Posted By: Gudi - Vet

Time to Prepare For Pet Travel Plans

In the midst of the festive season, summer holidays may be the last thing on our minds, but it won’t be long before many of us are planning our annual break for 2019. And for many pet owners, a holiday is just not a holiday without the dog or cat. However, with potential changes to pet travel regulations on the horizon, it seems we may need to start planning sooner than normal for next year’s pet-xcursions.

Since the Pet Travel Scheme was introduced nearly 20 years ago, overseas travel with pets has become increasingly popular and we now regularly issue Pet Passports at the practice. So, at the moment, UK owners are able to use an EU Pet Passport to travel with their pets to and from other EU countries, and approved, listed countries and territories.

The passport can be issued for dogs, cats and ferrets according to strict regulations. Pets are required to be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and have a Pet Passport issued by a vet with a special license. The Passport then remains valid as long as the rabies vaccination is kept strictly up to date.

Now, although there is no desire for the regular Vet’s Diary to become political and no-one wants to mention the ‘B’ word, it is fair to say that there is plenty of political uncertainty at the moment. As the pet travel regulations form one very small part of our existing arrangements as a member of the EU, it is no surprise that vets and pet owners are asking whether they will change once the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

First of all, it is important to point out that the most likely scenario is that the Pet Travel Scheme will continue with no changes after we have left the EU. In all likelihood, current negotiations will conclude in an agreement on mutual interests, including pet travel. All existing up to date Pet Passports will still be valid for travel and we can continue to issue new passports in the same way. However, in the unlikely event that the UK leaves the EU with ‘no deal’ the pet travel regulations could change.

In the ‘no deal’ scenario, the UK would become an unlisted country, which would mean that the current Pet Passports would no longer be valid and, instead, pets would require rabies vaccination followed by a blood test 30 days later to demonstrate a successful vaccine response. The pet would then be able to travel 3 months after the blood test.

All this means that, in the event of no deal being reached, owners wishing to travel to and from the EU after March 2019 will need to start the process of preparing for travelling with their pet at least 4 months prior to travel. The problem is that, although this scenario is unlikely, we probably won’t be able to rule it out as a possibility for some time yet. So, for owners planning to travel in spring and early summer, it may be necessary to start the ‘unlisted country’ process before negotiations are concluded, just in case, even if the preparations then turn out to be unnecessary.

Needless to say, this is a complicated situation and owners of pets with a Pet Passport, or wishing to get one, may be concerned.  However, our advice is simple. Firstly, there is no need to panic, as vets are on hand to advise on the best solution and plan in all circumstances. Secondly, owners who are considering travelling with their pet after March 2019 should contact their vet to discuss their requirements as soon as possible, and certainly before booking any travel.

Of course, this information is correct at time of writing but the situation may have developed since. So more, updated information can be found at the DEFRA website, or from veterinary practices.   

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