Guidance

Sea carriers: transport pets and assistance dogs

How to get approval to transport pet cats, dogs and ferrets, and when you must transport assistance dogs with their owners.

Contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) about transporting other kinds of pets.

To get approval to transport pets to Northern Ireland, contact the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Your responsibilities

If you transport pets or assistance dogs to England, Scotland or Wales, you’re responsible for checking they meet pet travel rules.

You can employ a third party to carry out checks on your behalf.

Get approval to transport pets

You must agree a required method of operation (RMOP) with APHA. The RMOP describes your facilities and processes for carrying pets, and checking they meet travel rules.

The rules are different for cruise companies and other types of sea carrier.

Exemptions

You don’t need approval to transport pets from:

  • UK countries
  • the Channel Islands
  • the Isle of Man
  • the Republic of Ireland

You don’t need approval to transport pets with a rabies import licence. You must follow the conditions of the licence.

You must follow other rules if you transport assistance dogs with their owners.

Cruise companies

You must have an RMOP for each route you’ll use to transport pets (port of departure and final port of call). You don’t need approval for each port of call on that route.

  1. Contact the APHA office nearest the port for advice about facilities and processes you can use.
  2. Fill in a pet travel RMOP form for sea or rail carriers.
  3. Send a copy of the form to the APHA office nearest the port named in the RMOP.
  4. APHA will contact you to agree the RMOP.
  5. You must train your staff to follow the RMOP.

Other sea carriers

You must have an RMOP for each ferry route you’ll use to transport pets (a single journey from port to port).

  1. Contact APHA for advice about facilities and processes you can use.
  2. Fill in a pet travel RMOP form for sea or rail carriers.
  3. Send it to APHA.
  4. APHA will contact you to agree the RMOP.
  5. You must train your staff to follow the RMOP.

Train staff

APHA will send you training material about carrying out checks on pets.

You must:

  • train staff named in the RMOP to follow the conditions you agree with APHA
  • tell APHA when you’ve completed the training
  • keep a training record for each staff member that carries out checks on pets

When your staff are trained, APHA will visit the port where you’ll check pets to test that you meet the RMOP conditions.

If you’re approved

If you meet the RMOP conditions, APHA will send you an ‘Approval of PETS ferry RMOP’.

APHA will add you to the list of approved pet travel carriers and routes.

Your approval may be withdrawn if you don’t meet the conditions of your RMOP.

Tell APHA if you:

  • stop accepting pets
  • change your company name or contact details

Transport assistance dogs with their owners

You must allow passengers with reduced mobility to travel with their assistance dogs if either of the following applies:

  • your ferry or cruise route starts in an EU country and arrives or stops in the UK
  • you’re a cruise ship that arrives at and departs from an EU country, and then arrives or stops in the UK

You could be taken to court if you don’t allow passengers with reduced mobility to travel with their assistance dogs.

Agree a memorandum of understanding (MOU)

If you must accept assistance dogs on any of your routes, you can agree an MOU with APHA. The MOU describes how you check assistance dogs meet pet travel rules.

If you have an MOU, APHA will add your route to the list of carriers registered to transport assistance dogs.

Tell APHA if you change your company name or contact details.

Cruises that start outside the EU

You don’t have to accept assistance dogs with their owners if your route is a cruise that starts outside the EU.

You must agree an RMOP with APHA if you transport assistance dogs on a route that starts outside the EU and stops in the UK first.

Published 28 June 2016