Pet Travel Scheme

The Pet Travel Scheme has been set up to allow cats and dogs to enter the UK from approved countries without going into quarantine. Here's an overview, but don't forget to have a look at our paperwork tips and frequently asked questions.

Updates as of 29th December 2014 included a few major changes. The first major change is that in order to be considered as a pet, animals must arrive within (+/-) 5 days of the owner's arrival into the country, and the pet must be registered to the owner. At the moment there is no requirement to provide evidence of your arrival in relation to your pet's arrival, but this might change. You should consider this when arranging your move to the UK with your pet because if the arrivals do not coincide within the given period there will be extra charges in addition to the Pet Travel Scheme fees. At worst this would be a fee from APHA (Defra) for checking a "commercial" pet and in some cases quarantine may apply (if there are paperwork issues and the timing overruns). So please take care with this requirement.

There is also a change in paperwork. All pet passports issued prior to the change WILL remain valid for the pet's lifetime as long as they are completed properly, however there will be a new pet passport issued to pets in the UK when they sign up with their vet from December 29th. This includes a few changes to avoid counterfeiting and fraud, such as laminated pages and a space for the owner to sign.

In order to do comply with the Pet Travel Scheme, pets must meet the following conditions, in this specific order:

For pets coming into the UK from the EU or an approved non-EU country

  • Pets must be microchipped- Always check that your pet's microchip works whenever you go to the vet!
  • Pets must be vaccinated against rabies after the microchip and hold a current rabies vaccination. Pets must be at least 12 weeks old at the time of vaccination.
  • 21 days must have passed after the rabies vaccination.
  • Pets must travel with an EU Pet Passport or an Official Health Certificate. If you are getting a 3rd country certificate completed, then it must be endorsed by the necessary authority (this is not the same vet that completes the paperwork).
  • Pets must travel on an approved route with an approved airline. This means that there is no longer the requirement for a blood test or for 6 months to pass after the blood test before the pet enters the UK.
  • Dogs only: Must be treated for tapeworms between 24 and 120 hours prior to arrival in the UK. The treatment must be with a licenced product containing praziquantel.

Please note: Pets must travel with supporting documentation- this means:

  • Proof of microchipping: certificate of registration/ patient notes/ letter from vet.
  • Proof of rabies vaccination: Vaccination card/ Rabies vaccination certificate - these MUST have the microchip number on or there will be delays.

For pets coming into the UK from the EU or an approved non-EU country

  • Pets must be microchipped.
  • Pets must be vaccinated against rabies after the microchip and hold a current rabies vaccination. They MUST be at least 12 weeks old at the time of vaccination.
  • 30 days must have passed after the rabies vaccination.
  • Pets then need to have a blood test- this must be sent to an approved lab, and the result should have an antibody titre of higher than 0.5 IU/ml.
  • 3 months must then pass before the pet can enter the EU.
  • Pets must travel with an EU Pet Passport or an Official Health Certificate. If you are getting a 3rd country certificate completed, then it must be endorsed by the necessary authority (this is not the same vet that completes the paperwork).
  • Pets must travel on an approved route with an approved airline.
  • Dogs only: Must be treated for tapeworms between 24 and 120 hours prior to arrival in the UK. The treatment must be with a licenced product containing praziquantel.

Please note: Pets must travel with supporting documentation- this means:

  • Proof of microchipping: certificate of registration/ patient notes/ letter from vet.
  • Proof of rabies vaccination: Vaccination card/ Rabies vaccination certificate - these MUST have the microchip number on or there will be delays.
  • Blood test result: Official test result certificate from the approved lab.

Whichever country your pet comes in from it must travel as manifested cargo and clear customs.  In order for us to clear the pet through customs we will need to complete the ‘Importers Instruction to JCS Livestock’ and ‘Owners Declaration to HM Revenue & Customs’ forms. These are available to download in our documents page, along with a map to the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow; where pet(s) can be collected from on the day of arrival.

Our staff are happy to help if you have any questions regarding the above. Pet travel can be a stressful process, so let us help to make it as stress-free as possible!

Important Note

This information is based on our opinion only, and as such is advice on the Pet Travel Scheme requirements and not official guidance. To this end we are not liable for any errors. We have been advised by the authorities that we cannot give such guidance, and that it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements are met in order for their pet to enter the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme.

Please Note- it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure that the correct procedures are met.

Very Important Note

If you have a valid pet passport, please check that there is a 30 day wait between the rabies vaccination and the blood test if you are planning to travel to a non-listed third country with your pet. If not, you'll have to have another blood test. If in doubt, get in touch!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a selection of FAQs that we've had over the years as the Pet Travel Scheme has progressed. We have plenty of experience of how to travel with a pet and we're up-to-date with the latest requirements, but if you're questions aren't answered below, please drop us a line or call- we're happy to help.

"What happens when my pet arrives in the UK?"

