The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)
PETS is designed to halt the spread of rabies and other diseases while still allowing pets to travel.
Northern Ireland has been free of rabies for many years, but in some other countries there is still a risk of the disease to mammals. The largest risk for rabies entering here would be through an infected animal smuggled in illegally.
All rabies-susceptible animals entering the UK are normally required to spend four months in quarantine, unless they arrive under and meet all the conditions of PETS.
All pet dogs (including assistance dogs), cats and ferrets can enter or re-enter the UK without quarantine under PETS provided they meet the rules of the scheme, which differ depending on the country the pet is travelling from.
They might then be able to get early release if they can be shown to meet the necessary pet travel requirements.
Countries participating in PETS include most parts of Europe and many non-European destinations.
Check the current position, the full procedure for preparing your pet, and get more information about the scheme on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) website.
Eligibility for PETS
To be eligible, your cat, dog or ferret must:
- be fitted with a microchip
- be vaccinated against rabies
- wait 21 days from the date of their first rabies vaccination before travelling to another EU member state or approved Third Country
If, however, travelling to the EU from an unlisted country the following will also be required:
- be blood tested with a satisfactory result by a European-approved laboratory
- wait three calendar months from the date the satisfactory blood sample was taken before entering/ re-entering the UK
An ‘unlisted’ country is any country not included in the list of EU and non-EU countries.
Before you travel to any country you should contact the relevant competent veterinary authority to confirm any specific entry requirements and discuss these with your vet.
As well as the above, you must also make sure that your pet:
- is issued with a pet passport by a vet/ third country health certificate
- dogs are treated by a vet for tapeworm – not less than 24 hours and not more than five days before your expected arrival in UK
- travels into the UK on a PETS-approved sea, air or rail route
You can get additional information at the following links:
Returning to Northern Ireland
There are strict legal controls on the entry of animals into Northern Ireland aimed at preventing the introduction of rabies.
Your pet and its documents will need to be checked when you travel (or are returning) to Northern Ireland.
In order to make sure that this check is arranged, you must fill out an application for an Import Authorisation at least 10 days before your pet enters Northern Ireland.
If you don’t have the right documents, or your pet hasn’t been properly prepared, it will be:
- licensed into quarantine until it fully meets the entry requirements; or
- sent back to the country it travelled from
You must pay the costs for this.
Cats, dogs and other rabies-susceptible animals that do not qualify for entry into the UK under PETS are normally required by law to spend four months in quarantine.
Your pet will be detained, at your expense, at an approved quarantine premises for up to four calendar months from the date of its landing. However it can be released at any time for immediate re-export.
Unaccompanied pets entering the UK under licence for quarantine from third countries (those outside of the European Union) may only do so through approved Border Inspection Posts (BIPs). For the UK, these are currently London Heathrow or London Gatwick Airport.
If there is a rabies outbreak, you can find out how it would be dealt with on the DAERA website.
Additional information on rabies can be found at the following links:
Before you travel with your pet
Before travelling abroad with your pet, you must book beforehand. Your pet will not be allowed to travel without booking.
These tips can help make your pet's journey as comfortable as possible:
- make sure your pet is as fit and healthy as possible to withstand the journey
- give them a light meal about two hours before they travel
- give your pet the opportunity to go to the toilet before it is put in its carrying container
- let your pet 'try out' the carrying container before the trip
- the carrying container should be well-ventilated, roomy enough for the animal to move around, safe and have adequate food and water for the trip, with easily refillable containers for a long journey
- put a familiar-smelling cushion or rug in the container to help your pet settle
Travel with registered assistance dogs
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, in partnership with other UK assistance dog organisations, Defra, and a number of UK airlines has produced a set of guidelines for registered assistance dog owners wishing to use PETS.
Pets entering Northern Ireland on airlines under the Pet Travel Scheme must normally be carried in the hold. However, guide dogs or other assistance dogs may be allowed to travel in the cabin with their owner on certain approved routes.
Contact your travel operator or airline before you travel for full requirements.
Pet travel to the EU
The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 and is now in a transition period until 31 December 2020.
During the transition period, the UK will continue to follow the EU's rules for pet travel.