Traveling with pets from the UK to the EU has undergone significant changes since January 2021, following Brexit. This shift has brought about the introduction of the Animal Health Certificate (AHC), a crucial document for pet owners wishing to travel with their furry companions. As the post-Brexit landscape reshapes pet travel regulations, understanding the nuances of the AHC becomes essential for a smooth and compliant journey. This blog aims to demystify the AHC, outlining what it is, its requirements, and the procedures for obtaining one. Whether you're planning a holiday or relocating, this comprehensive guide will ensure you and your pet are well-prepared for your next adventure across borders.
*This guide is written by one of our vets. We constantly monitor the latest requirements and regulations for pets travelling abroad and update this guide accordingly. If you think something needs updating please contact us.
What is an Animal Health Certificate?
An Animal Health Certificate is a 11-14 A4 page document issued by an Official Veterinarian certifying that your pet meets the requirements to travel from the UK to the EU. These certificates were introduced in January 2021 following Brexit, replacing GB-issued pet passports.
All dogs, cats or ferrets travelling from the UK to the EU with their owners are required to have an Animal Health Certificate. For other pet species you will require a different type of certificate.
Which countries do I need an Animal Health Certificate for?
An Animal Health Certificate is required for pet dogs, cats or ferrets travelling from the UK to the EU. A full list of EU countries can be found here. The certificate also allows pets to travel to Switzerland, Norway and other part 1 listed countries, despite these countries not being part of the EU.
What are the requirements to get an Animal Health Certificate?
To be eligible for an AHC, your dog or cat needs to be microchipped and be vaccinated against rabies. An Official Veterinarian can only issue an AHC once at least 21 days have passed following a rabies vaccination.
The routine, annual vaccinations are not a requirement for travelling to the EU, however most veterinarians would advise keeping these up to date anyway.
Does my pet need anything else other than an Animal Health Certificate to travel to the EU?
For most countries in the EU, all you require to travel with them is the Animal Health Certificate (as this certifies that the pet has been microchipped and vaccinated against rabies).
However, if you are travelling to Ireland, Norway, Finland, or Malta with a dog, your dog will need to have a tapeworm administered in the UK before you travel in addition to the Animal Health Certificate. This tapeworm treatment is in a tablet form and can be administered by any vet, however it needs to be administered and recorded in the AHC between 24 hours (1 day) and 120 hours (5 days) before your scheduled arrival time in Norway, Ireland, Finland or Malta. Otherwise your dog will be refused entry, until they have had tapeworm treatment and 24 hours have passed.
Tapeworm requirements only apply to dogs travelling into Ireland, Norway, Finland and Malta. Cats or ferrets do not need anything other than the Animal Health Certificate to travel.
What is the difference between an Animal Health Certificate and a Pet Passport?
Pet passports no longer exist in the UK. They were replaced with Animal Health Certificates in January 2021 following Brexit.
However pet passports do still exist in the EU (and other Part 1 listed countries), and are valid for travelling with, provided the pet passport was issued in the EU (or another Part 1 listed country), the latest rabies vaccination was administered in the EU (or another Part 1 listed country), and it is still valid.
How long are Animal Health Certificates valid for?
Animal Health Certificates are valid for 4 months from the date they are issued. This means that you can return to the UK from the EU using this Animal Health Certificate provided you are returning within 4 months.
However, Animal Health Certificates are single-use only, so you are required to have a new Animal Health Certificate each time you travel to the EU with your pet.
If you are returning from the EU after 4 months have passed, you can't return on the same Animal Health Certificate, and you will need to get either a GB Pet Health Certificate or an EU pet passport in order to return to the UK.
Where can I get an Animal Health Certificate?
Animal Health Certificates can only be issued by Official Veterinarians; vets who have gained an additional qualification to issue pet travel documents. Not all vet practices have Official Veterinarians, so it is often easier (and considerably cheaper) to use a specialist pet travel vet clinic such as PassPets.
How do I get an Animal Health Certificate?
The process for obtaining an Animal Health Certificate is as follows:
1. Book your pet in for a rabies vaccination at your vets. The AHC can only be issued once 21 days have passed following the rabies vaccination so it is important to get the rabies vaccination booked in as early as possible to avoid delays. The vet should give you a vaccination card or rabies vaccination certificate showing the details of the rabies vaccination.
