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Pet passports explained

October 19, 2011

A changing situation:

(Click here for a printable guide to pet passports)

A pet passport is a means of allowing your pet to travel between certain qualifying countries (mainly the EU & a few others) as often as you like during the life of the passport without export certificates or quarantine. All that is required is an identity-chip and a rabies vaccination, we can then issue the passport and, 21 days after vaccination, you can head off into the proverbial wide blue yonder.

Until recently the main exception to this simple procedure was our very own country, the UK. If you wanted to come back into the UK, even after a day trip, your pet not only had to have the vaccination and ‘chip’ but also had to have a blood test and then wait 6 months. This meant that getting a pet passport to come into the UK, could take up to eight months. As of the 1st January 2012 however, all this is changing and the UK is coming into line with the rest of Europe.

Quarantine changes:
What this means is that quarantine rules are being dramatically revised both for countries which are in the pet passport scheme and others. The 6 month waiting prior to re-entry into the UK is also going, you now only need to wait 21 days after rabies vaccination, the same as for any other participating country.

On returning to the UK seasoned travellers will remember that there was a requirement to have your pet treated for ticks and tapeworms between 24 and 48 hours before landing in the UK. This too is changing as of January 2012, with the need to treat for ticks being abolished and the window for treatment against tapeworms being extended to 1 to 5 days; this should really take the pressure off anyone returning to the UK after a trip abroad.

The interim period:
In the last 6 months of 2011 what this means in practice is that once your pet has had its rabies vaccination IT DOES NOT NEED TO HAVE A BLOOD TEST. Because of the 6 month wait (which is technically still required up to January 2012) you will not be able to return to the UK any sooner by having the blood test done; the earliest date you will be able to return to the UK will still be 1st January 2012.

Important:
If you want to travel to (or from) a country outside the qualifying countries you need an export certificate, not a pet passport.

Steps involved in getting a pet passport:

Day 1 – An identity-chip is inserted (if required) and the first rabies vaccine given.
Day 14 – The second rabies vaccination is given and the passport issued.
Day 35 – You are free to travel between participating countries.

Please note that although the second rabies vaccination is not an absolute requirement we would strongly advise it. During the period when we analysed blood samples to test whether the rabies vaccination had worked correctly the only cases we ever had failures in were pets which had been vaccinated only once. There is estimated to be a 5% failure rate with the single vaccination alone. So, even though it is not a requirement your pet may be better protected against rabies by having the second part of the course.

If your pet already has an identity-chip:
The identity-chip must be inserted before the first rabies vaccination. So if you have already had your pet identity-chipped that is fine, the vet will simply check the ‘chip at each stage of the process.

Rabies boosters:
The rabies vaccination used at Orchard Veterinary Group will last for 3 years if given in the UK (other brands may have shorter periods). So, if the last rabies vaccination was on 15th January 2012 the booster is due on or before 15th January 2015.

Although this interval is correct for the UK data sheet the same vaccine on the continent has only a one year booster interval. This should be borne in mind if you are staying in an area abroad where rabies vaccination is compulsory. Although the pet passport will remain valid for getting you into and out of all the countries on the scheme as long as you keep your rabies boosters up to date you cannot rely on it to satisfy local residency requirements which are often more strict, you need to take advice about this in the area you are living. Your pet is normally deemed as being a “resident” after staying in a country for 3 months but again, you need to check with the local authorities. This is of vital importance if you are staying abroad for more than just a few weeks.

If your pet already has a pet passport the rabies booster is a single injection up to 3 years following the second part of the primary course. You can have the booster as far in advance as you like but if it is even one day late you will have to wait 21 days after the booster before being able to travel with your pet. This can be annoying to say the least so it pays to plan well in advance. We do send reminders for rabies vaccination but this is not guaranteed – booster reminders are as likely as any other mail to fall foul of the human and technological vagaries of our otherwise excellent postal service.

How much will it cost?
Costs change from time to time so for an up-to-date price you should contact the surgery for a quote. The charges include:

Inserting an identity-chip (if required)
Rabies vaccination course
An administration fee for completeing and issuing the passport

Be sure to let us know if your pet already has an identity-chip when obtaining a quote as this will reduce your total cost.

For further advice:
For further advice you can contact the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) by ringing the PETS help line on 0870 241 1710. You can also contact Orchard Veterinary Group by letter, phone or email using the details on contact page of our web site. For even more information have a look at our pet passport links section.

Niall Taylor: October 2011

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