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How to Travel with a dog to the UK (Pre-Brexit)

How to Travel with a dog to the UK (Pre-Brexit)

When my parents planned a long layover in Paris en route to their dream trip to Africa, we drove our van to meet them there with the dogs. Since we were so close to the UK, we figured that we may as well continue north before Brexit makes entry to the UK more difficult.

We, the pet travel experts, did not do diligent homework prior to our travels to the UK, and were denied entry. Fortunately, the matter was an easy fix and we were on the ferry to Dover the following morning.

The current requirements do not require much more work than other international entries with a dog from the US, and in fact are the same rules we faced when we flew to Norway to start our bicycle tour.

This post is long and filled with everything you need to know about how to travel with a dog to the UK so you can avoid being denied entry.

Table of Contents

  • ISO Microchip
  • Rabies Vaccination
  • Tapeworm Treatment
  • Rabies Titer Test
  • Importing your dog from the United States to the UK
  • Are there other options besides sending my dog as cargo?
  • Banned Breeds
  • Do Dogs Need to Be Quarantined in the UK?
    • Map of UK countries

      United Kingdom Entry Requirements for Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets

      ISO Microchip

      Like with all European countries, your pet must have a 15-digit ISO microchip (11784/11785 compliant) inserted prior to arrival. Note that this is a different frequency than those given in the United States. This means your dog will have to have two different microchips.

      Rabies Vaccination

      All pets entering the UK must provide proof of an up to date rabies vaccination that was administered after the microchip implant. 

      This first vaccination post microchip is called the “primary vaccination” and should last one year. Vaccinations administered after the primary are considered “booster vaccinations” and can be 3 year vaccinations. Three year vaccinations will not be considered for use as the primary vaccination.

      Pets whose primary vaccination has expired without a booster must start the process over again. Pets entering from rabies free and  rabies-controlled countries have a 21-day waiting period before they are permitted to enter the UK. 

      This includes other EU countries. Be sure to check the list before making assumptions about entry. Keep in mind that you are checking the departure country, not your home country (other requirements may be required depending on the country from which you will be bringing your dog. More on that below).

      There is no waiting period provided the primary vaccination was administered after the microchip implant and the booster vaccination was administered before the expiration of the primary rabies shot.

      Tapeworm Treatment

      Required for dogs only, the UK requires a tapeworm treatment administered by a veterinarian. The tapeworm treatment is something that must be done each time you bring your pet to the UK.

      The treatment must be given no fewer than 24 hours and no more than 5 days (120 hours) prior to entry. Your dog can and will be denied entry if this is not done correctly (as we can tell you from experience).

      Specific information about the tapeworm treatment must be recorded in the EU pet passport by your veterinarian in the “Echinococcus treatment” section of the passport. Pets entering from outside of the EU without a pet passport may provide an official veterinary certificate

      This information includes:

      • Name and manufacturer of the medication
      • Date and time of treatment
      • Stamp and signature from veterinarian

      Don’t know what an EU pet passport is or need to know how to get one? Here are the details for procuring one once you enter the EU.

      Pets coming directly from Finland, Malta, Ireland, or Norway do not require tapeworm treatment.

      Dogs leaving the UK for up to 5 days (120 hours) must be treated prior to departure and wait at least 24 hours before returning to the UK. If the trip is longer than 120 hours, your dog must be treated again prior to entry.

      Your dog should be treated once again within 28 days of re-entering the UK.

      Map of countries at risk for rabies around the world. In green: no risk, in yellow: low risk, in orange: medium risk, in red: high risk. From WHO.

      Rabies Titer Test

      Pet owners bringing their dogs or cats from high risk rabies countries must present a titer test. This process takes several months, so we advise starting the process six months in advance of when you plan to arrive in the UK.

      Before leaving, the pet must first be microchipped, then vaccinated with a primary rabies shot (in that order). After 30 days, you will need to get a titer test, which is a blood sample that determines the rabies antibody levels in an animal.

      Your veterinarian must send the blood sample to an EU-approved laboratory either within or outside of the EU. A successful blood test must demonstrate that your pet shows a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.

      Once you have received the results, you must then wait 3 months from the date of the blood draw before you will be permitted entry. You must have a copy of the test results and the third-country health certificate mentioned above with the date of blood sample draw filled out.

      If your pet was vaccinated, tested, and has a pet passport in the EU before traveling to a high risk rabies country, then you do not need to wait the three months.

      The titer test will be valid provided you keep your dog’s rabies boosters up to date.

      Titer tests can be quite expensive (around $150 to $200 or more), so budget as you need and don’t be afraid to shop around nearby locations. Some laboratories charge less than others.

      Importing your dog from the United States to the UK

      In addition to meeting all the above requirements, all animals entering the UK by air must fly as cargo, no matter the size and weight of the dog, on a route and airline approved by the UK government. The Animal and Plant Health Agency only have approved entry routes to England and Scotland. There are none for Wales.

      The only exceptions are medically-certified service animals or emotional support animals. 

