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Pet Travel Scheme New Rules


With the introduction of new rulesbrought into effect on 1st January 2012, it will become cheaper and easier to travel abroad with your pets.

The UK has harmonised its pet movement rules with the rest of the European Union from 1 January 2012, bringing the UK’s Pet Travel Scheme into line with the most recent science. The UK will maintain its high level of protection against animal diseases.

Having pets spend six months in quarantine, a practice dating from the 1800’s, is no longer necessary because of vastly improved rabies vaccines and treatments, but the requirements from the previous scheme are to be relaxed further.

All pets will still need to be vaccinated against rabies. Pets from the UK starting the scheme (and other EU and listed non-EU countries such as the USA and Australia) will no longer need a blood test and will only have to wait 21 days before they travel. Pets from unlisted non-EU countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa will be able to enter the UK if they meet certain strict criteria to ensure they are protected against rabies, including a blood test and a three-month wait before they enter the UK.

The changes will ensure the risk of rabies coming to the UK remains extremely low. It’s estimated that the new rules mean there would be one case of rabies in a pet in the UK once every 211 years, with the possibility of a person dying from rabies obtained from a pet once in every 21,000 years.

The UK has been discussing with the European Commission the most appropriate form of tapeworm controls for dogs, to ensure the UK continues to be protected from Echinococcus multilocularis which is a worm that can cause serious or even fatal illness in humans. The Commission has recently indicated that its proposals, expected shortly, would enable the UK and other tapeworm-free countries to retain tapeworm controls, with a requirement that animals be treated between one and five days before returning to the UK.

Tick treatment for pet animals returning to the UK will no longer be required. All pet owners travelling abroad with their animals should discuss with their vets the use of treatments, including those designed to control ticks as part of good animal health practice.

The UK, along with Ireland, Sweden and Malta, has an exemption from the standard EU pet travel rules. These other countries are harmonising their entry rules with the rest of the EU at the same time as the UK.

It is very important to remember that the Pet Travel Scheme is really in place to prevent the entry of diseases that can cause serious illness or death to us as humans as well as our pets. Some of the scheme changes now leave the potential risk of allowing specific diseases that can infect our pets to enter the UK which would have previously been covered (eg tick-borne diseases) and hence it's more important than ever to discuss the individual preventative treatments required for your pet in addition to those required in law by the scheme when you go away on holiday. These preventative strategies can be individually tailored to your area of travel and your time away from the UK. Most vets are happy to discuss your individual requirements, check paperwork and your pet's micro-chip before travel, for reassurance.  It is recommended to do this two to four weeks prior to your holiday.

 It is also advisable to think about any additional diseases that your dog may be exposed to while abroad, particularly if you’re travelling to Mediterranean countries.  These include leishmaniasis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, hepatozoonosis and heartworm. 

Entry rules for pets re-entering the UK after going on holiday to the EU with you.  A comparison of before and the changes with effect from 1 January 2012:


What has to be done


From 1 January 2012




Rabies vaccination



Documentation (pet passport or third country certificate)



Blood test (dogs and cats)



Pre-entry waiting period



Length of waiting period before entry to the UK

6 months from date  sample taken for blood test

21 days after vaccination against rabies

Tick treatment

Yes (24-48 hours before embarkation)


Tapeworm treatment

Yes (as for ticks)

Under consideration at European level





Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.  w: Follow us on Facebook