Brexit and Pet Travel – URGENT Update for Pet Owners

As part of the planning process before Brexit next spring, the government has been releasing a series of “advisory” notices for businesses, professions, and the public. Today (6th November), the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency, the part of DEFRA responsible for, among other things, Pet Passports) has issued their update. In this blog, we’re going to explore what they’ve said – but the bottom line is that if you want to be certain of your pet’s ability to travel to Europe after 28th March 2019, you need to take action this month.


What’s the current situation?

If you’ve been tuning out of the constant babble of news reports about Brexit – and I certainly wouldn’t blame you for doing so! – the EU and UK are trying to negotiate an agreement over how the UK will leave the EU (which is scheduled for 29th March 2019). This is not the same as any future relationship between the UK and the EU, but should “sketch out” outline of any future agreement.

However, no such agreement has yet been reached, and there is a possibility that no withdrawal agreement will be signed before the cut-off date. We have discussed in a previous blog concerns around how a no deal Brexit might affect pet owners, farmers and vets. While much can change in the next four and a half months, the UK government has decided to warn people about the “worst case” situation, so that they can prepare, whatever happens with the Brexit negotiations. This is what the update from APHA is about, and what we’re going to look at here – what the situation will be if no deal is agreed.


In the event of a “no-deal Brexit”…

Will I be allowed to travel?

There seems to be no doubt about that – your passport will still be valid, and no country has any plans to ban UK citizens from entering on 29th March. You may require a visa, however, this is beyond the scope of this blog!


Will my pet be allowed to visit EU countries?

Yes – the government states that there will be no ban on travelling. However, you may need to take extra steps to ensure they will be permitted entry if the UK is no longer part of the EU-wide Pet Travel Scheme.


What will the rules be?

The UK will be treated by EU countries as an “unlisted country”, and so pets will have to abide by stricter rules than they do at the moment.


What will I have to do?

As now, your dog, cat or ferret will need to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. However (unlike now) they will need a blood test to prove that they are immune to rabies (actually this is a really good thing – some studies suggest that as many as 10% of vaccinated dogs aren’t actually protected against rabies after a single dose of the vaccine!). This blood test will have to take place no less than 30 days after the vaccination. If your dog was vaccinated some time ago, they may need a booster dose.

The blood test will be sent to an official lab that will certify whether they have enough rabies antibodies to protect them (more than 0.5IU/ml). If they do meet this safe level, this will be recorded in your pet’s passport. That said, your pet still cannot travel for at least 3 months after the successful blood test.

Before travelling, your pet must be certified as healthy and fit enough to travel by an OV (a vet who is licensed to do so by the government – usually the same one who gave your dog their rabies jab). This has to happen no more than 10 days before travelling, and you will be issued with a Health Certificate.


What about coming back to the UK?

At the moment, it looks like that isn’t going to change at all!


Will my pet need a new booster and blood test before travelling each time?

No – once they have had a successful blood test, as long as their rabies cover doesn’t expire (in other words, that they get their boosters within the interval set by the EU and the manufacturers), then they don’t need additional vaccines or further blood tests. The blood test will prove that your pet has responded to the vaccine, and if they’ve responded once, the assumption is that they will continue to do so.


So why is this urgent?

Because getting certified for travel under the new rules will take at least 3, and possibly 4 or more months.

So if you want to travel on 29th March, you will need to…

  • Get vaccinated or boosted (if needed) by 28th November
  • Get a successful rabies blood test by 27th December
  • Get a Health Certificate between 19th and 28th March.


Is it certain this is going to be needed?

No it isn’t – the government is hoping to getting a deal; however, it is useful to be prepared in case the Brexit negotiations break down.

If you need any more advice, see the APHA Guidance, or talk to your vet!

But if you definitely need to be travelling with your pet, see your vet urgently to make sure you’re in a position to tick all the boxes.


23 thoughts on “Brexit and Pet Travel – URGENT Update for Pet Owners

    1. Hi Yan, very good question. The answer is if there is a no deal Brexit then this advice would also apply to Southern Ireland, if you want to be absolutely sure you can travel with your pet after March it is best to see your vet before 28th November.

  1. Our dog came from France originally so his passport is French. Not sure if this makes a difference or not. We Live in the UK but are frequent travelers with the dog to France. Thanks

    1. Dear Anne, I think it’s unlikely to make a difference, as it’s the act of crossing the border into the EU that might become a problem. The question would be whether the appropriate paperwork has been filled in in the passport, rather than where the passport was originally issued. David Harris MRCVS.

