Pawshank Redemption: Britain Eases Pet Quarantine Rules


The New Year dawned bright and happy for cat owners who want to bring their cats with them to the United Kingdom.

After more than 100 years of forcing cats, dogs, and ferrets to endure a six-month quarantine to prove that they don’t have rabies, Britain’s pet import policy has finally caught up with the rest of the European Union. Now, animals coming from other EU nations and listed countries like the United States and Australia can enter as long as they have had a rabies vaccination 21 days before they travel and have an up-to-date “pet passport.”

The U.K. has been free of rabies for a very long time, and understandably wants to keep it that way. But the old rules were designed in the 19th century, and veterinary science has advanced tremendously since then. Rabies vaccinations are standard procedure in the U.S. and many other countries, which has reduced the population of domestic animals with rabies to almost nil.

“It’s time we changed these outdated rules which have caused hardship to generations of pets and pet owners, and those who rely on assistance dogs, with too many animals cooped up unnecessarily,” said Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

But if you do travel to Britain with your cat, there are still rules you need to follow. You’ll need to get your cat microchipped to identify it, have her vaccinated against rabies after she gets the microchip, and get an EU “pet passport” for her. See the complete rules and information about how to get a pet passport at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website.

Check with the airline you’re using to see if it requires a health check before traveling. For most airlines, this needs to take place 24 to 48 hours before departure.

There are a limited number of approved airlines (and approved points of departure and arrival) for transporting your cat to the U.K., and almost all of them will require that your cat be transported in the cargo hold. Check with the airline to make sure you use an approved cat carrier, and get the documentation you need to prove that you have a reservation for your cat.

Even though you’ll still have to jump through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops before you bring your cat to the U.K., at least you won’t have to leave your sweet puss in the hands of the Customs Service and their veterinary staff for six months!

“Good on ya!” as they say in the U.K.

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