Pet Passports - Freedom for Pets


Jane RVN veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon

We often use the term ‘passport’ as if it’s the key to freedom, so it’s not surprising that the use of the term Pet Passport for the pet travel scheme in the UK can cause a little confusion.

How human passports work

Human passports are a reasonably simplistic system. For us humans, we just need to provide some information and then the passport allows us pretty much free travel wherever we can afford to go.

Surely it’s the same for our pets and their passports?

How pet passports work

  • Who can travel

Pet passports are limited with the animals they cover, currently the options open to pet owners are to get a pet passport for their dogs, cats and the well known international travellers that are ferrets.

The reasoning for these restrictions are based around the likelihood to contract and pass on rabies, and give the option to have your pets safely return to the UK without quarantine. If you are simply moving your pet abroad permanently then there is a separate process between you and the country you move to.

  • Where can they travel

You have your dog, cat or ferret and you know you can get a passport so now you get it and book your Eurostar to Paris for a long weekend?


Well, no. There are restricted routes your pet can travel through so not every train, plane or ferry will allow your pet on; you will need to plan quite far in advance.

Check where you can travel and when here and be prepared to have some flexibility in your plans. I’m afraid Eurostar trains don’t take any pets and I’d love a long weekend in Paris with Hollie but I don’t think we’ll be doing the long route via the the trains, shuttle and roads.

  • How do they travel

This might not be something you’ve considered but how does your pet travel? Do they need to be in a carrier, do they sit with you or are they somewhere else? Each individual route and transport company will have their own rules, so you need to do some further research before you decide to travel with your pet on any given route. On planes your pet is most likely to be in a carrier in the hold for international flights and on ferries your pet will most likely be required to stay in your car but you will not be allowed to stay for safety reasons. These are all important considerations when travelling. I know I’d be uncomfortable leaving Hollie in a car on her own - something that would not be allowed on dry land due to the issues of dying from heat stroke are suddenly fine when travelling. Make sure you know what will happen at each stage of your pets travels.

  • Regulations

Once you have considered where, when and how your pet will travel you need to consider the paperwork and medications needed to ensure your pet is safe to travel and return to the UK.

Your pet will need to be at least 12 weeks old to get their rabies vaccine and will also need to be microchipped prior to the vaccine being given. Your pet will also need anti-parasite medication from the UK approved list of treatments, your normal treatments might not be approved.

Although there are clear lists of approved and unapproved countries for travel the lists and recommendations can change so please ensure you and your vet are working from the latest information for the country of travel.

Once all of this has been done you still need to wait at least 21 days before your pet is allowed back into the UK – you could leave earlier on a break but won’t be allowed to return until 21 days have passed.

Plan, plan, plan

I’m honestly not trying to put anyone off travelling with their pets, we know there are times when this is something that can’t be avoided. The pet travel scheme allows travel without quarantine for so many but the term ‘passport’ doesn’t truly reflect the restrictions there are for safe travel with your pet.

Be prepared to do some research on your destination and possible travel routes and plan, plan, plan your pets holiday in as much detail as your own.



Scroll to top