Pet Travel


Key Statistics

  • In 2015, 164,836 dogs were recorded entering the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme. Excluding British owners returning into the country, 65,080 dogs were imported from 128 countries.
  • In 2015, over 91% of dogs entering the UK (excluding British owners returning to the country) came from other EU Member States.
  • The numbers of dogs being imported for commercial purposes increased to 28,344 in 2015 from 26,399 in 2014.
  • Non-commercial imports of dogs increased by 1,614 between 2014 and 2015.

The Pet Travel Scheme

In January 2012, the UK harmonised its pet travel rules with the rest of the European Union (EU) to allow for easier pet travel.

The changes for anyone travelling within the EU or non-EU listed country require the owner to ensure that their dog has:

  • A microchip
  • A rabies vaccination (with a wait of 21 days before travelling) following microchipping
  • A pet passport or an official third country veterinary certificate
  • Tapeworm treatment (with an exception for Finland, Ireland, Malta and Norway).

For anyone travelling into the UK and EU from an unlisted country, their pet requires:

  • A microchip
  • A rabies vaccination following microchipping
  • A blood test 30 days after the rabies vaccination and at least three months before travelling
  • Tapeworm treatment.

Prior to travelling, the vet must provide a copy of the results showing that the vaccination was successful. However, owners do not have to wait for three months if their pets were vaccinated, blood tested and given a pet passport for the EU before travelling to an unlisted country. In both cases, owners must use an authorised carrier and an approved route when travelling with pets.

For more information on the Pet Travel Scheme, please visit 

The problem

With the relaxation of the Pet Travel Scheme, the legitimate import of dogs for commercial purposes has declined as puppy traffickers are using loopholes and poor enforcement under the Pet Travel Scheme to evade controls.

Puppies are being disguised as being pet dogs to avoid the commercial checks which are more stringent. According to reports from member states and enforcement officials, puppy traffickers have also forged vaccination certificates and microchips that are registered to both a fake owner and address. The situation has exposed the UK to a higher risk of rabies and other diseases entering its borders and simultaneously has seen overly-young puppies transported in poor conditions with minimal water and food.

The EU and Defra have attempted to improve legislation to address the concerns outlined above by introducing a new Regulation (576/2013) that will come into effect on 29 December 2014. The new Regulation will introduce a number of changes to the EU pet travel rules. These are designed to strengthen enforcement regimes across the EU and increase levels of compliance.

The Kennel Club believes that these changes will improve enforcement and increase compliance whilst helping to prevent illegal activity. However, concerns remain to what extent these changes will be effective in tackling the current problems of illegal imports. Effective checks will only work if individuals declare themselves as transporting animals. Within this framework of conducting checks, there will be a significant limitation on the effectiveness of enforcement carried out by carriers regardless of how strict the pet travel rules may be.

Proposed solutions

The Kennel Club would recommend:

  • the responsibility to conduct checks on pet travellers to be transferred from ferry companies to border control agencies
  • increased spot checks at ports to improve the current checking regime
  • the need for member states to better enforce the rules surrounding pet travel, including checks of paperwork presented to authorities
  • that Westminster undertakes a new risk assessment on the risk of rabies being imported

that Westminster should liaise more closely with the European Commission and the relevant veterinary authorities in specific countries in central and eastern Europe (those with the highest number of puppies being imported into the UK) to coordinate and work towards reducing the risk of fraudulent pet passports and certificates being issued. 

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