Taking your pet on holiday or moving abroad is very much a reality since the launch of the pet travel scheme that replaced the necessity for animals to be placed in quarantine.
I can speak from experience, as my little West Highland Terrier, named Angel moved with me and my husband from England to Spain several years ago. I was surprised at how easy the process was and I would encourage anyone who is unsure about whether to take their loved ones with them abroad to speak to their vet and ask for some information and advice.
Please be aware that the rules may have changed and whilst this is only my experience with the scheme I would recommend you consult Defra (department for environment, food and rural affairs) for the latest information.
My first step, was to get Angel microchipped, this helps identify her, an easy procedure performed by the vet. The number of the microchip was assigned to Angels EU passport as well as the date performed and the location of the chip, in her case between her shoulder blades.
Once the microchip was fitted, the next course of action was to have her vaccinated against the rabies virus. This is an important step in the scheme and this has to be completed successfully for the passport to be issued, you have to have this done even if your pet has a current rabies vaccination certificate. Our vet, then recorded the details in Angels pet passport as well as recording information on her age and the date the booster vaccination is due.
I worked my way through the procedure and my next step was to take Angel for a blood test. After her vaccination, the blood test was to ensure the vaccine was working and giving her sufficient protection against the rabies virus.
At this point, I was warned by the vet that the United Kingdom operates a six month rule which is very important if you are going away on a short break or holiday and wish to return to the U.K. with your pet. In my case, I did not have any plans to return, I was starting a new life in Spain with my family. I understand this to mean that you can go on holiday but cannot return with your pet for six calendar months from the blood test date (and the result must be ok). With this in mind, my advice is to start the proceedings in advance allowing plenty of time for the procedure so that the six months have passed before you go away.
The rules are different from the U.K. if you wish to enter other EU countries, their scheme commands a twenty one day wait from the first rabies injection. (Some manufacturers require more than one treatment, if so, the wait does not start until the last vaccination has been administered). Again, allow plenty of time for the procedure. Please seek advice regarding the blood tests from your vet especially information on the restrictions on travelling back to the U.K. and to other countries.
Angels blood test results were fine and she was issued with her own passport. There is even a space for me to put her photograph inside.
No further tests were required for Angel, if your pet fails the test your vet will advise you whether another vaccination is required although they will need to take another blood test.
I continue to be responsible for her medical care, her booster injections, vaccinations and treatment for worms, fleas and ticks. In Spain, Angel also requires an injection on an annual basis (or you can choose to give your pet tablets on a monthly basis) for the prevention of heartworm, found in most Mediterranean countries.
I hope the pet passport scheme doesn’t sound too difficult or confusing because it really isn’t. Everything went really smoothly with Angel and none of the testing or injections seemed to phase or bother her.
To travel, you have to use an authorised route by Defra. I chose the channel tunnel where Angel could travel in the car with us. I wanted us to be together for the journey so that I could ensure she was happy and not distressed. I am very lucky she loves the car so this seemed to be the most logical choice for us.
Once across the channel, I could begin the journey through France and into Spain. Many hotels are pet friendly abroad so it was easy to make regular stops and stay overnight in different towns and villages along route.