Cruising Abroad With Your Pet

Some of my early sailing cruises were on a yacht with the skipper’s pet dog, a beautiful and very well behaved Collie. She stayed down below when we were underway, never jumped off the boat and the only difficulty we had with her was getting her to shore for a comfort break when we were anchored or moored on a buoy. Large dogs and precarious inflatable tenders don’t mix. When we ventured abroad she was left at home in the UK, but some yachtsmen do take their dogs with them when they are cruising abroad and here lies a minefield of rules and red tape. The main trouble is that although some countries have rules in place and agreements with other countries regarding animals, the regulations vary a great deal between individual countries.


Pet Travel Scheme (“PETS”)

"Pets" is a system which planned to allow animals to travel between EU member countries without undergoing quarantine. It was originally introduced for the benefit of animals entering the UK from other EU countries. The scheme was taken up by other EU countries, allowing animals from any member country to freely travel to any other member country, with the correct procedure and on approved carriers. Since then countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have joined the scheme. As is often the case, when new countries joined, their interpretation of the regulations was slightly different. In January 2012 the UK brought its procedures in line with the EU, resulting in pets being able to enter or re-enter the UK from any country in the world provided they meet the rules of the scheme. But these rules differ according to which country the animal is entering from.

So, to clarify this, you can take your pet out of the UK on your boat, travel freely between EU member countries, but when you wish to re-enter the UK you cannot bring your pet back on your vessel without risking 6 months of quarantine. You must use an “approved carrier” and an authorised route to get your pet back to the UK.

These routes and transport companies are set out on the government website and only those listed can be used legally. So from a practical point of view you will have to call in to a port and make arrangements for your pet to be shipped home, while you continue your homeward journey on your own vessel. Free movement does exist for animals travelling between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, the UK and the Isle of Man and the UK and the Channel Islands and no documentation is currently required. This being the case, it is recommended that skippers keep a ship’s log, noting all the ports they have entered, to avoid problems with port authorities on re-entering the UK.

It could happen that you had no intention of taking your pet ashore whilst cruising abroad. In the event, however, of an emergency which resulted in having to make an emergency stop in a foreign port for repairs, your pet would require 6 months quarantine on re-entry to the UK if you brought it back on your boat. The recommendation is obvious; make sure your pet is prepared under the Pet Travel Scheme to avoid these risks.

Complicated? I did warn you! The PETS scheme is not standardised yet and this can lead to a lot of confusion. Each journey taken should be researched separately to ensure that your pet is granted safe entry at your arrival point and accepted for travel when you depart.

How To Prepare Your Pet For Travelling Abroad

If you are travelling within the EU your pet will need:-

  • A microchip
  • A rabies vaccination (the microchipping must be done first). You must wait 21 days from the vaccination date before travelling.
  • A pet passport (see later), or third country veterinary certificate.
  • Tapeworm treatment (for dogs only).

If you are travelling into the EU from an unlisted country your pet must also have a blood test taken by a vet at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination. You must then wait 3 calendar months from the date of the blood test to make sure the vaccination was successful and you must have a copy of these test results. If, however, the vaccination and blood test were given in the UK and a pet passport given before travelling to an unlisted country, you will not have to wait for the 3 months.

A Pet Passport

This is a document on which all information related to a specific animal is officially recorded and it can be obtained through your vet. Its aim is to speed up and simplify the transport of animals between countries. It is sufficient to travel to many destinations in the world but be warned that some countries require further certificates and permits. It comes in various forms, sometimes a pink A4 sheet and sometimes a small blue booklet. It contains the microchip or tattoo number of the animal and the certification that it has had a rabies vaccination. It has to be signed by an officially approved vet. The passport should not be confused with the routinely issued vaccination history of your pet. You might experience a major delay in obtaining a pet passport because of the time requirement for the rabies vaccine. It is probably best to get a valid rabies vaccination done first and then apply straight away for a passport. If you let the vaccination go out of date by even one day, without a booster, you will have to start all over again with a new vaccination and a long delay to your journey. A UK pet passport will cost you in the range of £150 - £200 and may take up to 8 months to obtain so it is well worth researching how to apply for it and making sure all the requirements are carried out in the right order to avoid any extra delays.

What Happens When You Return To The UK?

Your documents will be checked and your pet’s microchip will be scanned. If there is a problem you run the risk of your pet being put into quarantine or sent back to the country it travelled from. You, of course, will have to pay the costs for this.

Procedures Relating To Different Countries

While every country has its own requirements regarding animal travel there are some which are common to all:-

  • A subcutaneous microchip implant.
  • A certified rabies vaccination and evidence that the vaccination is working.

Some countries require the following extras:-

  • Tick, flea and tapeworm treatment between 24 and 48 hours before boarding.
  • A vet’s certificate or letter confirming no sign of disease and fitness to travel.
  • Government certification that the vet’s documentation is in order.
  • Sometimes carriers will restrict the type of animals they will carry.
  • Some countries insist on a formal passport whilst others will accept documentation in any form.
  • Some countries will accept the Pet Passport alone if it records all the relevant information, but others may demand proof of the rabies vaccination in the animal’s vaccination records.

Researching this subject online can be bewildering, so if you require more information make sure that you look at a dependable website such as rather than being influenced by people writing in with their own dogmatic opinions. They may well be wrong or misguided.

Author – Dee White

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