Guidance

Pet travel: quarantine

Rabies quarantine in the United Kingdom for dogs, cats and ferrets and other animals that are susceptible to rabies.

Rabies quarantine in the United Kingdom is for dogs, cats and ferrets and other rabies susceptible animals that do not qualify for entry into the UK under the EU pet movement rules.

Pet mammals that do not qualify for entry into the UK  may not be imported unless an import licence has been issued in advance. The import licence requires your pet to be detained, at your expense, at an approved quarantine premises until it has met the entry requirements. However it can be released at any time for immediate re-export.

Pets from unlisted third countries do not need to enter quarantine provided they meet the entry requirements.

Pets that are not accompanied by their owners when they enter the UK under licence for quarantine from third countries outside of the European Union (see Countries and Territories may only do so via approved Border Inspection Posts (BIPs). For the UK, these are currently London Heathrow and London Gatwick Airport.

The following advice covers quarantine information relating to the import of pet dogs, cats and ferrets.

Premises

If your pet does not meet the current entry requirements you will need to choose suitable quarantine premise, and potentially an authorised carrying agent to transport your pet to the quarantine premises. In choosing suitable quarantine premises, you might want to take into account whether it offers a level of comfort and care for your pet that you would be happy with and it is within reasonable travelling distance of your home.

All rabies quarantine premises are privately owned. The government is responsible only for ensuring that the disease security and isolation requirements are met. Premises do vary in the level of comfort and care provided for your animal.

Reserving quarantine accommodation for your pet and getting an import licence

After you have chosen suitable premises, you will need to reserve accommodation for your pet. We advise that you book well in advance, particularly in the holiday months. We also recommend that you agree a contract with the owner of the premises. The financial arrangements that you agree are entirely a matter between you and the owner of the quarantine premises.

When the quarantine premises agree to accept your pet(s) they will usually deal with all documentation on your behalf. This will include submitting an application form for an import licence to the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), arranging to collect your pet at the port or airport of landing and clearance through Customs, and safe custody to the quarantine premises. Check this when making the reservation.

If the quarantine premises are unable to arrange to transport your pet, you will need to reserve the services of an authorised carrying agent. The carrying agent will meet your pet at the port or airport of arrival and will be responsible for your pet’s security while in transit to the quarantine premises. You may not transport your pet to the quarantine premises yourself.

If you are unable to reserve government authorised quarantine accommodation then we will not be able to issue a licence for importation of your animal. In these circumstances we can only suggest that you might try and make satisfactory arrangements for it to be placed in a good home in the country you are leaving.

Approved ports and airports

Animals going into quarantine may only be landed at certain ports / airports. Check which one best meets your requirements. If importing a pet into the UK for quarantine, please try to ensure that your pet is imported directly into the UK (ie without transiting any other countries en route). If your pet has to transit other listed countries en route to UK quarantine, please make sure that you discuss the transit of your pet with each competent authority of the country/countries you need to transit. Some countries may not allow such transits and it is your responsibility as the pet owner to ensure that routes used are approved by each competent authority.

Animals entering (from the EU) or leaving UK rabies quarantine may only be landed at, or exported from the following ports or airports:

Ports

  • Eurotunnel Folkestone
  • Dover Eastern Docks
  • Harwich, Parkeston Quay
  • Hull
  • Portsmouth

Airports

  • Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Glasgow, Scotland
  • Leeds
  • London Gatwick
  • London Heathrow
  • Manchester
  • Prestwick, Scotland

It is an offence to land an animal at any other port or airport unless in an emergency, eg a diversion because of bad weather. In these circumstances, your animal should only be removed from the vessel or aircraft with the prior permission of the local authority animal health inspector.

Other possible requirements prior to entering the UK

Some transport companies may require some form of health certification for your pet before they allow it to travel. You should check this with the transport company when making the booking for your pet to travel.

