As I write, the UK and the EU have just confirmed one of my favourite author’s sayings – “there’s always time for another last minute…” By the time you read this, everything about the UK’s prospective trade agreements with the EU might have changed again. However, this week we have finally had some certainty about what will be happening from January – in that the pet travel rules seem to have been confirmed.

The EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (or “PAFF” for short!) met on 3rd December and have formally voted in favour of making the UK a “Listed Third Country” from 1st January 2021. This will have to be ratified by the EU, but this is considered a formality – it’s the PAFF’s decision that will hold. This was announced by the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency on 10th December 2020 (last Friday). So, for the first time in quite a while, we know where we are!

The good news

As we reported back in 2018 (when “no deal” seemed likely… I’m getting deja vu now!), had the PAFF declined to list the UK on Annex II, thereby making us an “Unlisted Country”, you would have needed blood tests to prove rabies vaccination had taken. This would have included 3 month waiting times, after vaccination, to confirm that the vaccine had taken, etc. 

This will not now be required – instead a formal certificate by a UK “Official Veterinarian” will be sufficient. In this context, an OV (put simply) is any vet who has a government license to issue and sign Pet Passports.

It also seems that the UK government isn’t changing the import regulations, so entering the U.K. will be fairly similar.

The bad news

We had hoped that the UK might be listed under “Part 1 of Annex II to Regulation (EU) No 577/2013”. This would have meant that the pet travel laws remained similar, although you would have had to exchange your EU Pet Passport for a new UK Pet Passport.

However, this is not what the PAFF decided. Instead, the UK is listed on Part 2 (or List 2) of Annex II. So, under EU regulations, any dog, cat or ferret travelling to an EU state will require an Animal Health Certificate for each and every trip. This certificate will need to be signed by your OV, within 10 days of travel, and will certify that the pet is vaccinated against rabies and is fit to travel. 

You may also need to make a declaration that the journey is not for commercial purposes, and ensure your pet is treated against tapeworm before leaving, as well as coming back. Although the relevant tapeworm, Echinococcus multilocularis, is not present in the UK, the EU doesn’t want to UK dogs to import it to countries such as Ireland or Norway.

In addition, you will be limited to certain specific Travellers Points of Entry to any EU member state – listed here.

What about coming home?

This will not be changing in the foreseeable future. The UK Government has said that at the UK border they will accept current UK passports (as long as the rabies vaccine is up to date), an Animal Health Certificate (issues within the previous 4 months) or an EU Pet Passport. Once again, though, your pet will need to have had tapeworm treatment between 1 and 5 days before entering the UK (because the tapeworm is present in much of continental Europe, and the UK doesn’t want any dogs to import it).

Is this good or bad?

Overall, it means that it is less complicated than we had feared! Although in terms of disease control – something we’re all having to learn more about in this pandemic – actually blood tests for rabies would probably be a good idea. Some studies suggest that over 10% of dogs do not seroconvert and generate antibodies against rabies after a single vaccination, and most of these dogs are probably susceptible to rabies. If you’re worried, this is a test you can have done privately – talk to your vet if you’re concerned! – but it won’t impact travel.

Find out more

At time of writing, the UK government website has not yet been updated – but do keep an eye on it as I suspect it will be corrected in the very near future!