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Does your pet need a passport after Brexit?

Are you a British citizen with a dog, cat, or ferret? If you're among the 52% of United Kingdom (UK) adults who own a pet, be warned. There are some important changes to be aware of if you're planning on living abroad in the European Union (EU) or travelling with pets to a second home on the continent. 

Because of Brexit-related rule changes implemented on 1 January 2021, Great Britain is no longer part of the European Union pet travel scheme (PETS). That means that instead of travelling with your United Kingdom (UK) pet passport, you now need to comply with the relevant regulations for the 27 countries within the EU. 

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What's the issue with UK pet passports?

Pet passports issued in the UK are no longer valid in the EU. So if you want to cross the English Channel or Irish Sea with your pet, you'll need to obtain an animal health certificate (AHC). Sounds simple? It's proving to be a big headache for pet owners and expat forums are ablaze with stories of high costs and extensive paperwork. The 12-page form to apply for the AHC is longer than for old EU passports and there's no guarantee that your application will be approved. 

While you can no longer use a pet passport from Great Britain, you might be lucky if you have a passport issued from the following:

EU, Andorra, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Northern Ireland, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Vatican City.

If that's the case, you should still be able to enter the EU directly from Great Britain, providing your destination country accepts the passport. Should authorities choose to refuse your passport, you will need to obtain an animal health certificate. 

What is the animal health certificate?

The AHC confirms that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. Dogs, cats and ferrets are the three domestic animals most susceptible to the disease. 

The AHC features your details, a description of your pet, proof of rabies vaccination (within three years) and the intended destination within the EU. Certain countries may also require a rabies blood test and proof of canine tapeworm treatment. 

Timing is important. At least 21 days must elapse between any rabies vaccinations and completion of your AHC application, and the AHC must be issued within 10 days of intended travel. Given that pets must be at least 12 weeks old to be vaccinated, that means that you won't be able to travel with any pet that is under 15 weeks old. 

How to get your pet paperwork

The AHC must be signed by an official veterinarian (OV) and they're in short supply. Leave your application to the last minute, and you may find that the ones in your area are already overbooked.  

Once you have successfully secured an appointment, you'll need to bring your pet and their:

  • Microchipping details. 

  • Vaccination history.

  • Valid rabies vaccination.

If you're travelling to certain countries (Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Malta), you'll also need to have your pet treated for tapeworm. 

The cost for the AHC is typically between £100 and £150, but you'll pay extra for vaccinations and blood tests.

Next steps when you arrive

Your AHC entitles you to travel on approved routes only and you must pass through a designated travellers' point of entry for the specified country. Once you have cleared entry, the certificate is valid for four months. Should you return to the UK with your pets, however, you'll need to apply for a fresh AHC to re-enter the EU. For second home-owners in particular, that means that the costs of travelling with pets can quickly become an obstacle. 

There are restrictions on numbers, too. Even with an AHC, you cannot travel to the EU or Northern Ireland with more than five pets unless you have written authorisation to attend a show or competition. 

Taking your pet to France

More than 150,000 British expats live or own second homes in France. Given the prohibitive costs and process of obtaining an AHC for each crossing, many expats are choosing to apply for a (cheaper) EU pet passport instead. As a holder of a pet passport from any EU state, you can travel freely with your pet to and from the UK.

The catch is that you can only apply for a French pet passport if you're staying longer than three months, so you'll need to have the relevant visa. The requirements are as follows:

  • Pet must have a UK-issued EU passport and be registered on the I-CAD database (French Agricultural Ministry) and have an I-CAD identity card. 

  • Pet must be microchipped with a 15-digit chip that is ISO 11784/11785 compliant. 

Travelling to Spain with your pet

If you're moving to Spain, your pet(s) must be registered on the Spanish national database. You'll need a local address and telephone number, as well as a Spanish tax identification number to apply. Those alone do not require you to be a permanent resident, so the regulations are less restrictive than they are for France. 

Crossing to Northern Ireland

You'll still need an AHC to take a pet from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, as well as proof of treatment for tapeworm.  However, physical checks have yet to be implemented while government discussions about the Northern Ireland protocol are ongoing. 

When to get an export health certificate (EHC)

If your pet is travelling more than five days before or after you, or is relocating to a new owner, you'll need an export health certificate instead of an AHC. Obtaining it involves much the same process as for the AHC, starting with a trip to an official veterinarian. 

Any time you're bringing your pet overseas, it's important to know the regulations. The issue with UK pet passports is that many pet owners are unaware of the changes because of Brexit. Whatever the rules, make sure you're not paying more than you need to by using CurrencyFair for your foreign exchange. Usually, you can save up to eight times the cost compared to traditional banks.  

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This information is correct as of October 2022. This information is not to be relied on in making a decision with regard to an investment. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent financial advice before making any form of investment or significant financial transaction. This article is purely for general information purposes. Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

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