If you are planning a trip and want to take your pet with you, there are some key points you need to include in your planning when you are considering how to travel with pets. Planning is key when travelling with pets and this applies for different modes of transport, whether you are travelling by air, road, bus, train or ferry either within your own country or across international borders to another country.
Below are some facts you’ll need to know for how to travel with pets.
International pet travel requirements
If you are planning to travel with your pet to another country the regulations for doing so vary from country to country and of course those regulations can change. You will need to check what the requirements are not only for the country you are going to but also for your own country when you return.
Rabies and the blood titer test
Pet animals can carry many different types of disease but the most dangerous disease and the one that the authorities are most concerned about is rabies in dogs, cats or ferrets. Many countries use a blood titer test, which is done before travelling and is used to check that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies. Although there are still some countries that require mandatory quarantine if you don’t meet their strict requirements, the titer blood test along with pet passports means that in some cases mandatory quarantine can be avoided.
Each country has been categorised into one of three categories regarding the rabies status for that country:
- Rabies free countries
- Rabies controlled countries
- High incidence of rabies countries
You need to know the category of your home and destination country so you are aware of the requirements for pet travel.
Your pet will also require a pet passport, which in simple terms is a collection of documents that you will need to enable your pet to enter the destination country. The documents include things like innoculation records, health certificate, microchip and others. You local vet should be able to help, providing you with all the necessary “pet passport” documents to allow your pet to travel.
The cost of the pet passport depends on vet fees and where you are planning to go. Check with your vet, let them know your travel plans and they will tell you the cost and what the requirements are. It is best to start the process as early as possible as some countries require you to start the process 6 months in advance of your travel date. Puppies and kittens will usually not be old enough to meet the requirements so will not be allowed to travel.
All pets that travel internationally should be fitted with a pet microchip that conforms to ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standards 11784/11785. The chip needs to be a 15 digit non-encrypted microchip. If you follow these basic guidelines it means that the chip can be read easily by relevant authorities and vets.
Specified entry locations
Some countries will only allow you to enter that country via specified airports or ports if your are entering that country by air or sea respectively. Again you need to check so this can be included in your travel arrangements.
Is your breed of pet banned?
Some countries ban certain breeds of dog, but this varies between countries. Also some countries won’t ban you from entering but certain breeds are banned in some cities or areas, so again you need to check.
Although there may be no rabies requirements for animals that are not dogs, cats or ferrets, species such as rabbits or rodents may require a period of quarantine in some countries. Others such as certain birds may not be imported to some countries and even if they can be imported species such as those mentioned above plus certain fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates may require a valid health certificate for entry. If your pet is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) you will need additional permits for entry.
As examples of how the requirements differ between countries, listed below are summaries of the regulations for pets entering the UK and the USA.
Regulations for pets entering the UK
The UK is categorised as a rabies free country. The rules vary depending on which country you are travelling from. Your pet can enter or return to the UK without quarantine if you follow certain rules and these rules are the same for other EU countries.
The following rules apply to dogs, cats and ferrets. For other pets see the specific rules on this below. There are two sets of rules depending on where you are coming from:
- Travelling from another EU or one of the listed countries.
- Travelling from an unlisted non EU country.
Entry requirements for entering or returning from another EU or listed country:
- Your pet must be microchipped with an ISO compliant 15 digit microchip. The microchip must be fitted before having a rabies vaccination.
- Your pet must be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travelling.
- Your pet must have an EU pet passport or non-EU (third-country) official veterinary certificate.
- If travelling from a listed country you must fill in a declaration to confirm that you will not sell or transfer ownership.
- Dogs should have tapeworm treatment between 24 hours and 5 days before entering the UK.
- You must use an approved company to transport your pet and enter through an approved airport or port.
- Puppies and kittens under 12 weeks are not allowed to enter the UK
- The following dog breeds are not allowed to enter the UK – American Staffordshire Pit Bull Terrier, Brazilian Fila, Dogo Argentino or Japanese Tosa Inu
- There are no restrictions on bringing the following types of pet from other EU countries – rabbits, rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates or ornamental fish.
