The United Kingdom is a popular destination for relocation and pet travel The UK follows a PET TRAVEL SCHEME for all pets arriving in to the UK. There have been many recent changes (APRIL 2017) regarding the rules and requirements for importing pets  to the UK. While there is no quarantine for cats and dogs in the UK import requirements are met, detailing a safe and smooth move plan for your pet can be a delicate process. 

What is involved in relocating your pet to the UK? The UK has specific requirements when importing your pet to the UK.  They follow a set of rules and regulations referred to as the Pet Travel Scheme. Some new changes took effect December 2014 requiring owners to arrive into the country within +/- 5 days in order for the animal to be considered a “non commercial” pet. This requires some planning with the vaccines, travel booking, and vet appointment for final health certificate. Additional documentation may be required for pets with vaccines more than 12 months old.

Effective April 2017, The UK now requires a ToR (Transfer of Residence) number required for customs processing and VAT for all pets importing to the UK. Continental Pet Relocation can help with this process to ensure you have everything you need to import your pet to the UK.  It is advisable to complete the ToR Application as soon as possible to avoid having to pay the VAT when you pet arrives. If your pet arrives the UK prior to receiving your ToR number, you will have to pay the VAT and seek reimbursement.

Basic Requirements for pets entering the UK from the US

Microchip (Implanted and Scanned)

Rabies Vaccination and Certificate (must be at least 21 days old prior to travel and administered after the microchip)

EU Health Certificate (Annex IV – non commercial or Annex I – commercial) or EU Passport

 Tapeworm Treatment (for dogs only) within 1-5 days of entry to the UK

USDA or Government Military Vet Endorsement for EU Health Certificate

The rabies vaccination rules became stricter in 2017, as DEFRA began enforcing that the primary rabies vaccination (the one given right after the microchip) must either be a 1-year vaccination or a 3-year vaccination still within the first year when the pet travels. This means that if your pet was given a 3-year vaccination right after the microchip that is now in its second or third year, it is no longer valid for entry into the UK. 

EU Pet Passports

Many people believe that their pet needs an EU Pet Passport to travel to the UK. Although an EU Pet Passport does simplify the process, it is not necessary for importing pets into the UK. An EU Pet Passport can only be issued by an official veterinarian in the European Union (EU) so if your pet is coming from another country outside of the EU and does not have an EU Pet Passport yet, you’ll need to follow the above-listed requirements.

Pets that have an EU Pet Passport with an expired rabies vaccination listed or a vaccination that was updated by a veterinarian who was not in the EU will also be required to follow the import steps listed above – which includes completing the EU Health Certificate endorsed by the USDA or Government Military Vet 

On the other hand, if your pet does have an EU Pet Passport and the rabies vaccination was recorded by an EU veterinarian and is still valid, your pet will only need the EU Pet Passport to travel to the UK. The airline your pet is traveling with will still require a health check by an accredited within 10 days of travel to ensure your pet is okay to fly, but an endorsement from a government vet of this health certificate is not required.

Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Pet Travel

If you’re planning pet travel to the UK (or anywhere in the EU), you’ve probably heard of the 5-Day Rule. Since 2014, pet owners must travel to the UK within five days of their pet’s arrival in order to avoid the move being labeled as a “commercial” shipment. While you can still import your pet as a commercial shipment, the health certificate is only valid for 48 hours rather than 10 days and you are subject to additional taxes at import. 

Commercial pet moves require a health certificate to be completed (and endorsed by a government entity) within 48 hours of the pet’s departure. If you don’t have a government office (like a USDA office in the United States, for example) nearby you may need to consider having your pet depart from a different city to make the short timeframe work.

Once your pet arrives in the UK as a commercial movement, you will be expected to pay at least 44 GBP or more depending on the size of your pet in additional DEFRA taxes. Also, the arrival process for a commercial move may take more time than a non-commercial move considering the stricter requirements.



Rabies Vaccine Requirements for the UK

Pets can enter the UK with a one year rabies vaccine as a primary (primary = the first rabies vaccine given after the microchip) OR a two or three year primary vaccine that has been administered within one year of departure. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Additional Details:

  • The rabies vaccine must be at least 21 days old at the time of the pet’s final health exam before departure.
  • The vaccine must have been administered after the microchip was implanted.
  • This rule applies to pets coming from EU countries and listed countries such as the United States — if you’re coming from an unlisted country, stricter rules will apply.
  • Example Scenario: If a pet has a microchip implanted and is then given a three year rabies vaccination, the vaccination must be within its first year when the pet arrives in the UK. Otherwise, the pet would need another vaccination in order for it to be considered valid.

The “Transfer of Residency” Declaration

This declaration, sometimes referred to as the ToR, replaces the C5 Customs Form. Pet owners can either secure this form before travel or pay a tax upon arrival. You can find the ToR Application here

Additional Details:

  • This new rule applies to all imported goods, not just pets.
  • Pet owners should apply to the ToR in advance, as we’ve noticed it takes two weeks to 30 days to process.
  • If you arrive without this form, Customs VAT will be payable on deposit before the pet is allowed to be released (and this can be expensive). Note that this deposit can be reclaimed upon proof of exit from the UK.
  • The form is available here and it can be submitted to



Pet Relocation

Leo saying his goodbyes to his Mum in US

Meet Leo, a 10 month old Cavapoo. We had the pleasure of helping him to relocate to live with his Grandma in East Sussex (South East England) to train to work as a Hospice Therapy Dog. Leo’s mum, Suzanne was heart broken to let him go, but knew that it was a good decision for him and for the benefit of others.

Pet Relocation

Leo at British Air Cargo ready for departure

As a Hospice Therapy Dog, the goal is to enrich the quality of life for the hospice patient and often their families as well. The sight of the dogs and the touch of their fur often brings peace and joy to those patients whose life once included animals. Physical contact has a calming effect and dogs have the ability to bring back pleasant memories of a person’s life. Therapy dogs help combat loneliness and they give people the chance to have something to look forward to. Exposure to the dogs allows the patient to feel needed and wanted at a time in their life when death is evident.

While working with a hospice program, dogs learn to be able to sense the process an individual goes through with death. Signs may include a change in breathing, restlessness or possible disorientation. In addition to the patient, dogs and handlers often have the ability to comfort family members including children. There are times when the family may request that the therapy dog lay by the end of the bed during the patient’s final moments of life. This might be because the patient loved dogs and the sight of the dog brings a sense of normalcy for not only the patient but the family as well.

Pet Relocation

Leo at Heathrow Animal Reception Center making friends

Pet Relocation

Leo with his first Hospice Patient

Click on the link below to see footage of Leo running free in his new backyard !