If you’re thinking of taking your dog anywhere else in Europe this year, be prepared for a costly and time-consuming headache.
Pet owners say they have to shell out hundreds of pounds for necessary paperwork after post-Brexit rule changes.
Pet passports issued in Great Britain are no longer valid for travel to EU countries (you can still use a pet passport issued in an EU country, Northern Ireland or a few other places, but check that it will be accepted before you travel).
Now, before a pet dog – or cat or ferret – can travel to the EU or Northern Ireland, its owner must obtain an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) for it.
To obtain the certificate, the animal must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. A rabies shot usually costs around £50, but some vets charge up to £80.
You should take your pet to your vet to get an AHC and – importantly – do so no more than 10 days before your trip.
Take three trips to the EU with your pet and you could end up paying nearly £1,000 for the now required certificates, although prices vary wildly.
Even if you don’t leave before July or August, now is the time to act because some veterinarians are already very full for this summer. If veterinary practices end up having to turn people away, it could threaten a pet version of the UK’s passport delay chaos.
The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an explosion in the number of pet owners, but surveys have indicated that the majority of dog owners are unsure of the rules around transporting their pet into the EU.
Mairead McErlean was told this week it would cost £220 to get an AHC for her English bulldog, Pepper, plus an additional £65 for the rabies shot needed to get the certificate, and £15 for the worming treatment needed to his trip – a total of £300.
She travels to Ireland in July and says £300 ‘is more than my ferry and my petrol… I’m so angry about the whole thing’.
McErlean has family in Ireland and says: ‘If I take three trips a year, which pre-Covid would have been pretty normal for me, that’s almost £1,000 to take her with me.’
Pepper, who is almost five years old, is a rescue dog and has abandonment issues, so putting her in a kennel is not an option, she adds.
Later in the summer, McErlean is traveling to France with friends and plans to take Pepper, so that’s at least an extra £220 she’ll have to pay, plus the fees a vet in France charges for paperwork. administrative for the return trip.
When she phoned her vet this week, she was told July was ‘very busy’ and she would be lucky to get a slot as other people had already booked AHC appointments.
Eventually the vet told McErlean, who lives in Milton Keynes, that they were going to rush her.
However, she adds: “If my parents are moving to Ireland permanently, what should I do in an emergency? The only option would be for my partner to stay home with Pepper.
The Kennel Club states that an AHC usually costs between £100 and £200. This generally includes consulting and reviewing documents. However, each veterinary practice sets its own price and some vets charge upwards of £300.
You can add up to five pets to an AHC, and often you’ll pay less for the additional pets.
A woman posted on Facebook earlier this month that she paid £230 to bring two dogs to France. “While I was there I got two deworming tablets and two French pet passports for €34 (£29),” she said, adding: “I had to provide a proof of French address.” However, it was recently reported that the rules for obtaining French pet passports have been tightened.
When Guardian Money did a price check this week, we found that many vets in the CVS Group – which runs more than 500 practices – charge £250 for the first pet and £50 for any additional pets.
At the cheaper end we found a practice in Folkestone, Kent, which charges from £75, and one in Havant, Hampshire, which charges £99 for a standard AHC.
The certificate must be signed by an “official veterinarian”, or OV, and not just anyone in the practice. Some practices do not have a VO, and those that do often limit the number of AHC appointments they book. We spoke to a practice in North East London who only take one appointment a day.
Once issued, an AHC lasts for four months, which includes any travel within Europe.
However, the certificate is only valid for one trip within the EU. So each time you make a new trip to an EU country or Northern Ireland from Great Britain, your pet will need a new AHC, even if the last one was only issued a few weeks earlier.
Vets say the reason certificates can be expensive is because it’s a lot of work: the form is around 10 pages and needs to be completed in English and the language of the EU ‘country of entry’ .
Dr Ed Hayes, public affairs manager at the Kennel Club, says Covid travel restrictions have delayed the impact of AHCs, adding: “It will be a bigger issue this year.”
However, he says second home owners who make multiple trips may be able to obtain a European Pet Passport issued by that country. “Try to find a local vet,” he says.
The British Veterinary Association says AHCs are considerably more complex and time-consuming than the old EU pet passport system. appointment. “Some firms have had to make the difficult decision not to offer CSAs because they simply don’t have the time and capacity to offer them. It is also important to note that the vet must be a certified official vet, so legally only certain vets can sign the certificates.
BVA chair Justine Shotton said changing the requirements was beyond the control of the profession or the UK government, as they are set by the EU, but she asked ministers to offer practical support to ” simplify and streamline” the process.
Other things to know
A veterinarian should treat your dog for tapeworm and register it on the AHC or the pet’s passport if you are traveling directly to Northern Ireland, Ireland, Malta, Finland or Norway.
Additionally (although this is not a new requirement), when returning to Britain, dogs should generally be given tapeworm treatment one to five days before returning.
You cannot bring more than five pets into an EU country or Northern Ireland unless you are attending or training for a competition, show or sporting event.