Cost of quarantine

You are responsible for meeting all the expenses associated with the landing, transit and quarantine of your pet. Quarantine and transport charges vary considerably. Details of charges can be obtained direct from quarantine premises and carrying agents.

In considering the costs of quarantine, you should also note that the period of detention may, in exceptional circumstances, be extended in the event of:

  • an outbreak of rabies occurring at the quarantine premises; or
  • if your animal shares accommodation with one that dies

You would have to meet the cost of any extended period of quarantine.

Sharing quarantine accommodation

If you have more than 1 pet cat or dog, it may be possible for them to share a unit at the quarantine premises. A maximum of 3 pets of the same species belonging to the same owner may share accommodation. You will need to get permission for your pets to share accommodation in this way. Ask the owner or veterinary superintendent at the quarantine premises to arrange this for you. Dogs and cats cannot share the same accommodation.

Rare animals

Licences are required for the importation into the UK of certain rare animals, which are covered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Early release

All dogs, cats and ferrets entering the UK which do not meet the requirements of PETS must enter quarantine. Animals may be quarantined after failing a check carried out by a Defra or Scottish Government approved carrier, or a spot check carried out by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).

Pets may also be licensed directly into quarantine on a voluntary basis to provide a system for emergencies where people do not have time to prepare pets before relocating to the UK.

Any pet that enters quarantine must meet the EU entry requirements before that pet can be released. These requirements will differ depending on which country the pet has travelled from.

Pets entering the UK from a listed third country or EU member state must meet the following EU rules:

  • microchip
  • vaccination for rabies
  • EU pet passport or official third country health certificate confirming microchip and vaccination
  • 21 day wait from date of vaccination
  • All pet dogs (including assistance dogs) but excluding those travelling directly from Ireland, Malta, Finland or Norway must be treated for tapeworm - the treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before it is checked in with an approved transport company for its journey into the UK

Pets entering the UK from an unlisted third country must meet the following EU rules:

  • microchip
  • vaccination for rabies
  • blood sample taken at least 30 days after vaccination
  • blood test to confirm a successful vaccination (antibody titre must be ≥0.5 IU/ml)
  • 3 month wait from date of blood sample (although the 3 month waiting period does not apply to any pet re-entering the UK accompanied by an EU pet passport which shows that the pet was vaccinated and blood sampled with a positive result before the pet left the UK or other EU country)
  • accompanied by an official third country health certificate (or EU pet passport if pet is re-entering the UK) confirming microchip, vaccination and blood test
  • all pet dogs (including assistance dogs) must be treated for tapeworm - the treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before it is checked in with an approved transport company for its journey into the UK

Quarantine is necessary if:

  • a pet fails to meet the EU rules when entering the UK
  • pet owners who do not have time to meet the pre-entry requirements and need to travel at short notice, decide to voluntarily place their pet in a UK quarantine facility and meet the above EU entry requirements whilst the pet is in quarantine

Pets may become eligible for early release if the failure can be put right. An animal which is in quarantine will become eligible for early release from the date that it can be shown to comply with all the necessary pet travel rules.

How to apply for early release from quarantine

This should be completed via the Quarantine Kennel of choice and must be countersigned by the Veterinary Superintendent of the quarantine premises where the animal is held. Copies of this form are available from Veterinary Superintendents and AHVLA. If the animal complies with the pet travel rules it should take AHVLA no more than 2 or 3 working days to issue the authorisation for release.

Further information

If you want more information about applying for an import licence or the early release of an animal from quarantine in the UK please call AHVLA on + 44 (0) 1228 403600.

For quarantine in Northern Ireland contact the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) on 02890 524622.

Import licence

If you are bringing an animal into rabies quarantine in the UK, you must be issued with an import licence by AHVLA.

Contact AHVLA Specialist Service Centre for Imports:

Telephone: +44 (0) 1228 403600

Minicom/textphone: 0845 300 1998

Fax: +44 (0) 1228 591900

Email: pettravel@ahvla.gsi.gov.uk – please enclose your postal address and a daytime telephone number

Import licence form

There is an application form for this licence, which is usually completed by the quarantine premises on your behalf.