Answer
When the flight lands, the pets are collected from the flight as the passengers get off. Pets are then delivered to the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow where they are looked after by trained animal handlers and each animal is released from their flight kennel into their own run. They are offered food (normally dry food) and water while they wait to be given the all clear by the vet. If the pet is particularly dirty they will be cleaned.

Animal Health, the authority here in the UK, check the pet’s microchip and compare it against the paperwork for the animal. Once they give the thumbs up, the paperwork is cleared through customs and then is free to be collected. The process from arrival to clearance can take up to 4-5 hours for pets arriving from outside the EU. Please note: Pets arriving from within the EU are not released from their flight kennels in order to keep your costs down, since they are normally ready for collection around 2 hours after the flight lands.

"What does JCS do?"

Answer
We are the customs clearance agents for a number of airline arrivals at Heathrow, such as British Airways, Qantas, Air Canada, Emirates and Northwest (to name but a few!). We are responsible for the collection of pet paperwork from the airline, delivery of the documents to Animal Health and presentation of the paperwork to HMR & Customs.

This process involves driving the paperwork around the airport and the use of our direct access to the customs computer database, which is the primary reason why clients are unable to arrange the customs clearance themselves. We have excellent relations with the staff at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre (ARC) and Animal Health; and we are in the unique position of having an office located inside the Animal Reception Centre so that we can provide the best service.

Once you get to the Animal Reception Centre our staff members are in green shirts whilst the Animal Reception Centre staff wear blue- they're responsible for your pet's welfare during their brief stay at the ARC.

We can also arrange delivery of your pet to your home once they have cleared through customs and stretched their legs at the Animal Reception Centre. Please contact our staff for a delivery quote.

"How much does it cost?"

Answer
Some airlines will quote a "JCS fee" or a "clearance charge" as part of their fees, which they will take when you pay for your pet's trip. Other airlines require us to take these charges when you collect your pet from the ARC. The fees include all arrival charges at Heathrow, including the paperwork check fee, airline fees, ARC charges and our clearance charge, so the money doesn't all go to us- we get billed by everyone involved and pay them on your behalf.

"If I arrange a delivery can I travel with my pet?"

Answer
Unfortunately we are only licenced to carry animals, so you will need to arrange your own transport.

"How do I get to the Animal Reception Centre?"

Answer
You can download instructions and maps in our documents page.

"What do I need to bring with me?"

Answer
We always suggest bringing ID with you but you don't normally need it. Just bring a lead with you for your dog and consider the amount of space needed for your pet's flight crate in your car. If you are sending a lead with your dog it should be attached to the outside of the crate, but this doesn't necessarily mean that it will reach Heathrow.

"Can I see my pet while the customs clearance is done?"

Answer
Unfortunately your pet must be kept in isolation until clearing both the vet check and customs procedures, so you will be unable to see your pet until procedures are completed.

If your pet has any medical issues or dietary requirements please let us know what they are and how urgent they are. We can arrange veterinary assistance or special food if required. Veterinary assistance can be expensive, so please call us to discuss your pet's needs and we can give you advice.

"When should I come and collect my pet?"

Answer
Customs clearance can take up to 5 hours but can vary considerably depending on the number of pets coming into the airport on the day, so please bear with us. We would recommend calling ahead if you can and certainly waiting for at least two hours after your flight lands (pets coming from outside the EU). Please make sure that we have a contact number in case there are any problems- if in doubt, please contact us.

Pets coming from within the EU are normally ready to collect about 2 hours after flight arrival and they must be collected within 4 hours of arrival to avoid any further charges.

"Do I need to pay VAT?"

Answer
All imports are subject to VAT from outside the EU. Basically this applies to pets being shipped for breeding or showing and also to those being rescued.  The VAT will be based on the value of the animal and the cost of shipping to the UK.  We can provide you with a quote for the VAT but we will need to know the value of the animal and the cost of the shipping in order to do so.  The value of the animal must be realistic or the dreaded taxman might declare their own value.

There are mainly 2 forms of VAT relief on arrival subject to conditions and eligibility. Please read this document Notes on preparing to import pets from 1 April 2017 which explains the new procedures in more detail.

"How does the process work for assistance dogs?"

Answer Assitance dogs are dealt with directly by the authorities, who should meet you at the flight to inspect your pet and your paperwork. Assistance animals must meet the Pet Travel Scheme requirements. Emotional support animals fall under a slightly different category but must also compy with the regulations. Each of these categories have specific airlines that they can travel on- we're unable to give advice on this I'm afraid, so please contact the airline or DEFRA directly.

Paperwork Tips

We like to try and help as much as possible with pet paperwork, so we've assembled a list of common issues and their resolutions, so please read this list when preparing your pet's paperwork.

There are two important things to note- 1st is that we cannot give official advice can can accept no responsibility for unforeseen errors. The second thing to note is that legislation states that it is the owner's responsibility to make sure that the paperwork is correct, so please read these notes carefully, along with the gov.uk website.

