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Taking your dog or cat to the EU or Northern Ireland next year? They'll need a new animal health certificate

Pet owners hoping to take their pooch, cat or ferret to the European Union (EU) or Northern Ireland after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December won't be able to use a pet passport as they can currently. But after months of uncertainty, the Government's now said you will be able to travel with your pet so long as you get a new animal health certificate and meet certain other requirements. 

If you live in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man), you'll need to ensure your pet is microchipped, vaccinated and has been checked by your vet before travel - but the good news is you won't have to contact your vet at least four months before travel, which could have been the case prior to this week's announcement.

The shake-up of pet travel rules is just one of a series of changes that will come in on 1 January 2021, as the Brexit transition period ends and the UK completes its exit from the EU. See our 22 Brexit Need-to-Knows guide for more info on everything from property prices to consumer rights. 

Taking your pet to the EU or Northern Ireland? What you need to do

The new rules only apply to dogs - including assistance dogs - cats and ferrets. If you want to take another animal abroad, you'll have to comply with the national rules of the EU country you're going to.

You also won't be able to take more than five pets to an EU country or Northern Ireland unless you’re attending or training for a competition, show or sporting event - and you'll need to provide proof of this. 

If you want to take five or fewer dogs, cats or ferrets to the EU or Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021, you'll need to complete the following steps the first time you go:

  1. You must have your dog, cat or ferret microchipped, if they're not already
  2. You must vaccinate your dog, cat or ferret against rabies – your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before it can be vaccinated
  3. You'll need to wait 21 days after the primary vaccination before travel
  4. You must visit your vet with your pet to get an animal health certificate, no more than 10 days before travel 
  5. In addition, if travelling to Finland, Malta, Northern Ireland, Norway or Republic of Ireland with a dog, you need to ensure it's received treatment for tapeworm one to five days before arrival in these countries. This needs to be detailed on the pet's animal health certificate

The following requirements will allow you to take your pet away for a maximum of four months. If you remain in the EU or Northern Ireland for longer than four months, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says you should speak to a vet in the EU or Northern Ireland regarding documentary options for onward travel or returning to Great Britain.

As long as you keep your pets' rabies vaccinations up-to-date, you don't need to get repeat vaccinations for subsequent trips to the EU or Northern Ireland (other than tapeworm treatments for dogs visiting those countries listed above). But you will need to apply for a new animal health certificate for each trip. 

Remember to take your animal health certificate with you when you travel, alongside proof of microchipping, rabies vaccinations and tapeworm treatment (where required), as you made need to show these when you enter the EU country or Northern Ireland.

Where to get an animal health certificate from

You can get an animal health certificate from your vet within 10 days of travelling. The price of the consultation, advice, vaccinations and issuing documents is set by each individual vet - so make sure to ask in advance if you're concerned about fees. Industry trade body the British Veterinary Association couldn't give us average cost for these services saying it will vary by practice, as well as on the size and breed of your pet. 

The animal health certificate itself will be valid for:

  • Entry into the EU or Northern Ireland within 10 days of the date of issue 
  • Onward travel within the EU or Northern Ireland for four months from the date of issue, or until the date the rabies vaccination expires - whichever is sooner
  • Re-entry to Great Britain for four months from the date of issue provided the rabies vaccination does not lapse

Returning to Great Britain with your pet? The rules are unchanged

There is no change to the current situation for pets entering Great Britain from 1 January 2021. Here, unless you're coming from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland where no documentation is required, your pet must have one of the following documents:

  • An EU pet passport issued in the EU, or in Great Britain before 1 January 2021, or a pet passport from a 'Part 1 listed third country' - see which countries this includes on the website
  • An animal health certificate issued in Great Britain for travel to the EU, which was issued within four months of your date of arrival
  • A UK pet health certificate - this is a different kind of certificate to the animal health certificate, and can be used to enter the UK only

As is the case now, if travelling from a country that isn't Finland, Malta, Northern Ireland, Norway or Republic of Ireland with a dog, you must also get tapeworm treatment no less than 24 hours and no more than five days before entering Great Britain.  

For more information, see or contact the pet travel helpline on or on 0370 241 1710.

What if I'm travelling with a pet from Northern Ireland?

The rules for those living in Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021 won't change if you're leaving the country to go to the EU or Great Britain with a dog - including an assistance dog - cat or ferret. Here, EU rules will continue to apply. This includes the need to have a pet passport and a rabies vaccination. Just bear in mind if you have a pet passport that's issued in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain you'll need to get a new UK (Northern Ireland) branded one issued from a vet signed up to the scheme. 
If, however, you're returning to Northern Ireland from or via Great Britain you will require an EU pet passport or an EU Animal Health Certificate, rabies vaccination, a 21 day wait from the successful rabies vaccination, and tapeworm treatment. But to allow for those who've already gone to the UK for Christmas to come back into Northern Ireland, pets travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will not be subject to routine compliance checks until 1 February 2021. 

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