  2. Do we yet know which laboratories will be able to certify the rabies titres? Will UK labs (VLA, biobest?) qualify or will we have to send samples to an EU lab?

    1. Dear Roland, we do not yet know for certain – however, it seems likely that a U.K. lab would be acceptable in the short term at least, as at the time the test was run (prior to March 2019), the lab would have been EU accredited. David Harris MRCVS.

  3. We live in Guernsey Channel Islands we are non EU.we have pet passports and need a vet visit in France before our return does this mean we now need a health certificate each time we go to France.we travel regular with dogs and motor home. Kevin

    1. Dear Kevin, if the U.K. becomes an unlisted third country, I suspect that the regulations would apply to the Channel Islands as well – but this is, I think, still unconfirmed because of the unique legal status the Channel Islands have. David Harris MRCVS.

    1. Dear Jane, I think it’s unlikely to make a difference, as it’s the act of crossing the border into the EU that might become a problem. The question would then be whether the appropriate paperwork has been filled in in the passport, rather than where the passport was originally issued. David Harris MRCVS.

  4. So a compete turnaround. At the moment there is no rabies in the UK, so you are saying dogs leaving the UK have to be vaccinated and blood tested for rabies, despite there being none in the UK. Currently rabies vaccination required to enter UK not leave.
    Surely this is also purely speculation anyway.

    1. As you say, this is all speculative – it would only apply in a no-deal Brexit AND if no agreement on Listed Country status were reached. You are right that it’s medically unnecessary – however, we feel people should be aware of the advice coming out of DEFRA in case they do need to travel and want peace of mind that their plans won’t be interrupted. David Harris MRCVS.

  5. Just so I am sure I understand . The dogs current rabies shot is not valid ? It has to be recent and tested with in 30 days ….so dogs would have to have a boster they may not need ?
    I am already worried about over vaccinating but now they need even more ?
    Also if this is all done how long will the new test be valid for? Only ask as this reads as though they may need a vaccine and test every time they travel ….for mine that could be 4 or 5 times a year . I hope that is my misunderstanding.
    Is this a one of re vaccine and test or a requirement every time ?
    One of mine was only vaccinated a few months ago filling them with these chemicals can’t be good for them

    1. I understand your concern! However, the guidelines we’ve had state that “A successful blood test is only required for first time travel to an EU country. This is provided that your pet’s rabies vaccinations are kept up to date with boosters before the expiry date of the previous vaccination.” In other words, once you’ve proved that your dog (or cat, or ferret) had mounted a protective immune response to the vaccine (i.e. has reached 0.5IU/ml), another booster is not required before an subsequent travel, until the usual booster date arrives. Likewise, as long as the vaccination doesn’t lapse, a second blood test is not required. I’m sorry if the blog didn’t make that clear – I’ll add it in now!

    1. That’s probably the case yes, as long as your vaccination hasn’t lapsed and the titre test was run in an EU accredited lab (which I think they all were, but it’s worth double checking!). It might also be worth double checking the booster dates to make sure there aren’t any small gaps in rabies vaccine coverage that don’t matter now, but might invalidate the 2011 blood test. Your vet will be able to check your pet’s passport to make sure.

    1. At the moment, it looks like probably not; however, there is a good chance that they will be unable to cross any EU borders without it. So if you were, for example, going to France on 27th March, there shouldn’t be a problem, but if you then wanted to go from France to Spain on 30th, there might be. We do not yet know how this will be applied, unfortunately – it depends to a certain extent on how each EU state chooses to implement the regulations. Personally, I think that if you know you’re going to be in an EU member state after 29th March, then getting the blood test done and certified is probably the safest option to avoid problems.

  6. My dog is a rescue from Cyprus. Every week many rescue dogs travel to new homes in the UK from all over Europe. What impact do you think there may be on this ? Will it become even more difficult and expensive ? Thank you.

    1. Hi Tess,

      At the moment, it doesn’t look like there will be any changes in the regulations covering dogs coming into the UK – it’s more an issue of travelling from the UK to the EU, and the UK government has so far said that even in the event of a “no-deal” there won’t be any changes to the import requirements.
      In the longer term, I would hope that more stringent health checks will be enforced on imported dogs – just as the reputable and responsible rescue organisations are doing already, but on a compulsory rather than optional basis.

    1. Hi Jill,

      At the moment, it looks likely that there wouldn’t be an issue with that (as long as you weren’t crossing any borders within the EU). However, it would depend on exactly how the French government implements the regulations in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit – it isn’t impossible that there would be restrictions placed on any UK dogs present within the EU without a rabies blood test before arrival. I think it’s unlikely, but it is a possibility.

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