Nearly 18 months have passed since the end of the transition period, but Brexit is continuing to affect the lives of British citizens living and working in the EU. For example, many Brits have recently been highlighting the various implications for expats travelling with pets.
Animal health certificate (AHC)
Pet passports issued in the UK are no longer valid in the EU, causing significant headaches and expenses for British nationals who want to relocate their pets. Before your pet cat, dog, or ferret is allowed into the EU, the animal will now need an animal health certificate (AHC), which is designed to prevent the transfer of animal diseases. You will need to take your animal, plus their medical records, to a suitable vet. Your vet might also need to undertake blood tests.
The AHC contains:
• Details of the pet owner (i.e. you)
• Description of your pet
• Details of rabies vaccination (your pet will need to have been vaccinated at least three weeks prior to the AHC appointment and must have had a UK rabies vaccine within the past three years)
• Rabies blood test (as required)
• Canine tapeworm treatment (as required)
• Intended country of entry into the EU
Note that the AHC must be issued in the language of the country from which you are entering the EU, not your country of destination, so if you’re travelling from England to France, the AHC must be in English.
The AHC needs to be signed by an ‘official veterinarian’ (OC), which some practices do not have. Check with your vet to see if they have an OC on board.
AHC – costs and planning
The Guardian suggests that if you’re planning to travel in the summer of 2022, you plan your pet passport application well in advance, since vets are getting booked up already. Surveys indicate that the majority of pet owners don’t know what the new regulations are. Moreover, practices that have an OC are limiting AHC appointments, some to only one appointment a day.
Some expats have found that the AHC itself costs in the region of £220, with a further £50 to £80 for the rabies jab, and £15 for the worming treatment. For some travellers, this is more than the cost of their transport. The Kennel Club say that an AHC should typically cost between £100 and £200, but some vets have been charging closer to £300.
Guardian Money’s Price Check surveyed the big CVS veterinary group and found that vets’ charges for the first animal were around £250, with an additional £50 for each subsequent pet. So, if you’re taking your whole pack, it could prove very expensive – although you can’t take more than five animals with you anyway, unless you’re attending a show or a competition.
Vets told the Guardian that the cost is due to a rather large amount of paperwork. The application form is 10 pages in length and is apparently significantly more complicated than the old EU passport.
Just because you apply for an AHC, does not mean that you will automatically be granted one. Those practices that do supply AHCs say that they “do so within a very narrow scope, with specific conditions needing to be met (for example, rabies vaccination requirements and specific timing requirements), and if a client is turned down, it may be because they do not meet these conditions.”
AHC – validity period
Your AHC will last four months, but you need to have a new one every time you come back into the EU from the UK, so if you’re going back and forth in that four-month period, you will need a new certificate each time, even if you’ve only just got one.
With this in mind, could you get around the problem by applying for a pet passport in your adopted nation, rather than in the UK, thus approaching the issue from the other way round? French pet passports are cheaper than the AHC and are multiple use. While this is certainly possible, unfortunately it’s easier said than done.
Regulations in France
Post-Brexit, the regulations for French pet passports have been tightened up. French vets will only issue a French passport to a pet which holds a UK-issued EU passport (now invalid) issued before 1st January 2021, if that is registered on the I-CAD database and has an I-CAD identity card. However, you can only register with I-CAD if you’re going to be in France for more than three months, and for this, under the current freedom of movement regulations, you’d need to have the right visa (since Brits who don’t are not allowed to stay for more than 90 days in France). If you have a long-stay visa, however, it might be worth applying for a French pet passport.
Regulations in Northern Ireland and the EU
Note that if you’re travelling to and from Northern Ireland and the UK, checks on pets have been indefinitely suspended, due to ongoing negotiations between the British government and the EU.
If you are intending to take your pet to the EU or Northern Ireland, therefore, your pet will need:
• A microchip
• A valid rabies vaccination
• An animal health certificate, or a valid pet passport that’s accepted in the country you’re travelling to
• Tapeworm treatment for dogs if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta
These requirements also apply to assistance dogs. We advise that you check out the requirements for Northern Ireland at the time of travel, since this situation may change. You can either consult your vet or look on daera-ni.gov.uk.
The UK government advice says that you can only use a pet passport if the country you’re travelling to accepts passports for pets coming from Great Britain. The passport must have been issued in one of the following places:
• An EU country
• Faroe Islands
• Northern Ireland
• San Marino
• Vatican City State
Our final suggestion is that you check in good time with your own vet and find out exactly what you need to do.