Have pet, will travel

Holidays are a treat most of us look forward to but pet lovers can often be left in a quandary when it comes to the annual break.

While it may be tempting to take our furry friends along, many animals find the change in routine and environment – as well as the travelling – very stressful.

However some are only too glad to set off on an adventure, so owners who have a hairy hound or friendly feline with a taste for travel will be glad to know that it’s now cheaper and easier to take your pet abroad.

The Pet Travel Scheme, which has been running across Europe since 2004, finally came into effect in the UK and Ireland at the start of the year, updating a system which was first devised in the 1800s.

For decades, owners were required to get an anti-rabies jab and a subsequent blood test for their pet six months before they headed off on their hols.

Animal lovers who fell foul of the red tape and couldn’t produce the right paperwork on their return were forcibly separated from their cherished companion who was consigned to quarantine for six months.

But the new rules mean pets can be taken to the vet for their injection up until three weeks before a trip to the EU, America or Australia, and the requirement for blood tests has been dropped altogether.

All pets will however need to be micro-chipped, have a pet passport, rabies vaccination and dogs must be treated for tapeworm, with important checks still being performed before animals are allowed to enter the UK.

The Government estimates the change could save owners £7 million a year in vets’ fees and the move has received a warm welcome from owners who have been calling for change to the costly quarantine system for years.

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Taylor says: “Science has made tremendous advances since quarantine was introduced in the 1800s. We now have vastly improved vaccines and treatments but have not updated our old-fashioned systems to reflect this, which places an unnecessary burden on pet owners who need to take their animals abroad.

“It is about time we made changes that allow pet owners to travel abroad more easily and cheaply whilst still maintaining our high level of protection against animal diseases.”

Under the Pet Travel Scheme, animals from the EU and other countries with robust veterinary systems, such as the USA and Australia, will be require rabies vaccinations and then wait 21 days before they travel.

Pets from unlisted, non-EU countries, such as India, Brazil and South Africa, will need to meet stricter criteria including a rabies jab, a blood test, and a three month wait before they enter the UK.

Most vets are able to issue pet passports which are valid for entry, or re-entry, to the UK 21 days after the animal has received its rabies jab.

Owners should also check with their travel company before setting off as they may require a vet’s statement that your animal is fit and healthy to travel before they will allow it to board.

Your chosen destination should also have all the facilities necessary to make your pet’s stay as enjoyable as your own and it’s best to discuss your plans with your vet before booking your ideal break.

More information on the Pet Travel Scheme, including approved countries, carriers and routes, and regulations regarding bringing pets back into the UK, is available on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website or call their helpline on 08459 335577.