Entry requirements for entering or returning from an unlisted non EU country:
- All of the above requirements for pets entering or returning from an EU or listed country apply plus the following points.
- Your pet must be microchipped first then vaccinated. Wait 30 days after the vaccination then get a blood titer test. You then must wait 3 months before you can enter the UK or your pet will need to be quarantined for the balance of time remaining of the 3 months.
- Your pet must have a non-EU (third-country) official veterinary certificate.
- Pet rodents and rabbits entering the UK from countries outside the EU will need a rabies import licence and must be quarantined for 4 months.
Regulations for pets entering the USA
The USA is categorised as a rabies controlled country except Hawaii which is categorised as rabies free. Your pet can enter or return to the USA without quarantine if you follow certain rules.
The following rules apply to dogs, cats and ferrets entering or returning to the USA. For other pets see the specific rules on this below:
- There are no requirements for your pet to be fitted with a microchip but it is recommended for identification purposes should your pet get lost.
- If you are entering from a rabies free country no vaccination is required (the US has their own specific list of countries). For all other countries a rabies vaccination is required at least 30 days prior to entering the US.
- There are no blood titer test requirements for entering the US.
- Your pet must have a health certificate provided in English by a licensed vet.
- Your dog must be vaccinated against screwworm 1-5 days prior to entry if entering from a specific list of countries.
- Pets can enter the USA by air at many of the major international airports.
- Puppies and kittens under 3 months old may only enter if pre-approved for home confinement by the CDC.
- No breeds of dog are banned from entry, but some cities ban certain breeds from residence.
- There are no rabies requirements for other species but they will need to have a health certificate. All birds must spend 30 days in quarantine.
Pet travel insurance
Consider getting pet travel insurance in case your pet gets ill, hurt or lost while you are away. If your pet gets sick while you are travelling this will cover the cost of emergency vets fees and should cover other things like accidental death, lost pet, advertising and reward, pet boarding fees if your hospitalised and holiday cancellation to name a few. Check what exclusions apply to the policy and increase the amount of cover if you need to.
How to travel with pets by air
How pets can travel on aircraft is dependent upon individual airline policies which do differ from one airline to another. You should check the policies that your airline has to avoid mistakes, delays and possibly not being allowed to travel.
Pets can travel in aircraft one of three ways:
- In the cabin with you – this option is only available to smaller dogs and cats up to a certain size and they must be in an airline approved carrier. Not all airlines allow animals to be transported in the cabin except special assistance animals (see below). Larger dogs will need to be transported using one of the other options.
- As checked baggage – your pet is travelling with you but is transported in the pressurized cargo hold as checked baggage.
- As manifest cargo – this option is for transporting pets that are unaccompanied by their owner.
- Special assistance animals – there is a fourth option but this applies to special assistance dogs or approved service animals only and these can travel in the cabin with you.
Which of the three options above that your pet is allowed to travel will mostly be determined by airline policies. For example some airlines allow small docs or cats to travel in the cabin with you (in an approved animal carrier) while other airlines don’t allow this at all. Also some airlines don’t offer the checked baggage option either and will only transport animals as cargo.
It is a good idea if possible to use the same airline for the whole of the journey on your itinerary.
Airlines will not transport certain breeds of dog at all such as Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, American Pit Bull and others, plus they will not transport some snub nosed dogs, such as bulldogs, pugs, boxers and others because of possible breathing and self cooling difficulties. You should to check with your airline regarding which breed of dog they are willing to transport.
Pet crates (carriers)
There are rules set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regarding approved types of container that your pet can be transported in. The crate (carrier) must be large enough so that your pet can stand, turn around and lie down within it. The construction must be sturdy (e.g. metal, hard plastic, fibreglass or wood) and be properly ventilated. The crate must close securely without needing special tools. The floor must be leak proof and it is recommended that a waterproof pet pad is included for your pet’s comfort. Food and water bowls should be attached to the inside of the door and be refillable form the outside without needing to open the door. These are just a few of the requirements so again you should check with your airline about their exact requirements for airline approved pet carriers. There maybe different requirements for other pets such as rabbits, rodents, birds, snakes, turtles and other pets.