      Europe does not recognize emotional support animals, so your flight must be direct from the US to a UK airport and the airline must approve the transport of such animals.

      Upon arrival, you will need to go through customs with your dog where they will check through all of your paperwork and hopefully approve your entry.

      If you have an exceptionally large dog or a snub-nosed breed (brachycephalic breeds) like bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and pugs your only option may be to use a pet transport company. Many airlines refuse brachycephalic breeds in the cargo hold due to suffocation risks.

      Pet transport companies can cost thousands of dollars, and unfortunately for some, this is the only option they face if they want to fly.

      Are there other options besides sending my dog as cargo?

      Understanding that many dog parents feel apprehensive about sending their dog as cargo, there are a few other options. We have traveled with Sora in cargo and as long as you do your research, we believe that it is safe

      Before selecting an airline (and making sure the carrier and route are on the UK government approval list), ask these questions while conducting your research.

      Option #1 Fly into a nearby EU nation and take the ferry to the UK

      If you have a dog small enough to fly in cabin (size and weight varies among airlines), you can bring your dog to the destination country, obtain your pet passport, get the tapeworm treatment there, and take a ferry to the UK.

      Keep in mind that entry requirements will be similar, but different from the UK, so you’ll have to do a bit more homework. Most EU countries follow the guidelines outlined in this article.

      France, Belgium, and the Netherlands are the nearest countries for this option. As with flying, the UK government has approved ferry routes for entry with a dog. 

      Your dog will be checked at the customs booth in the departure country prior to boarding. It seems that most ferry lines to the UK require that all pets remain in the car during transport. The trip isn’t that long (we took the ferry from Calais, France to Dover, England and it was about 35 minutes), so it’s generally not an issue. Just be sure to check the weather on your departure date and travel as early as possible if it’s warm.

      The Queen Mary 2 is an alternative way to reach the UK from the US with a pet.

      Option #2 Take the Queen Mary 2*

      This luxury cruise line supposedly allows dogs to travel in style on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 7-night crossing from New York City to Southampton, England.  

      You’ll need to book your spot at least a year in advance, as they fill quickly. The maximum number of animals permitted per voyage is 24 and most trips reach full capacity.

      The price to bring your dog isn’t cheap. Large dogs can cost $1,000 and smaller dogs $800. All pets are looked after by the Queen Mary Kennel Master, a longtime staff member on the ship and former zoo caretaker in the Philippines.

      Pets remain in their kennels aside from outdoor exercise time where they can roam around on a gated deck for three hours per day. Owners can also visit their pets several times throughout the day. The Kennel Master feeds the animals and pet parents can order their furry friends room service treats like chicken and freshly baked biscuits. 

      * I have read several accounts of this pet friendly transport, but cannot find information on the Cunard website about pets. I have reached out to them and will keep this post updated with any pertinent information.

      Banned Breeds

      The UK does not permit entry to the following breeds or mixes:

      • Fila Brasileiro
      • Pit Bull Terrier
      • Japanese Tosa
      • Dogo Argnetino

      (We do not support BSL (breed-specific legislation), so we invite you to join us and sign the petition at the RSPCA here.)

      Do Dogs Need to Be Quarantined in the UK?

      The UK only requires quarantine if you pet fails to meet the travel requirements. If you are unable to remain in or return to the origination country, then quarantine is the only option (aside from the third one that is unthinkable – putting your pet down).

      Once you have booked a quarantine facility, you must then request a license and boarding document and fill in part A. Next step is to send the form to the quarantine facility.

      Cost to quarantine your pet depends on the facility you select. Your pet will be released from quarantine after one of the following occur:

      • It meets the pet travel requirements
      • It has spent 4 months in quarantine
      • You decide to return it to your home country

      Moral? Do your homework and avoid quarantine!

      What will happen after Brexit?

      It’s difficult to say until it happens, as nobody knows exactly what the new requirements will look like, however, the following is likely:

      • An EU Pet Passport will no longer be valid
      • A titer test will be required for all entrants, no matter the origination country
      • Dogs traveling from tapeworm-free countries in the EU will require tapeworm treatment
      • Pets entering the UK will require an official veterinary health certificate no more than 10 days prior to entry

      The UK Government site has outlined potential requirements depending on the Brexit outcome.


      Planning to travel with a dog to the UK Pinterest Image

Andrew Combes

Saturday 29th of June 2019

As well as all the hoops mentioned above you do also need to consider a real biggie if you are a dog and bike combo - I live in the UK and have yet to find a way of getting across the Chanel without wrapping me my bike and my Spaniel in a car or van. Pedestrian or cycle passengers are not allowed to cross with dogs even if the ferry has kennels or pet friendly cabins on board. Absolute madness! Needs a bit of a campaign to get them to shift from their current illogical stance.

Jen Sotolongo

Saturday 29th of June 2019

Oh, that is dumb! And definitely something I (ironically) overlooked. They require that your bike also go in a car? Thanks for making me aware of this challenge!