If you want to complete the application form yourself, you should only do so when you have received confirmation of your arrangements from both the quarantine premises and the carrying agent. Most quarantine premises also act as carrying agents but you are free to choose an independent carrying agent to transport your pet. You should then send the application direct to your chosen quarantine facility, where they also complete an acceptance form and return both forms to AHVLA. If your pet is to enter the UK into Northern Ireland, you should contact DARD on 02890 524 622.

When your application form and quarantine premise acceptance form are received, AHVLA will confirm your booking with the quarantine premises and the carrying agent. AHVLA will then:

  • send the licence to the carrying agent you have chosen
  • send a “boarding document” to you (or your named representative) - this will confirm the licence number and also act as written evidence which a shipper or airline will need to see before allowing your animal to be carried into this country

The licence will usually be issued within 5 working days of receiving the properly completed application and confirmation forms.

Transporting your animal to the UK

Pets that are not accompanied by their owners when they enter the UK under licence for quarantine may only do so via approved Border Inspection Posts (BIPs). For the UK, these are Edinburgh Airport, London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport.

Once your chosen premises confirms that a space has been booked for your pet, AHVLA will send you (or your representative), a Boarding Document and a RED label which must be completed and attached to the crate in which your pet will be travelling. The RED label ensures that the crate is identifiable as one containing an animal that is subject to quarantine. The Boarding Document will need to be shown to the airline/carrier, as this confirms that a place has been reserved in UK Quarantine for your pet and that an import licence has been issued.

By air

The crate in which your pet will travel must meet International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. This means it must be large enough to allow your pet to stand in a natural position, turn around and lie down. The airline will advise you on the correct size of crate. It is a commercial decision for individual airlines to determine whether pets are allowed to travel in the passenger cabin.

Your veterinary surgeon, the quarantine premises or the airline you are travelling with should be able to provide you with guidance on purchasing a crate for your pet.

By sea

Your pet must be crated before it is allowed to leave the vessel and the RED label must be attached. See above for information on travelling crates. At most ports, the carrying agent will board the vessel to collect your pet.

Transhipment

If an animal comes into and leaves the UK within 48 hours from the same port or airport this is called a transhipment. If you need to tranship your pet in the UK, you must arrange this before your pet leaves the country of origin. You must ensure that, while your pet is in the UK, arrangements are in place to hold and transfer it from one plane/vessel to another for export. The travel agent/airline/ferry company should be able to arrange this or, if your pet needs to remain in the UK for up to 48 hours, provide you with the contact details of temporary holding facilities at the port of transit. No licence is required if such arrangements can be made.

Please note that not all ports and airports will be able to offer temporary holding facilities.

Where temporary holding facilities are not available, or if your pet is going to be in the UK for longer than 48 hours, it must be licensed into an authorised quarantine premises and may not be kept at the airport/port. You must contact an authorised quarantine premises, who will arrange for an import licence to be issued by AHVLA. This must be done before your pet travels to the UK. AHVLA will not issue the licence until they have received confirmation from your chosen quarantine premises that a place has been reserved for your pet. Most of the quarantine premises also act as carrying agents. Only an authorised carrying agent may transport your pet from the airport/port to the quarantine premises and back again.

Transiting

If your pet is entering and leaving the UK from different airports and/or ports it may only be transferred from point of entry to point of departure by an authorised carrying agent. You must contact an authorised Carrying Agent, who will arrange for a transit licence to be issued by AHVLA. This licence must be issued before the animal may enter the UK. As with the Quarantine Import Licence, a Boarding Document and RED Label will be issued to yourself or your agent, to confirm to the carrier that there will be an authorised movement within the UK.

If the time between entry and departure of your pet is more than 48 hours, or holding facilities are unavailable at either the entry or departure port/airport, then your pet must also be licensed into quarantine (see above).

