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PETS - Pet Travel Scheme - moving pets from the United States to the United Kingdom

Pauline Kenny

We have a cat (Buddy) that we will be bringing to England with us soon. This page gives you the steps to follow to bring pets cats, dogs and ferrets) to the United Kingdom, with references for more information. As we complete each step, I will add information about it here.


Until recently England has been rabies-free and has stopped rabies entering the country by requiring all incoming animals be quarantined for six months. The animal was vaccinated for rabies before being placed in quarantine. It takes six months for rabies to manifest, so if they had rabies before the vaccination, it would show up before the six months was up.

The rules changed a few years ago and animals no longer have to go into quarantine. Instead, you prove the animal does not have rabies by vaccinating them, having a blood sample sent to a lab to show that the animal was vaccinated, waiting six months, and then bringing the animal to the UK. You are doing the "quarantine" yourself.


These are the steps that must be followed to get your pet ready to be moved to the United Kingdom. Please refer to the resources for links to the official websites. Check these to be sure nothing has changed. The notes in italic at the bottom of each section show you where we are in this process.

Step 1 - Microchip

A microchip in an animal allows the animal to be identified easily. It is small, the size of the point of a pen, and is implanted between the animal's shoulders. Your vet can do this and the animal can be awake when it is done. The microchip contains an electronic code that can be read by a special scanner. The code relates to an online database where you register the code and your contact information, so someone scanning the animal can find out who he belongs to.

If your pet is not already chipped, take him to your vet and get the microchip implanted. This is not expensive; it cost $40 for us to have Buddy chipped.

Link to DEFRA page with microchipping information

>> We had Buddy chipped when we first got him in December 2005.

Buddy, December 2005, contemplating his upcoming move to England

Buddy, December 2005, contemplating his upcoming move to England

Step 2 - Vaccinate for rabies

Step 1 and 2 can be done at the same time. Even if your pet is not due for a rabies vaccination, he must be vaccinated. The vet must first scan the animal and check the chip number, then give him a rabies vaccination.

Get your vet to fill out the standard rabies vaccination form and be sure to have them note the microchip number for your pet.

Keep the rabies vaccination form; you will need it later.

Link to DEFRA page with vaccination information

>> We got Buddy vaccinated for rabies on March 27, 2006, even though it was only 1.5 years from when he was last given a 3 year rabies vaccination.

Step 3 - Do a blood test

Thirty days after the animal was vaccinated (or less - your vet will tell you how long you have to wait), take him back to the vet to have blood drawn. This blood is sent, by the vet, to an approved clinic. In 2006 there was only one approved clinic in the US, in Kansas.

This is when the six months starts - when the blood is drawn and sent in for testing.

The clinic tests the blood to be sure the rabies vaccine is there. They send the results back to your vet.

Link to DEFRA page with blood test information

>> We are waiting for 30 days before we have Buddy's blood test sent to the lab in Kansas.

Step 4 - Start the official paperwork (veterinary certificate)

Pets coming into the UK from outside of the European Union (e.g. from the US or Canada) must have an official veterinary certificate (titled "Veterinary certificate for domestic dogs, cats and ferrets entering the European Community for non-commercial movements (Regulation (EC) No 998/2003)"). If your vet does not have the veterinary certificate, you can download it from the USDA website and bring it to the vet.

Link to PDF from USDA website for veterinary certificate

Your vet fills out the veterinary certificate and sends it plus the blood sample results to the local USDA - APHIS office where they fill out the veterinary certificate and return it and the blood results form to you.

Keep the blood test results and the veterinary certificate; you will need them later.

Link to DEFRA page with documentation information

>> I phoned my local USDA office and went over all the steps of this process with them. They gave me the link for the veterinary certificate and I printed it out and took it to the vet.

Step 4 - Wait for six months

They call it the "six month rule" - you prove your pet has been vaccinated for rabies, then you wait six months to be sure the animal had not contracted rabies before the vaccination. There is no way around this, you have to wait six months.

Step 5 - Before leaving, treat against ticks and tapeworm

48 - 24 hours before the pet leaves for the UK, he must be treated a vet for ticks and tapeworms. The vet fills out the corresponding section on the pet's veterinary certificate.

The USDA - APHIS recommends you have the vet do a general check on the pet and issue a international health certificate because you may need to show this to the airline before they will accept your pet.

Link to DEFRA page about treatment against ticks and tapeworms

Step 6 - Ship your pet to the United Kingdom

Ship your pet to the UK with an approved transport company and on an approved route.

Link to DEFRA page with approved routes and transport companies

>> We will probably ship Buddy from Denver to London, Heathrow via British Airways World Cargo. They take unaccompanied pets.


www.defra.gov.uk: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This site has the regulations for bringing pets into the UK. They no longer need to be quarantined, but you have to get them chipped, vaccinated and have blood work done. You have to start this about six months before moving.

www.aphis.usda.gov: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

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