2. Book an appointment with an Official Veterinarian to get an Animal Health Certificate within 10 days of your travel date. The AHC must be issued no earlier than 10 days before your departure date, so it is important to book the AHC appointment accordingly. You will save a considerable amount of money by going with a specialist veterinary travel clinic such as PassPets rather than your vet practice.
3. Complete any pre-appointment forms or questionnaires. Different Official Veterinarians have different processes, but most likely you will need to provide some details about your pet(s), their rabies vaccination, and where you are travelling to prior to your appointment. This ensures the vet can prepare everything in advance and ensure your pet meets the requirements to get an AHC. If you use PassPets, we'll ask you to complete our online pre-appointment form which means we check everything in advance of your appointment.
4. Attend your appointment to get the AHC. The Official Veterinarian that issues the Animal Health Certificate will need to scan your pet's microchip number before they issue the AHC, to check it matches the microchip they have on the certificate. The Official Veterinarian should then run through the certificate with you, and explain what you need to do before you return to the EU.
What do I need to do before return to the UK?
For dogs, you will need to take them to a vet in the EU between 24 hours (1 day) and 120 hours (5 days) before your scheduled arrival time in the UK for the vet to administer tapeworm treatment and record this in the Animal Health Certificate. This is an essential requirement that needs to be done for all dogs returning to the UK from the EU (unless they are returning directly from Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta without entering any other countries). See our blog post on returning to the UK for more information.
For cats or ferrets there are no additional requirements to return to the UK. They can travel back using the Animal Health Certificate they travelled out on.
How much does an Animal Health Certificate cost?
Prices for Animal Health Certificates vary widely across the country, with the average price around £220. You'll save a considerable amount of money by using a veterinary travel clinic such as PassPets - prices for our AHCs start from £99 for the first pet, plus £50 per additional pet.
How old does my pet have to be to get an Animal Health Certificate?
Dogs, cats or ferrets have to be at least 12 weeks old before they can have a rabies vaccination. Once they have the rabies vaccination you will have to wait 21 days before you can get an Animal Health Certificate.
What if I'm travelling to Northern Ireland with my pet?
Checks on pets travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland were suspended in 2022, so there are currently no requirements at all for pets travelling to Northern Ireland. However, it is worth checking with the ferry company you are using to see whether they have any specific requirements. If you are planning on travelling into the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland you will need an Animal Health Certificate as this is technically entering the EU.
Does the Animal Health Certificate also cover Switzerland?
Yes, the Animal Health Certificate covers dogs, cats and ferrets travelling from the UK to any country in the EU, Switzerland, Norway and other part 1 listed countries.
How long are rabies vaccinations valid for?
Rabies vaccinations are valid for either 1 year or 3 years depending on the brand of the rabies vaccination used. Most rabies vaccinations administered in the UK are 3 year rabies vaccinations whereas most administered in the EU are only valid for 1 year.
The rabies vaccination is not a routine vaccination in the UK, so you will need to specifically ask your vet to administer this if you are planning on travelling abroad.
When your vet administers the rabies vaccination they should update your pet's vaccination card or issue you with a specific rabies vaccination certificate. In order for an Official Veterinarian to issue an AHC, they require a document evidencing the rabies vaccination that includes the date of administration, the microchip of the pet, and the brand and batch number of the vial used. Visit our blog post on rabies vaccination evidence for more information on what is accepted.
What if the owner is not travelling with the pet?
If the owner is not travelling with a pet but a named person (friend or family member) or pet transport company is taking the pet instead, the pet can still travel using an Animal Health Certificate provided that the owner is travelling within 5 days of their pet and will be reunited with their pet within 5 days. The border officials will need to see evidence of the owner's travel details at the border to ensure they are going to be reunited with the pet within 5 days.
If the owner is not going to be reunited at all, or if the owner is travelling, or will be reunited after 5 days of the pet travelling, then the pet would need an EU Export Health Certificate instead.
How do I get an Animal Health Certificate through PassPets?
Firstly, you'll need to ensure your pet is microchipped and has been vaccinated against rabies. Then you'll need to book an appointment for within 10 days of your departure date (and at least 21 days after the rabies jab) at one of our clinics (currently Havant or New Malden). Once you're booked in we'll send you a short online pre-appointment form to complete so our vets can prepare everything in advance. Then you need to come to your appointment with your pet(s) and we'll issue the AHC there and then. We charge £99 for the first pet, and £50 per additional pets, and there are extra no consultation fees.
If you have any questions which aren't covered, please don't hesitate to contact us to ask.