet Passports to be used to bring animals from the EU into the UK, but they will not be accepted going from the UK into the EU.
And if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, as is looking increasingly likely, it will become an 'unlisted' country in terms of pet travel – and that means a whole raft of new requirements for people wanting to travel with a cat, dog or ferret.
The Pet Passport is an EU scheme. Photo: AFP
Going from the UK to the EU
1. Firstly if your pet is not already, it needs to be microchipped.
2. Your pet then needs to have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after its most recent rabies vaccination (whether that is a vaccination or a booster).
3. Your vet then needs to send the blood sample to an EU approved blood testing laboratory (of which there are only two in the UK) which will check that your pet has the correct level of rabies antibodies in its blood. If the level is not high enough, then your pet will need a booster vaccine.
4. You cannot travel until three months after a successful rabies test.
5. When you get to within 10 days of your travel date, you then need to get an animal health certificate from your vet. To get the certificate you will need to provide; proof that your pet is microchipped, its vaccination history and the successful rabies antibody test result. The certificate will only be accepted at the border if it has been issued within 10 days of your date of travel.
6. You do not need a new blood test every time you travel, but you will need a new animal health certificate for each trip.
The restrictions apply to cats, dogs and ferrets. Photo: AFP
Going from the EU to the UK
Going the other way is easier, because the UK has stated that for the moment it will continue to accept Pet Passports. Your Pet Passport and microchip information will be checked at the border.
Tapeworm requirements for dogs will not change from the current system.
Going from the UK to the EU if you live in the EU
Good news for people who are resident in Spain, as their waiting time for travel after the rabies test is slightly shorter – instead of waiting three months after a successful test they only need to wait 30 days, as long as the test is carried out in Spain (or another EU country).
If you don't have the correct paperwork your pet could be put into quarantine for up to four months or they might be refused entry if you travelled by sea, and you will be held responsible for any fees or charges.
The above rules apply for all unlisted countries, which the UK is likely to become in the case of a no-deal Brexit. After that it would be a question of the UK government negotiating to gain listed status, under which restrictions are lighter and the waiting times after rabies tests are generally shorter.
Thousands of travellers transport their pets between the UK and Spain each year catching ferries between the Spanish ports of Bilbao and Santander to UK ports.
Around 80,000 animals use the pet service between Spanish and French ports on Brittany Ferries each year, travelling either in 'pet friendly' cabins or using the kennel service.
There are full details on the UK government site here, or there is a helpline on 0370 241 1710 which is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm (UK time) except on bank holidays.