We've got a separate page for Pet Passports, so here's some information on pets coming in with 3rd country health certificates:

"Is a 3rd Country Health Certificate Necessary?"

Tip
Yes. All pets entering the UK from outside the EU must have a completed 3rd Country Health Certificate. The only exception is if your pet has a valid Pet Passport that complies with the Pet Travel Scheme.If a pet entering the UK does not have a Pet Passport or endorsed 3rd Country Health Certificate then a passport will need to be issued. This can result in delays (and extra costs) as a vet will need to be called out and proofs of the date of microchipping, appropriate valid rabies vaccination and blood test result will need to be supplied.

"Can I still use the old-style 3rd country health certificate?"

Tip
No, the old-style certificate is no longer valid.

"Can my vet complete all of the 3rd Country Health Certificate?"

Tip
No. At some stage an official vet will need to endorse the Health Certificate. This means that a practice stamp from the vet is not sufficient- there must be a second stamp- this is the endorsement by the "competent authority". There are examples of these stamps on the right hand side of this page. If a 3rd Country Health Certificate has not been endorsed then a Pet Passport will need to be issued. This can result in delays (and extra costs) as a vet will need to be called out and proofs of the date of microchipping, appropriate valid rabies vaccination and blood test result will need to be supplied.

"Is all of the Health Certificate completed at the same time?"

Tip
Not necessarily. Depending on the location of the place of endorsement, this can be done at different times. For instance, your vet can complete the majority of the certificate (all except the tick and tapeworm treatments) in one location, the certificate can then be endorsed, and a separate vet could complete the tick and tapeworm treatments (at the appropriate time) **Please note that this must now all be done in the same country USA/Canada overlap is no longer applicable**. Please note- the procedure may differ between countries- for instance, some endorsements are done at the airport at check in. You should check with your vet/authorities. The main points are that the certificate MUST be endorsed and there MUST be a certificate reference number on each page. The reference number comes from the endorsing vet and the format varies per country.

"Where do I get my blood test done?"

Tip
If a rabies blood test is required, it must be done at an approved lab. The labs in the UK can be found on the gov.uk website.

"What do the results mean?"

Tip
A satisfactory blood test result must show the rabies antibody titre was equal to or greater than 0.5 IU/ml. If the test result is satisfactory, the date the blood sample was taken will be recorded by the vet in the official third country veterinary health certificate and the vet will sign the certificate to show that the pet passed the blood test.

"My cat has a microchip but it never leaves the house. Does it still need to have the rabies vaccination and blood test?"

Tip
Yes, if your cat is coming from an unlisted country, there must be a rabies vaccination, a 30 day wait and then a blood test. 3 months must pass after the blood test before the pet can enter the UK.

Coming to the UK from a listed country, the cat will just need a rabies vaccination then must wait 21 days before coming to the UK.

"I treat my dog regularly for tapeworms- must I treat my pet again prior to the flight to the UK?"

Tip
Yes.

"What happens if my dog misses the flight for which it was treated for tapeworm due to technical problems with the flight?"

Tip
If this happens outside of the 24-120 hours prior to arrival in the UK then your dog will need to stay in isolation at the airport, with no contact with any other animals. The airline or the shipping company responsible for this isolated boarding will need to write a letter to the effect, so that essentially the treatment will remain valid. If there are no facilities at the airport or you would rather your pet not stay at the airport then it will need re-treating for tapeworms. This should not be harmful to your pet.

"Why do I need supporting paperwork?"

Tip
This is to double check that the information in the 3rd country health certificate is correct. The rabies vaccination certificate must have the pet's microchip number on in order to identify the animal, as well as the product name, batch number and batch expriry date. Without this information further proof may be required, which may result in delays and costs.

If you do not have a microchip certificate then a set of patient notes with the date of microchipping (along with the chip number) will suffice. If you have neither then we reccomend that you get the vet that vaccinated your pet to write a note on headed paper stating all the pet's details and that the chip was checked when the vaccination was given.

Supporting paperwork can be copies, but the 3rd Country Health Certificate must be original (and endorsed!).

"When can I vaccinate the pet?"

Tip
As per the DEFRA site, the vaccination must be given when the pet is at least 12 weeks old, NOT as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Pet Travel Quote

Filling in the form

We'll need a few bits of information in order to work out the pet transport costs for you. Once complete, press submit and one of our staff will contact you to discuss pet shipping with you as soon as we can!

  • * Denotes a required field.
  • The cost for shipping your pet will vary with the size of your pet and the destination.
  • Please supply name(s), breed(s) and dimensions (if you have them). If you have a flight carrier for your pet, please also supply the carrier's dimensions.
  • Please give as much information as possible and contact us if you need guidance on measuring your pet.
  • Please note - whilst we are unable to book flights into the UK for you, we are able to recommend IPATA agents abroad that will be able to help you.
  • We can also help with advice on the Pet Travel Scheme and provide you with quotes for delivery. Please don't hesitate to ask! Submit this form or feel free to call us.
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