The Pet Travel Scheme ("PETS") is a system which allows animals to travel easily between member countries without undergoing quarantine. A pet passport is a document that officially records information related to a specific animal, as part of that procedure. The effect is to drastically speed up and simplify travel with and transport of animals between member countries, compared to previous procedures if the regulations are followed.
On 1 October 2001, the European Union introduced the PETS scheme, under which animals from any member country may freely travel to any other member country on approved carriers.
PETS was originally introduced for the benefit of animals entering or returning to the United Kingdom from other European Union countries, since historically the UK had very strong controls to safeguard against rabies including a compulsory six-month quarantine period on imports of many animals.
Over time the EU scheme has recognised other countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States as listed countries, relaxing some of the entry requirements for pets travelling from these countries.
The pet passport itself comes in multiple forms, sometimes a pink A4 sheet, sometimes a small blue booklet. It contains the microchip or the tattoo number of the animal, the certification that the animal has had a rabies vaccination, and needs to be signed by an officially approved veterinarian.
A new style passport with laminated strips and additional security measures was introduced in the UK in December 2014. Old style passports remain valid.
The passport is not to be confused with a much smaller folder routinely issued by vets, which records the complete vaccination history of the pet.
Every country has different requirements, both for export and import of animals, although some features are common to all.
In some countries, the formal passport is needed. Others will accept documentation in any form so long as it provides clear evidence of the procedure being followed. Usually, the animal and its papers are checked thoroughly upon both departure and arrival.
A pet passport alone can be used to enter some countries if it records all relevant information (e.g., the UK), but it will not suffice to enter many countries. For instance Guatemala, in common with almost every country operating such a scheme, demands that all imported pets have a rabies vaccination, but will not accept the pet passport as proof of said vaccination. They require the proof of the rabies vaccination in the animal's records.
Tapeworm treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1–5 days) before scheduled arrival time.
The rules for bringing pets into the UK can be quite complex. The official UK Government website covers this topic in detail. Dogs, cats & ferrets with Pet Passports from EU (& some other) countries can enter the UK via specified routes and ferry companies, including the Channel Tunnel by car. Before entering the UK, most pet dogs (including assistance dogs), but not cats or ferrets, must be treated for tapeworm. The treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1–5 days) before its scheduled arrival time in the UK. (There is no mandatory requirement for tick treatment.) No treatment is required for dogs entering the UK from Finland, Ireland, Norway or Malta. All animals (except guide dogs) travelling by air to the UK must travel in the hold as manifest cargo & can only use specific airports and airlines. (Similar rules apply to pets arriving by sea, other than by specific ferry services.) British law precludes all animals entering the UK by air either in the cabin or in the hold as 'excess' or 'checked' baggage. Most airlines do not offer cargo services to individual passengers directly and specialist agents are normally used. UK law does not prohibit the transport of dogs and cats in the cabin or as hold baggage when departing from the UK, but restrictions may be imposed by individual airlines or destination countries. See Other useful information below for further travel details. Swiss Airlines publishes a useful guide which is typical of the services proposed by several European airlines.
Although a participant in the PETs scheme, to bring pets into Japan from member states there are several separate procedures that must be followed. These do not cover Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii and Guam, which have designated region (rabies free) status. If you take a pet out of Japan, it may take between 6 months to a year for it to re-enter. Including prior contact with Japanese Quarantine several months before entry:
To take a dog or cat out of Japan, on top of the necessary injections and microchip, you must:
The PETS scheme is not yet standardised. This leads to much confusion. Every journey between any two countries should be researched separately to ensure that the animal will be accepted for travel upon arrival at the departure point.
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