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Disclaimer: all details are correct at the time of writing. Owners are responsible for checking the most recent Government advice before attempting to travel with pets. 

If you are a loving pet owner, you may be interested in looking for ways to take your pet on your travels to the European Union. However, in order to do so, you need to acquire an Animal Health Certificate. In this article, Knutsford Veterinary Surgery discusses exactly what an Animal Health Certificate is, and everything you need to know so that you can take your pet on holiday with you. 

So, do I need an Animal Health Certificate? You need to acquire an Animal Health Certificate for your pet if you are travelling from Great Britain to the EU. An Animal Health Certificate is required by law to ensure that diseases such as rabies do not spread. For countries outside of the EU, you would need an Export Health Certificate. 

Read on to learn more about Animal Health Certificates, including what you need to do prior to an Animal Health Certificate appointment, and how often you need to renew an Animal Health Certificate. 

Dog on a train

What is an Animal Health Certificate?

An Animal Health Certificate is a document that is required if you wish to take your dog, cat or ferret to a country within the EU or Northern Ireland. The Animal Health Certificate must be completed and certified by a veterinarian that has been approved by the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency), within 10 days of travel outside of Great Britain.

Why is an Animal Health Certificate Required?

In 2021 the law was changed in Great Britain, detailing that Pet Passports issued in Great Britain are no longer valid documentation for taking your dog, cat or ferret abroad. Instead, an Animal Health Certificate is required to prove your pet is appropriately vaccinated. The Animal Health Certificate is required when travelling to an EU country to ensure that diseases such as rabies are not spread.

Do I Need an AHC for Travel to All Countries?

An Animal Health Certificate is required for travel with your dog, cat or ferret from Great Britain to an EU Country or Northern Ireland. However, for countries outside of the EU, the Animal Health Certificate is not valid and, instead, you will need to acquire an Export Health Certificate

An Export Health Certificate is a form of documentation used to check whether your pet meets the specific health requirements of the country you are travelling to. It is important to note that each country outside the EU will have a different Export Health Certificate application process, and, as such, requires different information. To determine the relevant documentation for the country that you are travelling to, click here.

Is an AHC the Same as a Pet Passport?

The Animal Health Certificate is not the same as the Pet Passport. The main difference between the two is the length of time that they remain valid for. Pet Passports are valid for as long as you keep them up to date with relevant vaccinations. However, an Animal Health Certificate is only valid for one trip to the EU, therefore you would need a new certificate each time you travel. Whilst the Animal Health Certificate is valid for travel inside of the EU for 4 months, a new AHC would be required if you exit the EU at any point during your trip.

What is Required for an Animal Health Certificate?

In order to qualify for an Animal Health Certificate, you need to meet a set of criteria otherwise you will not be able to travel with your dog, cat, or ferret to any country in the EU. Below Knutsford Vets have detailed these requirements to make it a little easier for you.

  • Mandatory Requirements

    To ensure that your pet qualifies for an Animal Health Certificate they need to meet the following mandatory requirements: 

    Your pet must have been microchipped before or at the same time as their rabies vaccination. Your pet must also have been vaccinated for rabies at least 21 days before the Animal Health Certificate appointment, unless it is a booster vaccine. Please note that your pet must be at least 12 weeks old to receive this vaccination.

  • Additional Requirements

    If you are travelling to countries such as Finland, Ireland, Malta, Northern Ireland, or Norway your vet must treat your dog for tapeworm and certify this in your Animal Health Certificate. The treatment needs to have been given no less than 24 hours, and no more than 120 hours before you travel.

    The treatment must be both approved by the country that it is being given in, and contain Praziquantel or an equivalent drug that has been proven to be effective against the Echinococcus Multilocularis Tapeworm.

What Do I Need to Provide Prior to the AHC Appointment?

Prior to the Animal Health Certificate appointment it is important that you remember to fill out the pre-appointment form as soon as possible. This will usually be sent to you via email or text, and will require you to fill in your pet’s details including uploading copies of your pet’s vaccination record, including rabies. We are unable to process the paperwork until this has been completed. Any errors in completing the form may invalidate the AHC.

The rabies vaccination record can be provided in either of the following ways: 

  • An existing GB or EU Pet Passport 
  • Rabies vaccination certificate/ vaccination card
  • Previous veterinary clinical notes

The rabies vaccination certificate is acceptable as long as it details your pet’s microchip number and the details of their rabies vaccination history, including the manufacturer, date it was administered and batch number and is certified by a suitably qualified veterinarian. 

What Do I Need to Bring to the AHC Appointment?

On the day of  your Animal Health Certificate appointment, you need to remember to bring two things: 

  • Your pet

    Always bring your pet along to the appointment in case any further checks need to be made.

  • Their proof of rabies document

    For example, a rabies vaccination card or certificate with your pet’s microchip number on it, or your old EU/GB Pet Passport with a valid rabies vaccination recorded on it.

How Long is an Animal Health Certificate Valid For?

Animal health certificates are valid for entry to the EU within 10 days of the date of issue and can be used for travel inside of the EU, as well as your return trip to the UK, for 4 months. As soon as you wish to cross back over the border, and out of the EU, the certificate will no longer be valid and you will be required to apply for a new Animal Health Certificate. 

How Often Do I Need to Get an AHC?

You are required to acquire a new Animal Health Certificate each time you plan to travel to the EU from Great Britain. Animal Health Certificates are valid for one trip across the EU boundary, and for your return to Great Britain. However, if you exit the EU during your trip, a new AHC would be required to return to the EU.

Knutsford Vets Vaccination Services

How Long Does it Take to Get an AHC?

