Looking forward to a holiday but not so keen on leaving your furry friends behind? Don’t worry – these days finding pet-friendly accommodation and flying with them is perfectly possible….
Don’t be put off by pet travel rules and regulations
These vary according to the countries you are flying to and from but in most cases they are quite straightforward.
You will normally be asked to present the following at check in:
- Pet vaccination documents and pet passports. These prove that your pet has been vaccinated for rabies three months before travelling and that blood test results show no signs of disease.
- A pet carrier – your pet must be able to stand up and move around in the carrier easily. If the carrier is to go in the cabin, the weight of your pet including the carrier cannot exceed the airline’s specified requirements. Make sure the carrier has a leak proof bottom, is well ventilated and contains just one pet at a time.
Identification tags and vet certificate to show your pet is fit for travel
- A quick online search of each country’s requirements provides more specific information on how to be properly prepared for the big day.
Reduced risks of rabies and improved testing of all infections mean that the UK has now joined the rest of the EU in terms of pet entry requirements. So no longer will your beloved pet be locked up for six months in quarantine at your expense before getting back home to you.
When it comes to rabies there is a of quarantine and customs requirements that will vary depending on your destination, where you are travelling from and how the EU classifies each location in terms of it being rabies-free or not. It’s worth doing some research on the requirements on the Pet Travel website well in advance to avoid any problems.
Where will your pet sit?
A very limited number of airlines are actually allowed to fly pets into the UK and if so, they must be carried as cargo. This is not an airline regulation but one set by the UK and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Affairs).
To solve the problem, many people fly with their pet in the cabin to France and then take a ferry or drive to the UK. Bear in mind though, that many of the cross channel ferries don’t accept pets during winter months so do check with them before you book.
In the cabin – Some airlines allow your cat or small dog into the aircraft cabin with you (usually to a maximum weight of 22lbs including the carrier, with dimensions of 17″L x 12.5″W x 8.5″H) – ideal if your pet is happy enough to sit quietly inside the carrier for the full duration of the flight. The pet plus carrier will normally be regarded as your one hand-luggage item to be stored under the seat in front of you – it’s that simple.
In cargo – Thousands of pets are transported as cargo every year and as long as you and your pet are properly prepared, there’s no need to worry. Larger pets (over 22lbs) are loaded into a pressure and temperature controlled compartment which is separated from the luggage area. Pets are the last to be loaded onto the plane and the first to come off so they will be waiting for you upon arrival, usually before you even get to the gate! Dedicated airline staff will ensure your pet is safe until you are happily re-united.
Pet travel tips
- Don’t make the mistake of getting your pet vaccinated for rabies before the microchip is fitted
- If your pet is vaccinated first, this will not be registered and the vaccination will have to be redone
- Try to choose a direct flight and avoid peak-season flying which could cause delays and unnecessary stress for you and your pet
- The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recommends you should not be tempted to give your pet tranquilizers or medication, except under special prescription from your vet. The variations in on-board temperature and pressure could have an adverse effect
- Except for small amounts of water, you are recommended not to feed your pet four to six hours before flying
- Make sure the pet collar cannot get stuck in the crate or carrier doors
Get the crate or carrier several months before you travel to give ample time for your pet to bond with it. A good way to do this is to put your pet’s bed inside the crate, along with his/her favourite blanket, plus an unlaundered piece of your clothing. Familiar scents will make your pet to feel safer and calmer inside the crate
- Separate yourself from your pet for a day at a time, by leaving him/her in a new environment, perhaps with a relative or friend. Perhaps not an easy thing to do for either of you, but this will show that you always come back, no matter what. In time, your pet will more easily adapt to new situations and people
- Airlines have different regulations when it comes to pet travel and you’ll need to be sure of exactly what to expect from the carrier you are choosing. For peace of mind, always contact the airline with any unanswered queries you might have.