Animal Health Certificate: The new way to travel to Europe with your dog

Summer is well on its way now and we all started to think about holidays! Whilst many of you will have already planned your trips abroad with your dogs, I am sure for many it will be the first time to go to continental Europe with your canine companion(s). Additionally, the rules as well as the low-cost nature of such a trip have changed substantially since the new Brexit rules have come into force.

In order to help you all not get caught out, I will share our “winter’s tale” of taking the family and dogs to Europe in the new Covid-19 era and using the new Animal Health Certificate last Christmas. Oh what a joy?!

Preparation begins…

….in October 2021. Travel was banned for a long time thanks to Covid, so I got out of the routine of how to do this like a pro. And there were the new Brexit rules too! We were seasoned travellers, regularly crossing into the continent with our dogs and it was always so easy! 

The long no-travel period and Brexit made me feel as though I no longer knew how to do this simple job! I started researching the government website as well as Defra and eventually had a good idea about it all.

Travel requirement to take your dog to an EU country (introducing the Animal Health Certificate)

  • Microchip
    The dogs need to be microchipped (compulsory in the UK in any case).
  • Rabies vaccination
    The dogs need to be vaccinated against rabies. If they have been vaccinated within the last 3 years, you only need a booster. However, if it’s the first time your dog gets vaccinated against rabies, you need to allow 21 days from the date of the vaccination before you travel. Plus, vaccinations cannot be given to dogs under the age of 12 weeks, which means the youngest your dog can be before travelling to the EU first time is 15 weeks of age (12 weeks + 21 days).
  • Animal Health Certificate
    Within 10 days of travel take your dogs(s) to receive an Animal Health Certificate from an official veterinarian. When you make the appointment let them know that it is for the purpose of completing the Animal Health Certificate as only authorised vets can complete it (Source: Defra). If your dog is up-to-date with the rabies vaccination, he/she only needs to be present for the vet to confirm his/her identity. The completion of the document can take up to an hour, therefore it is a good idea to ask somebody to accompany you and have the dog(s) outside the surgery until it’s all done. It is possible to travel with up to five pets on one certificate but beyond this the paperwork becomes more complicated. The completed Animal Health Certificate is only valid for 10 days from issue for entry into the EU (Source: UK Government)

Other important matters to bear in mind:

  • At present, the rabies vaccination details are often copied from an old EU pet passport but it is also a good idea (if one exists) to also carry the original old EU pet passport(s) on a trip even though they are no longer valid due to having been issued in Great Britain. In my experience, it could be helpful in countries like The Netherlands should there be any confusion over the dogs.
  • Depending on your point of entry into the EU, the document is in both English and the agreed language of the point of entry (e.g. if Calais then French, if Rotterdam, then Dutch and so on).
  • If onward travel is to happen within the EU then the document requires presentation at the first point of entry and to be checked alongside the animals. (In my experience no border crossings within the EU are interested in animals and are more focussed on people, vehicles and perhaps Covid issues.)
  • Re-entry into Great Britain on an Animal Health Certificate is limited to 4 months! Beyond this (whilst there are options) it becomes very a different “box of frogs”. One possibility is to keep any old EU Pet Passport issued prior to the start of 2021 up to date. It does appear that it is valid for re-entry into the UK if up to date. You just cannot travel into the EU with it! Confusing?! YES! The next time I am abroad I will ask about this when returning and update you as it does seem confusing.

The cost of an Animal Health Certificate varies at it is set by the vets. It is typically in the range of £150 to £250 with extra charges for extra dogs on the same certificate.  The cost of rabies injections (if not up to date) along with any necessary worming treatments is of course extra. Yes, it is much more than the old EU Pet Passport that cost around £60 and was valid for the life of the dog! Additionally, the Animal Health Certificate is only valid for one trip! Yep!

If you have the ability, it is possible to avoid the Animal Health Certificate by having an EU dog passport from an EU country. Entry to GB is acceptable for dogs with an EU pet passport issued in the EU and of course return to the EU is allowed. Be aware though that most EU countries require a rabies booster every year rather than every three years in the UK. Confused? Yes – it’s tricky.

Now that we know the ‘short’ list of what we need to travel to an EU country, let’s see what happened to us last Christmas…

The journey begins…

The car was packed and prepared for a possible treacherous long drive across Europe. The two dogs were secure in the back of the car complete with bedding, food, water, bowls, leads, toys, the list goes on! Finally, school finished too so little boy got picked up and we were ready to roll!

France was closing its borders to non-essential travellers at 11pm and time was of the essence. Yes, it was the days of the start of the Omicron variant and Europe was slowly closing up yet again to UK travellers. Not knowing if we would make it and definitely not sure how the requirements would be for travelling back in January, we set off for Hungary.  To add to the suspense, our PCR test results were still to arrive by email but we hopefully had everything else! Vaccination documents, dog documents, passports, tickets, vehicle documents, hotel bookings, the list gets longer and longer!

Needless to say, we got held up by traffic on the M25! Eventually we got to the Channel Tunnel, but guess what; the PCR results were still nowhere! We rang them but they couldn’t help as they had too many to deal with! We managed to check in for the crossing and then had to wait patiently for the PCR results. Fortunately, they arrived before the French closed their border and we set off to France.