Always display your name and address on the crate with your phone number plus your pet’s name. Use stickers on the crate stating that live animals are inside.
Your pet will be more relaxed travelling in their crate if they get accustomed to it first. Get your pet used to being in the crate while you are still at home well in advance of your trip.
Food and water
It is a good idea to give your pet food and water a few hours before the flight, but do not overfeed them as this could make them uncomfortable during the journey and possibly make them want to urinate or defecate more often.
Booking and check in
Be sure to book travel arrangements for you pet with the airline well in advance of your trip so that you have time to deal with any airline specified requirements. Reconfirm the booking 24 hours before departure. Also check where you need to check in your pet at the airport and what time you need to arrive before the flight. Allow plenty of time.
How to travel with pets by road
Whether you are travelling with your pet by car in your own country or another country there are a few basic guidelines you need to follow to ensure your pet is comfortable and safe.
Before the car journey:
- Is your pet healthy? If you can’t answer definitely yes to that question then your pet may not be up to the journey and may suffer unnecessarily.
- Is your dog or cat used to travelling in the car? If not it will be a good idea to get them used to travelling in the car on several short trips before setting off travelling on a longer journey. Doing this will be less stressful for your pet and ensures they remain calm. Put them on a familiar blanket so they have familiar smells around them.
- If you are travelling to another country you pet will need to be fitted with a microchip, have the required vaccinations , have a pet passport (health certificates) and other requirements as described above in the International pet travel requirements section.
- Pets can get motion sickness just like humans so for a long car journey give them motion sickness medication before setting off. If you are not sure what type to give them ask your vet.
- Make sure you have with you – a lead and collar, your pet is wearing an ID tag with your mobile phone number and other contact details, bottled water and water dish, pet food with a dish and treats, any medication or first aid kit you would use on your pet at home, an old towel for drying them off if they get wet, plastic bags to clean up after your pet’s toilet breaks, and grooming kit.
During the car journey:
- The safest place for you dog or cat is in a transport crate or box in the back of the car that is secured so it can’t move around. Alternatively you can use a pet seat belt which clips to the seat belt holder at one end and to a harness you pet wears at the other end. Doing this is for the same reasons you wear a seatbelt and ensures your pet can’t make a dash for it when you’ve stopped the car and open the door.
- If your car has air-conditioning use it on the journey to make sure your pet stays cool. If you need to open the window, only open them just enough to let a flow of air in. Don’t let your dog hang their head out of the window, this is dangerous.
- When you stop for a rest break do not leave you pet in the car unless necessary. If you do have to leave you pet in the car open at least two windows. In the summer temperatures can get very hot in an unventilated car.
- Take rest breaks at least every couple of hours so that your pet can stretch their legs, take a toilet break, have a drink and possibly something to eat. Always keep your pet on the lead during stops.
- If your car breaks down and you are parked at the side of the road, if you get out of your car leave your pet secured in the car. If they do need to exit the car make sure you pet is on a lead or is contained within their pet carrier. For example it would be extremely dangerous to have a dog wandering free if you broke down on a major highway or motorway.
- When you arrive at your destination if the surroundings are unfamiliar to your pet take them around on a lead so they get used to the smells of the new place and show them where their food water and bed will be.
How to travel with pets by bus
Travelling with pets by bus or coach on long journeys across country is not going to be easy. Long distance bus companies such as National Express and Megabus in the UK or Greyhound in the USA do not allow pets of any kind to travel with you with the exception of special assistance animals.
Some local buses will allow pets on board but it is usually at the discretion of the bus driver as to whether your pet is allowed to travel. In some cases the pet must travel in a transport container or crate and the crate cannot be over a certain size which rules out all but small dogs, cats and other small animals.