Welfare of pets in quarantine

Pet owners should expect the highest standards of care for their pets during the time that they are in quarantine.

Quarantine facilities are required to abide by the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes all pet owners responsible for ensuring that their animals’ welfare needs are met.

Although Defra does not lay down additional rules for the welfare of animals in quarantine we have produced a voluntary Code of Practice on the welfare of dogs and cats in quarantine premises which can be found below.

Quarantine premises marked with a star against their name on the List of authorised quarantine premises and carrying agents (PDF, 74.8KB, 9 pages) comply with the code.

Visits from the Veterinary Superintendent

At each quarantine premises, a veterinary superintendent employed by the premises’ owner and approved by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), is responsible for the veterinary care of your pet. The superintendent will visit the premises at intervals as directed by AHVLA. If you have any questions relating to the health or welfare of your pet, you should bring it to their attention. The quarantine premises will tell you who their veterinary superintendent is, and all their contact details are also available on the list of approved premises.

Illness

The owner of the premises is responsible for notifying you should your pet become ill in quarantine. Any medication required will be at your expense.

Death in quarantine

In the unfortunate event of your pet dying while in quarantine, AHVLA has a legal responsibility to have samples sent to an approved laboratory to ensure the cause of death was not rabies. Your pet will have to be cremated but if the laboratory confirms that the cause of death was not rabies, the Veterinary Superintendent may release the ashes of your pet’s body to you. The laboratory result may take several weeks to obtain.

Voluntary Code of Practice on the welfare of dogs and cats in quarantine premises

The entry of an animal into quarantine can be a very stressful time since it may involve several different types of transport from friendly and familiar surroundings to a totally strange environment.

A voluntary Code of Practice was drawn up in consultation with premises owners and welfare organisations. It is intended to cover the welfare needs of all dogs and cats in quarantine premises.

We cannot enforce the provisions of this code on any individual premises so it is in your own interests - and those of your pet - to ensure that all your requirements are covered in the contract agreed between you and the premises of your choice.

This code is in addition to the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912, the Transit of Animals (General) Order 1973 and the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (Wales) Order 2007, and provides guidance to quarantine premises proprietors/managers, Veterinary Superintendents and staff. It covers the need for calm and careful handling, provision of stimuli, food and water, as well as including advice on unit sizes and sleeping compartments.

This code is not intended to be a complete explanation of the law that should be consulted by anyone seeking information on statutory obligations or offences. However, in the context of disputes between pet owners and the proprietors/managers of quarantine premises, the parties to a civil action may seek to refer to the code as part of the contract, if such is the arrangement between them.

Responsibility for welfare

Whilst carrying out his/her duties, everyone who handles, transports or in any other manner deals with the animals has a responsibility to prevent suffering and to ensure that the comfort of the animals is taken into account. However the prime responsibility for the welfare of all animals in quarantine premises is that of the proprietor/manager of the kennels.

Veterinary Superintendents should be aware of the welfare provisions of this code and ensure that they are fulfilled. They should inform the quarantine premises proprietor/manager in writing and report to the local AHVLA regional office, if any provision of the code of practice is not being met.

Transport to and moves within quarantine premises

The journey to quarantine premises can determine the state and condition of animals on arrival. Any vehicle used to transport animals should be maintained in good condition and carefully driven. Not only can poor standards of care during loading, unloading and carriage be against the law but they will almost certainly adversely affect the animal’s condition.

Animals on arrival at the quarantine premises should be carefully unloaded and taken directly to their allotted unit whilst still in their transport cage. They cannot be moved subsequently to another unit unless there is an emergency or the move is approved by the Veterinary Superintendent.

Size of units

The basic need is for all animals to be given appropriate accommodation according to size and species. Where animals are sharing accommodation, care should be given to ensure that the unit and sleeping compartment are large enough to give each animal sufficient room.

