The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of life, and travelling with your pet is no longer as straightforward as it once was. If you are intending to move abroad, and are keen to get on with it now that an increasing number of countries are coming out of lockdown, you might need to consider the pandemic’s impact on taking pets abroad. This article will take you through your options.First of all, it might be worth noting that, whilst some domestic animals do appear to be able to catch this new virus, it is highly unlikely that your pet will do so. Whereas COVID-19 has run rampant among the human population, only a handful of dogs have been tested as positive (and they were asymptomatic), and only a few cats have displayed possible symptoms. It is also unlikely – though it is theoretically possible – that the virus can be conveyed on fur.
You can still travel with your pet during the ongoing pandemic, but you must expect it to be a more difficult process than at normal times. For example, you may already be aware that some repatriation flights have not permitted pets on board. This will particularly apply if you are moving an animal other than a cat or dog (for instance, if you want to travel with a pet ferret).
The simplest way of transporting your pet is to take it with you in your own car, travelling by ferry rather than aeroplane, but this will depend on whereabouts you are. For example, it will clearly be easier to bring your dog into the UK from France than from Australia.
Companies that specialise in pet transport report that airline regulations with regard to moving animals are, unsurprisingly, continuing to change and be updated. Increasing prices and limited availability are inevitable outcomes of the pandemic, so check with your individual airline to see what they currently offer.
It’s important to take note of travel corridors and agreements between individual nations. For instance, it is now possible to move pets between Australia and New Zealand, but airlines are imposing some breed and weight restrictions, and transport is only permitted between certain ports.
Make sure you check what is allowed well in advance, and then check again nearer the time. This is important, so that you can make alternative arrangements if necessary, such as if a region goes into a second lockdown.
You must check the specific requirements for your destination country, and these can be found online. For instance, if you are taking an animal into the UK, you can check the regulations on the UK government website.
Whether you can travel with your pet may depend on their status. As an example, we will look at British Airways’ rules. This airline permits assistance dogs in the cabin, but only if they are specifically trained and certified by an organisation that is a full member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). Emotional support animals do not come under these organisations. Your assistance dog must:
● Be trained to assist you with a disability or medical condition
● Have documentary evidence confirming that it has been trained as an assistance dog
● Wear an identifying jacket/harness
● Remain under your control at all times (you will need to take care of your dog’s needs during the flight, and the airline might question the animal’s ability to cope with a very long journey)
BA says that, currently, you need to book your assistance dog at the same time that you book your flight and, when possible, at least fourteen days prior to your date of travel. You will not be able to book your dog online at the moment. For further information, you can look at the British Airways website.
If you are intending to bring an animal unaccompanied, or as cargo, then you can contact BA’s sister service, IAG World Cargo, who have been moving animals since the 1950s. Again, there may be limitations imposed by the pandemic.
Your selected airline may request that you sign up with a registered pet-shipping company, and be aware that there may be breed restrictions (a list of these, mainly applying to dogs, can usually be found on the airline’s website). Some of these, such as IAG, have agreements with airlines already, but obviously the pandemic is causing some changes.
You should be able to take your dog on a ferry, but bookings have been disrupted over the last few months. Cal Mac say that, from 1st July, when making a booking, you should inform them if you are travelling with a pet, and they will issue a zero-value ticket to help manage capacity in their designated onboard pet areas. Assistance dogs are granted access to more areas of the boat, but you should ask for more details on this.
The UK government has published an updated (July 2020) list of sea and rail routes and companies that you can use to transport pets. However, they advise that you check with individual providers to see what their latest rules are, especially if you are making your booking a long way in advance. You can see the list here.
In addition to COVID-19 and its aftermath, you need to be aware that there may be changes to pet travel caused by Brexit. If you are moving between the UK and EU nations, particularly if you intend to do so after the transition period, it is strongly advised that you check for any revised regulations regarding, for instance, pet passports. You can do this on the relevant country’s government website.
Issues such as vaccinations, proof that these have provided sufficient protection (for example, a rabies titre test may be required to check for antibodies), and microchipping may be stricter for non-EU nations. However, this will depend to some extent on where the animal is travelling from.
In conclusion, it is still possible to travel with your pet under certain circumstances, but it is important to check what is allowed with individual travel providers and on government websites.