There is currently a waiting list of up to 4 weeks to book your the Animal Health Certificate appointment so plan early., AHC paperwork is partially completed in advance of your appointment, with the remainder completed during the 45 minute appointment. It is essential the person who completes the pre-appointment AHC form attends this appointment otherwise the paperwork will not be valid.

This is why it is so important to be organised with the correct information and documentation submitted prior to the appointment. Once that is done, the process is fairly straightforward and, before you know it, your pet will be able to travel. 

How Long Before Travelling Do I Need to Obtain an AHC?

You should book your Animal Health Certificate appointment within 10 days of travel. Please factor in additional time to complete the online form and for your pet’s paperwork to be processed. This way, you will leave enough time to ensure that any issues can be rectified before you are due to travel. 

At Knutsford Vets, appointments typically take around 45 minutes to 1 hour, but please note that we require a 50% non-refundable deposit at the time of booking. Please ensure that you have the correct dates and information before booking your appointment.

How Old Must a Pet Be to Get an AHC?

In order to qualify for an Animal Health Certificate and travel to the EU from Great Britain, your pet is required to be a minimum of 12 weeks old. This is because 12 weeks is the earliest that your pet can be vaccinated against rabies, a compulsory requirement of the Animal Health Certificate. 

You will also be required to wait at least 21 days after your pet has been vaccinated for rabies before you can book an Animal Health Certificate appointment. Please bear this in mind before you book your appointment.

Do Assistance Dogs Need an AHC?

Assistance dogs are still required to obtain an Animal Health Certificate when travelling outside of Great Britain into an EU country. The paperwork may be slightly more complex for an assistance dog, but if you book your Animal Health Certificate appointment within good time of travelling, there should be no issues with obtaining the certificate in time.

What To Do If You’re Not Travelling With Your Pet

In some cases you may not be the person travelling with your pet and, instead, they may be travelling with friends or family, or with a hired pet transport company. Here’s what to do in such circumstances:

  • Pet Is Travelling Alone

    If your pet is travelling alone via the use of a pet transport company, you will be required to provide the details of the transport company to your vet before the Animal Health Certificate appointment takes place. 

    It is a compulsory requirement that you will be reunited with your pet at the destination within 5 days of their departure. The pet transport company must also carry documentation that details when you plan to reunite with your pet after their travels.

  • Pet is Travelling with Friends/Family

    If your pet is travelling with a named friend or family member, you must provide your vet with a written authorisation that you are happy for the named person to travel with your pet. Again it is compulsory that you will travel to be reunited with your pet within 5 days of their departure, and the named person originally travelling with your pet must carry documentation that details this information.

I Have a Pet Passport – Is It Still Valid?

As of January 1st 2021, Pet Passports are no longer valid documentation for travelling with your pet to the EU unless it was issued within an EU country. On very rare occasions, Pet Passports can still be used for travel, but only if the specific country you are travelling to still accepts them. 

However, if not, your Pet Passport doesn’t completely go to waste because it can be used as evidence to show that your pet has been vaccinated for rabies. This is a compulsory requirement when applying for an Animal Health Certificate. 

How Long Before Re-Entry into the UK is Tapeworm Treatment Required?

Tapeworm rules typically only apply to dogs, but it is still important to be aware of the information to ensure that your pet can re-enter the UK as and when you plan to do so. Each time you return to the UK after travelling to the EU, you must ensure that tapeworm treatment is administered, within 24-120 hours of the time you plan to re-enter the UK, by an official veterinary surgeon. 

The veterinary surgeon must record the tapeworm treatment in section 2 of your Animal Health Certificate in order to grant your pet travel access back to the UK. This does not apply if you are planning to travel back directly from Northern Ireland, Ireland, Malta, Finland or Norway.

Tips For Travelling to the EU With Pets

Travelling abroad can be a stressful task at the best of times, nevermind when you have to organise travel for your pet too. Knutsford Vets have detailed our best tips for travelling to the EU with your pets to make your experience as smooth as possible.

Book Your Animal Health Certificate In Advance

Booking your Animal Health Certificate in advance is imperative to having a smooth journey to the EU with your pet. Due to paperwork processing times it is important to leave enough time between your Animal Health Certificate appointment and the day you plan to travel, just to ensure you have time to fix any amendments you may accidentally make in your paperwork. 

It is also recommended to allow for some flexibility in your schedule, ensuring to factor in travel delays when leaving/returning to Great Britain.

Check the Requirements of the Country You are Travelling to

Some countries may have additional requirements for travelling with pets that are not a standard requirement across the board. You can check for this additional information by clicking here

For example, The Faroe Islands only allows pets if you intend to stay for longer than 3 months, whilst Iceland requires a complicated 30 day quarantine period. Meanwhile, in France, there are a number of dog breeds that are classed as dangerous (which may impose further requirements).

Make Sure Your Pet Has Been Vaccinated for Rabies

At the very least, you need to make sure that your pet has been vaccinated for rabies at least 21 days before your Animal Health Certificate appointment. Without relevant vaccinations,  your pet will not be allowed to travel to the EU, and it will cause a serious delay to your Animal Health Certificate process.

Check if the Country is Pet-Friendly

Some EU countries are known to be more pet-friendly than others. If you are travelling for a holiday, opposed to visiting family or friends, it would be worthwhile researching which countries are the most pet-friendly. The last thing you want is for your pet to be stuck inside the entire time.

Vaccination Services with Knutsford Vets

Animal Health Certificates at Knutsford Vets

At Knutsford Vets, we provide Animal Health Certificates for travel to the EU, and Export Health Certificates for travel outside of the EU. Appointments cost £220, with 20% off for regular clients. 

Knutsford Vets offers vaccination services for your cats, dogs and rabbits which can contribute to your Animal Health Certificate Application.

Learn more about Animal Health Certificates online, or book your appointment today.

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