We overnighted in a pet friendly French hotel we are familiar with close to Strasbourg. The next day was a LONG drive across Germany, Austria and then East Hungary (within 60 miles of the Ukrainian border). Frequent stopping for food, walks, treats, and the usual necessary things all make such days longer, yet more enjoyable. Fortunately, the weather was good, and we did not experience any snow which can make progress slow, especially on the heights of the German/Austrian border region.

The night was drawing in and we decided to drive through Budapest to enjoy the Christmas lights by the Danube River and all the city’s bridges. It was truly a special and spectacular sight and one our little boy says he would remember forever. (The dogs slept through it all). Europe just loves Christmas, and really knows how to make it look and feel magical.

Budapest with its stunning festive lights, traditional markets, romantic bridges is truly a fabulous place worth visiting.

There were no border checks on any of this drive beyond the EU entry so at least that did not add to the time taken. Of course, there were registration requirements due to Covid in Germany if you wanted to eat in a restaurant or even motorway services and Austria were particularly strict if you were purely “transiting” the country.

Eventually we arrived very late at our tiny holiday place in the East of Hungary by a few frozen lakes where we would spend Christmas and New Year. It was idyllic and so great to be there. We were all together including our two lovely dogs. The stress, the uncertainty and the journey had all paid off and we were settled far from our usual daily lives in a very quiet location. As for if and how we would return to the UK…. Well if you want a guarantee in life – buy an electric kettle as my husband says!

Seeing the dogs every day was lovely and much better than the worry of them being in some cold kennels without their favourite humans and chews!

We were all settled in our little holiday cottage by the lake in this tranquil corner of the world feeling truly blessed. The beauty and wonders didn’t end there as on Christmas Day we were woken to a beautiful blanket of snow! We haven’t had White Christmas for years! It was truly mesmerising and beautiful and we were getting our boots and coats on in no time to have our first snow-ball fight!

There is something special and wonderful about spending Christmas in Europe, especially in this quite, sleepy little village. Somehow the Europeans manage to capture all the love, joy, beauty that surrounds Christmas.

The days were spent with lots of laughter, snow fight, sledging, food and of course winter walks with the furry friends. It is just amazing how our woofers are as happy in temperatures of -5C as they can be in 25C on a walk.

All good things come to an end…

Our time was coming to an end slowly, so yet again we were checking the forever-changing travel requirements. The major worries were the time that had to elapse or not elapse for the various tests and needs for both the dogs and ourselves.

The dogs had to be presented to a local vet for tape-worm treatment and the information was entered onto the Animal Health Certificate. Knowing the cost of this in France can be heading towards €100 per dog we found the equivalent of £10 for two dogs very reasonable indeed. Once administered that meant we had to be in Calais for the return tunnel crossing within 120 hours. However, overnighting near Strasbourg again meant we could not do our Covid lateral flow tests and report the results until the morning we expected to cross. We had started one timer but had another to start with the lateral flows which, if they were positive would mean we were stuck in France and unable to travel anywhere. Thankfully, all were clear and we set off.

Next stop was the Channel tunnel at Calais, where all documents were checked and we were “good to go”.

Over the years I have seen many people with problems at Calais and having to go find a local vet for errors in paperwork, so it’s definitely worthwhile to keep a close watch on all details that are entered on paperwork for readability and accuracy by vets.

Almost twenty days after leaving, we were back home having had a great relaxing quiet time as a family in the middle of nowhere with some snow.

Hopefully this tale shows that even with winter weather and travel restrictions due to Covid, travelling to the EU with your dog is relatively straightforward if you just follow the steps and are willing to pay a lot more than it used to be.

Animal Health Certificate requirement – SUMMARY:

  • Be up to date on rabies vaccinations. If not, allow for a minimum of 21 days from the date of the vaccination before travelling to the EU.
  • Make an appointment (well in advance) with a vet authorised to complete the necessary checks and issue the Animal Health Certificate. The appointment will last around an hour. The appointment cannot be more than 10 days before you enter the EU.
  • Make sure the form is in the language of the intended first point of entry to the EU. Your vet will do this but please double-check it.
  • On arrival at the first point of entry in the EU, have the form checked with the dogs if travel beyond the country of the first point of entry is intended.
  • Between 24 hours and 120 hours prior to re-entry to Great Britain the dog(s) require tapeworm treatment. On our trip the details of this treatment were entered onto Page 4 of the Animal Health Certificate. This does look like where if you were travelling into Finland, Norway, Ireland, Northern Ireland or Malta the tapeworm treatment would appear but it is the correct place for re-entry to Great Britain too.
  • Remember the document only lasts for 4 months from the date of issue for returning your dog to the UK.
  • Remember that every time you make a trip to Europe you need a new Animal Health Certificate.

If you need any help with your travel plans or confused about the requirements, please get in touch, I’m more than happy to help. Similarly, if you experience anything different to what is written in this article, then do please email me at bernadett@chompandchew.co.uk

Bernadett

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