Size of dog Weight range Sleeping area - minimum internal measurements Adjoining exercise area - minimum internal measurements
Small Less than 12kg (26lbs) Not less than 1.1 sq m (12 sq feet), width and length not less than 0.9 m (3 feet) Not less than 3.7 sq m (40 sq feet), width not less than 0.9m (3 feet)
Medium 12kg (26lbs) to 30kg (66lbs) Not less than 1.4 sq m (16 sq feet), width and length not less than 1.2m (4 feet) Not less than 5.5 sq m (60 sq feet), width not less than 1.2 m (4 feet)
Large More than 30kg (66lbs) Not less than 1.4 sq m (16 sq feet), width and length not less than 1.2 m (4 feet) Not less than 7.4 sq m (80 sq feet), width not less than 1.2 m (4 feet)

Individual cat units should be of the walk in type not less than 1.8m (6 feet) high. The sleeping compartment plus exercise run must have a total floor area of at least 1.4 sq m (15 sq feet), and both the length and width should be at least 0.9 m (3 feet). Cat units should contain ample shelf room for climbing and resting, preferably provided both inside and out. A suitable abrasive surface for nail trimming should be provided, such as a scratching post. In shared units, each cat should have its own bed.

Bedding, toys or other comforts will be allowed at the discretion of the quarantine premises proprietors/managers or Veterinary Superintendent.

General standards

Quarantine kennels/catteries should be kept clean and hygienic with regular disinfection of premises and equipment. The surface of runs and sleeping compartments should provide sufficient grip for the animal to walk or run without sustaining injury. There should be no protruding or rough edges that may cause damage to any animal. Lead based paints must not be used. Accommodation should be built so that animals:

  • can see out of their units to a reasonable extent, preferably with visual stimuli
  • have an adequate and constant supply of fresh air

Sleeping compartments should be draught free and bedding should be kept dry and clean. A method of heating should be provided in the bed area sufficient to maintain the comfort of the animal in inclement weather to a minimum average temperature of +7C or as agreed with the animal owner. There should be sufficient room for the animal to avoid the heat if it so wishes.

Feeding and management

Every animal should be weighed on arrival at the quarantine premises, leaving and at the request of the Veterinary Superintendent.

Feeding should be supervised where more than 1 animal is in a pen. If necessary, animals should be separated at feeding time. All animals should have a regular supply of clean, fresh water.

An adequate diet should be provided which takes account of the animal’s age and condition. Particular methods of feeding should be agreed with the animal’s owner and should be part of the contract between the animal owner and the quarantine premises.

Unless otherwise agreed with their owner, dogs should be fed at least once every day and cats should be fed at least twice every day. Aged or young animals may need to be fed more frequently.

Both dogs and cats should be checked at regular intervals, at least 4-hourly between the hours of 9am and 10pm. The last check should be after 9pm.

General conduct

Anyone observing any likely or actual suffering should report it immediately, in the first instance to the proprietor/manager of the quarantine premises or the Veterinary Superintendent. If that is not possible, or if severe problems continue after such a report is made, it should be reported to the nearest AHVLA office.

The proprietor/manager of the quarantine premises is responsible for ensuring that all staff employed have been given appropriate training and are fully instructed with regard to this code. They should receive adequate supervision in the care and handling of dogs and cats. The primary responsibility for assuming care for the health and welfare of each individual animal must be clearly indicated. A suitably trained staff member must continually be available to deal with problems which might arise on the premises.

Animal owners should be permitted reasonable access for visiting their animals and will be required to enter each visit in the visitors book. Visits will only be allowed at the discretion of the proprietor/manager or Veterinary Superintendent.

In the event of any signs of ill health the proprietor/manager must consult the Veterinary Superintendent without delay. The animal owner should also be contacted immediately and the proprietor/manager must be prepared to keep the animal owner fully informed of progress. The animal owner should be given the opportunity of discussing any health problems directly with the Veterinary Superintendent.

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