Can I Take My Pet Abroad?
Sometimes, you may want your pet to come on holiday with you. Here’s all you need to know about taking your pet abroad by road, rail and sea…
Around half of UK households own a pet. Which means that unless 50% of us love our creatures so much that we never go away, every holiday is fraught with trouble.
The guilt of booking kennels, where they’ll gaze despairingly at you leaving, eyes filled with baffled distress...the misery of stuffing the ancient tabby into a cattery and leaving him to moult glumly for a fortnight…even worse, the diminishing bingo-card of neighbours, when you know you’ve already ticked off “they cleaned up cat sick while we were in Spain” and, “they had the puppy to stay and it ate their Cath Kidston cushions.”
So wouldn’t it be great to avoid all that and just pack the pets’ buckets and spades too? Well, the good news is, you can- because since 2012, taking pets to Europe from the UK has been much easier. There are still a few hoops to jump through, though, before you can join Rover and Tiddles sipping beef-based cocktails on the sundeck- so read on:
GET A PET PASSPORT
Your pet needs a passport- at least, if it’s a cat, dog or ferret it does. “Ornamental fish’ and small rodents come under different rules, but how many people outside The Beano are going to take their goldfish bowl on holiday?
The passport, obtained from the vet, must be signed by him or her, to certify that all the vaccinations and conditions have been met. These are: the pet must have a permanent microchip implanted, which meets certain specifications (so no doing it yourself with tweezers.) It must then be vaccinated against rabies, and any booster shots administered.
It must also be treated for tapeworm by a vet, between 24 hours and five days before re-entering the UK. And then it must be booked to travel with an approved company, such as P&O, Eurostar or Brittany Ferries. All of this costs up to £250- but if you’re away for a while, it’s less expensive than kennels- or replacing all your pet-sitter’s furniture.
"...if don’t have your cat in a basket, you may run into trouble as it shins up to the crow’s nest in a blind panic..."
GET YOUR PET VACCINATED
Dogs and cats (and travelling ferrets; take note, music-hall acts) must be vaccinated for rabies three weeks or longer before the date of your return to the UK. Ideally, get this done two months before you travel.
Even if they’ve been immunized before, the timing has to comply with the manufacturer’s booster shot recommendations, so don’t assume it’ll be OK- make sure you drag them in for a shot after they’ve been microchipped.
Once you’re away, the tapeworm treatment is also vital- it must be done no more than 120 hours before returning to the UK. You can book this in advance, however, so you’re not driving frantically round Calais on a Sunday morning, looking for a vet who’ll abandon his croissants to rummage about inside your pet.
The vet who does it will stamp the EU pet passport and give you the papers you need to show the travel operator. If you don’t do this, your pet is going straight into quarantine for up to 6 months- and like Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption, there may be no early parole.
CHECK APPROVED FERRY ROUTES
There are many approved ferry companies which will transport pets- though let us just say now, if don’t have your cat in a basket, you may run into trouble as it shins up to the crow’s nest in a blind panic. You can book your tickets online for certain routes via www.Aferry.co.uk with all major companies, including Brittany Ferries (routes to and from France only, from £16.50 for pets), Eurotunnel, Irish Ferries, NorthLink Ferries, P&O Ferries (excluding Irish Sea crossings) and Stenaline.
Not all companies will allow pets on all routes, though Brittany Ferries welcome pets on crossings to France and Spain. Some breeds require a muzzle, and France also has rules about which breeds may be brought into the country, so check with the relevant tourist board.
Try to travel at night, when your pet is more likely to sleep- and make sure you always have water and a bowl. If you’re worried about Fluffy being sea-sick (because animals get motion sickness too), invest in a pack of Johnsons Travel-eze, £2.95 from chemists.
"Never assume a hotel will accept pets without checking first..."
CHECK TRAIN ROUTES
European train companies have different rules on pet travel. While one country may be used to commuting dogs flicking through the newspapers, another may insist that your animal stays in a pet carrier under the seat.
If travelling via Eurotunnel, you must allow staff to check the documentation and chip for your pet. On Eurostar, which does not permit pet travel, only guide dogs are allowed.
They will be checked on arrival. After the check, owners will get a sticker or badge, which must be displayed till you have left the port. Please see their website for further details on guide dog travel (www.eurostar.com).
Train companies vary- on TGV (France) pets are allowed, with a special ticket at a fixed fare of €10. Muzzled dogs on a lead or on their owner's lap require a second-class ticket at 50% of the adult fare, to be purchased at one of their stations selling international train tickets.
On Thalys (France-Brussels) cats and small dogs are permitted in a basket and travel free, no ticket required. Muzzled dogs on a lead or lap require a second class ticket at 50% of the human fare- but no animals are allowed on the special Thalys Snow and Thalys Sun trains.
In Spain, Renfe trains allow pets to travel in a carrier, whilst in Italy, Trenitalia allows small dogs to go free - but avoid rush hour.
In Britain, pets are allowed on trains operated by National Rail- other companies have different rules, so check. Generally, small dogs travel free, and large dogs travel at half the second class fare, (even if the pet is lounging around in first class, reading Dogue).
You can find pet-friendly European hotels at http://www.pawsabroad.co.uk and http://www.bringfido.com. Never assume a hotel will accept pets without checking first. Eurocamp (http://www.eurocamp.co.uk) lists dog-friendly campsites. (We’re assuming few people are actually going to take their cat camping. )
If you’re driving with your pet in Europe (which we would recommend as it’s more flexible than train travel) take a water bowl and plenty of bottles of water for the car.
Never let the inside temperature reach over 25*C, as it’s too hot for animals to cope with. And don’t let your dog stick his head out of the window- it’s dangerous, albeit cute.
Stop regularly for walks. If you have a cat, don’t travel for more than six hours with her in a cat carrier. On breaks, make sure you have it on a lead, and wearing an ID tag, like something out of a German fetish club- and never allow your cat to roam the car while you’re driving. That’s like snakes on a plane, but more chaotic.
Cats get car-sick. They hate traveling- unlike most dogs, who think they’re Jack Kerouac. So if you can, leave them at home- and take your adventurous dog instead.
For protection from foreign ticks and mites in hot countries, get your dog a Scalibor Protectorband collar – it provides dogs with up to 6 months protection from disease-carrying ticks, sandflies and mosquitoes.
For more information on approved ferry companies:
DEFRA APPROVED FERRY COMPANIES.
(They even have a "Kennel Cam"!!)