How to travel with pets by train
Rules and regulations for taking pets on trains vary between countries. Yes train travel is slower than going by airplane over big distances but your pet will find it less stressful than travelling in the hold of an aircraft.
If you are travelling by train, even within your own country it is a good idea to get your pet fitted with a microchip and have all the Pet Passport recommended vaccinations. This will be mandatory if you are travelling between countries in the EU.
The following summarises what can and can’t be done regarding taking pets on trains:
- In the UK you can take dogs, cats or other small animals free of charge on the train (2 pets per passenger maximum). They must be kept on a lead or in in an enclosed pet carrier. The animal should be able to comfortably stand, turn around and lie down. Animals and/or containers should not occupy seats or they will be charged the appropriate fee. The Caledonian sleeper train to and from Scotland charges a fee for dogs and cats to cover cleaning.
- If you are travelling from the UK to Europe, unfortunately Eurostar trains do not allow pets except special assistance dogs. If you have your own car you can use Eurotunnel or use one of the cross channel ferries, (the pet must stay in the car). You can leave your car at the nearest railway station and get onward trains into Europe from there. Alternatively if you are a foot passenger with a pet you can get the Newhaven to Dieppe LD Lines ferry but pets must be contained in crates and then get an onward train from there.
- The rules and regulations regarding pets on trains vary from country to country in Europe as does the cost. For more information on all the rule variations see the relevant national rail operators website.
- In the USA Amtrak doesn’t allow pets on trains except special assistance animals such as guide dogs.
How to travel with pets by ferry
The UK is an island nation and many people travel to Europe by ferry to get to their holiday destination. The introduction of the PET Travel Scheme has made it much easier to take your pet between countries within the EU. Ferries are an ideal way to transport you and your pet to mainland Europe. Pets can travel on most ferries from the UK but again policies regarding pets travelling by ferry do vary for each different ferry company. It is best to check what rules and regulations the ferry company has that you are planning to travel with before booking.
In general the following rules apply to travelling with pets by ferry:
- Any pets leaving or entering the UK must comply with the PETS Travel scheme requirements. See the International pet travel requirements section above or watch the following video for an overview of the scheme requirements.
- If you are travelling by car and taking the ferry, pets are often allowed to travel on the ferry with you but must remain in the car on the car decks throughout the journey. This isn’t great because some ferry companies will not allow you on to the car decks during the journey so you can’t check on your pet’s wellbeing. Others will allow you on the car deck if accompanied by one of the crew so you’d need to arrange this with them. If you do use this option make sure they have been on a toilet break and had plenty of exercise before boarding the ferry.
- Leave a small amount of water in a non-spill bowl to avoid toilet accidents and some familiar toys in the car. Be sure to leave a couple of windows open a small amount so that air can get in the car. Use their usual bedding but with absorbent or waterproof bedding underneath in case of accidents.
- On some ferries a special kennel area is provided for dogs, which is better because you can usually visit your dog in the kennel area during the journey. Exercising your dog on board in the designated area usually means your dog will need to wear a muzzle for safety reasons.
- Some ferry companies allow small dogs and cats into the public areas as long as they remain in an enclosed transport crate for the duration of the journey. If you are a foot passenger this will be your only option unless the ferry has one of the above mentioned kennel areas where you can leave your pet.
- There are some ferries which have a limited number of pet friendly cabins and designated promenade decks where you can exercise them if you are travelling overnight. This is a good option as your pet can remain with you in your cabin and the whole journey will consequently be less stressful for them.
- Charges may apply to take your pet on board except in the case of special assistance animals which go free.
- Pets can get motion (sea) sickness just like humans so for a ferry journey give them motion sickness medication before boarding the ferry. If you are not sure what type to give them ask your vet. Don’t give them food for at least 2 hours before the journey and only a little water.
If you are planning to travel with you pet be sure to plan everything well in advance of your trip so that you don’t forget anything which may cause unwanted mistakes, delays or not being allowed to travel. Follow the how to travel with pets tips in this article and you can look forward to memorable travels with your pet.