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.


41 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.

  7. My cat is about to leave UK next month and won’t come back. Cat is microchiped but does not have vaccinations. What are my steps if I want to take cat abroad to other EU country, do I need to vaccinate for rabbies?

    1. Strictly speaking yes – Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 577/2013 makes it a legal requirement for dogs cats and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies before being moved from one EU member state to another in almost all circumstances. You can read the full text here. If you’re not sure whether this applies to your pet or not, I suggest you speak to your vet and to the official veterinary agency in the country your cat is moving to, as well as any EU states you will be passing through en route.

  8. We are driving through France to Spain mid march and returning end April. We will have two dogs. One will have had all the necessary vaccinations and blood test carried out, he is a very well travelled dog. The other will be only 4 months old so will have had its rabies vaccine and blood test but will not have waited the 3 months. Will we be able to cross the French border into Spain, driving a UK car, and what happens when we want to return to UK. Will the puppy be able to enter the UK?

    1. Dear Anne,

      At the moment, the situation is very fluid – we don’t know what’s going to happen for sure. From what you’ve said, I THINK, based on what you say, that getting back into the UK shouldn’t be a problem (at least initially, it isn’t expected that the UK’s import laws will change). The biggest problem seems likely to be entering the EU in the first place without the paperwork – in this case, your younger dog would almost certainly have to go into quarantine as they won’t meet the legal requirements for import.
      Crossing an intra-EU border in a UK registered car is somewhere in between – it might be an issue, or it might not, as it will depend exactly how strictly the French and Spanish officials decide to enforce the regulations. Whether or not that would be picked up, and if so, how they would respond on the French/Spanish border is the big question – and it’s one I don’t think anyone knows the answer to for certain. Logically, of course, if the dog was legally in the EU the day before Brexit, it doesn’t instantly become a risk the day after, but the import regulations do not seem to take that into account.
      Of course, this is all assuming that there is a no-deal Brexit, which of course may not occur; if it does, though, I personally would be cautious about travelling with a dog that doesn’t meet all the EU import regulations. While I think it is unlikely that there would be a problem in the situation you describe, I don’t think we can rule it out.


  9. My dog was given the booster rabies this evening 21st December, after having her first rabies the beginning of February 2018, blood test is booked in for January 21st, we are booked to travel to France on April 13th, if there is a no brexit deal and we are listed as a third country, does this mean we are too late to travel?

    1. Technically yes – strictly speaking, your dog should not be permitted entry until 3 months after the successful blood test (so about 21st April, assuming they pass). Of course, this depends how strictly the French customs authorities choose to enforce the regulations; there are some indications that they might allow a short informal transition period of a few weeks or so for some regulations; however, we do not know that this would happen, and it might not apply to the animal travel regulations.
      Hopefully some sort of arrangements will be made before the deadline!

  10. We have been traveling into France and Spain for eight years with our dog
    She has got a rabies certificate which was issued to us in 2010 she also has her booster every year will she be ok to go back without doing it all over again as we have had no problem in the past the dates on her certificate are 10/9/10 to 6/10/10 reading is 1.44 could you please help as we are going back after 29 March thank you

    1. Once they’re proven to have responded to a vaccine, they don’t need a repeat blood test every time AS LONG AS their vaccines have been kept fully up to date, without any gaps, in the meantime. So I don’t think there should be a problem – however, it would probably be worth double checking that with your vet or with APHA.

    1. Reputable rescue organisations usually use TRACES, the commercial import system, and we don’t yet know exactly how that is going to be affected. However, by and large, the UK government has said that import regulations (i.e. coming into the UK) will not be changing in the short term, so I would expect that in the case of a No Deal Brexit, it will still be possible to do so, but there may well be more paperwork involved.

  11. Our 14 year old dog has travelled back and forth from France since 2008. He had his first rabies vaccination in Sep 2007 and a successful serological test in Nov 2007. He has had his three yearly boosters every year, within date. He is due his next booster in 2019, actually in March as we have always done his boosters early to make sure we never miss the date. I seems that we should be ok, given your comments earlier, but I am a little concerned that French dogs must be vaccinated every year and ours has been every three years, in line with UK requirements. Could this be an issue re requiring a further serological test, if the French consider him NOT to have been kept “up to date”? We are due to travel in April and clearly, given his age, I would hate to have any issues delaying his return.

    1. To be honest, I don’t think anyone knows for certain. The government guidance is that as long as vaccinations are up to date on UK guidance, there shouldn’t be a problem – I suppose it would depend on exactly how the French authorities chose to interpret the regulations! The good news is that there shouldn’t be any problems in returning to the UK, it’s getting from the UK (a rabies free zone) into France (where the disease is present) that, ironically, is going to change in the event of a no-deal.

      1. Thank you. It certainly is ironic, given our “cleaner” status than most if not all of the places we would wish to visit! I may ask my vet to do another serological test anyway, to be on the safe side (and hope that his levels are still ok…)

  12. My dog has been travelling back & forth France for 8 years. All jabs are up to date.
    I’m confused about the paragraph to which you’re saying – 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.
    So, are we to visit our vet in the UK before travelling abroad?

    1. Yes, that’s right – under a no-deal scenario, your pet will need to be examined by your vet (or indeed any UK vet with an OV qualification). This is because you need a Health Certificate issued in the 10 days before entering an EU country, to certify that your pet is healthy enough to travel and is not showing signs of any infections or illness that might pose a threat to animal health in your destination country.

  13. I have 2 red setters and have been traveling to UK from Spain (where i live ) twice a year for 10 years using Pet Passport because the dogs are vaccinated in Spain they have a rabies jab each year (Spanish rules)
    i am going to UK 18th march 2019 returning to Spain 3rd June 2019
    So before i leave Spain I could get my Spanish Vet to arrange the blood test in January some 4 months before I return to Spain getting a UK vet to certify they are fit to travel in June 2019
    Would the above satisfy the rules?

    1. Yes, I can’t see any reason why that wouldn’t be acceptable. As long as the test is done in an approved lab, the dogs pass it, and the time periods are right, there shouldn’t be an issue.

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