Animal Health Certificate Explained: Taking Your Pet to Europe

Animal Health Certificate Explained

AHC - Taking your pet abroad explained

If you need to take your pet abroad (be it a dog, cat or ferret) then you are going to need to get yourself an Animal Health Certificate to get there and back again.

You may be familiar with the old pet passport scheme but unfortunately in a post brexit world these pet passports are no longer valid. 

Yes, it is more complicated than it used to be to take your pet abroad, and yes it is more expensive.

But we aren’t here to argue for or against the changes due to brexit but purely to lay out the facts and processes required to take pets from the UK into Europe (and back again) as it currently stands. 

So, to that end, in this article we will:

  • Explain the exact process, step by step, to get an Animal Health Certificate.
  • Recommend the best vets to get an AHC from.
  • Explain how long an Animal Health Certificate is valid for.
  • When you need to get it by.
  • How many pets you can have on one AHC.
  • How much you should expect to pay for an AHC.
  • The actual process of taking your pet to Europe.
  • Why you can’t use your old pet passport (if you have one).
  • Explore the AHC workarounds that people have come up with.
  • Will the old Pet Passport come back again in the future?
  • Further Animal Health Certificate resources.

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    How To Get An Animal Health Certificate

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    So, you’ve planned your holiday to Europe and you want to take your pet with you. But how? 

    You need an Animal Health Certificate, often abbreviated to AHC!

    Regardless of whether your pet is a dog, cat or ferret.

    Regardless of whether you are driving and taking the Eurotunnel or a ferry, or you are a foot passenger on a ferry, the Eurostar or a plane.

    Regardless of whether you already have a UK issued pet passport.

    You still need an Animal Health Certificate. 

    Here are the steps you need to take:

    1. Does your pet have a rabies vaccination?
    2. If yes and in date, skip to 4. 
    3. If no or it has expired and needs a booster, you’ll need to get your pet it’s rabies jab 21 days before you can even get an AHC
    4. You’ll need to provide the vets issuing the AHC legal documentation proof of your pets rabies vaccination status. If your own vets administered the rabies vaccination and are preparing your AHC they will have this already. If you don’t intend to use your own vet for the AHC (more on this later) they will be able to provide you with the necessary documentation to pass on.
    That’s it! 4 easy steps to get an Animal Health Certificate!
     
    However, if you are travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta (i.e. not via a 3rd country) you will also need to get your vet to give your pet a tapeworm treatment and record this as well. 

     

    Which vets should I get an AHC from?

    Not all vets will provide you with an Animal Health Certificate. 

    And not all vets will charge the same, you shouldn’t really be paying much more than £100 for an AHC so speak to your vets to get a quote. 

    Now, AHCs are a relatively new bit of documentation, and some vets will have very little experience in filling out these forms. Particularly in areas which are nowhere near major international transport links such as ports and large airports. 

    We have heard (unverified but very plausible) reports of vets filling out AHCs incorrectly and pets being unable to travel once reaching the port or airport. 

    So, it’s for this reason, and meaning to cause no disrespect to many veterinarian practices, they we recommend getting your Animal Health Certificate issued by a well reviewed and experienced vet close to your point of exit from the UK as they will have had a lot of practice by now filling out these forms. 

    Here are our recommendations for vets to get your Animal Health Certificate from:

     

    If you need to provide any of the above vets with proof of rabies vaccination status (which must have been administered at least 21 days prior to picking up the AHC) you have two options:

    1. If your pet has an in date rabies vaccination and you have an old pet passport this will have the necessary rabies vaccination information recorded in it and signed by a professional veterinarian. Send scans of the relevant pages as requested by the vets.
    2. If your pet doesn’t have an old pet passport you will need to request a Rabies Vaccination Certificate from your local vets and either pass it on to the vet issuing the AHC yourself or get your vets to email it directly to the issuing vets. (Different practices vary on which they accept so make sure to check with them directly).

    How long is an Animal Health Certificate Valid For?

    This is the real painful bit.

    An Animal Health Certificate is only valid for 4 months, and 1 trip abroad! Note- that this is 4 months from the issue of the AHC, and not 4 months from time of entry into Europe!

    This means that you will need a new AHC every time you travel abroad with your pet!

    When do I need to get my AHC by?

    An Animal Health Certificate must be used within 10 days of being issued in order for it to be accepted. 

    This unfortunely means you cannot get your certificate issued well in advance as it will be out of date by the time you come to use. 

    However, the best vets (the ones we have recommended) are usually willing for you to contact them, send across all the relevant information and pay for the certificate many months in advance.

    They will then create and issue the certificate in the correct time frame for you to pick up on your way out of the UK and into Europe.

    How many pets can I have on one Animal Health Certificate?

    multiple pets on an AHC

    You can have up to 5 pets on an Animal Health Certificate.

    The catch is that all the pets must have the same owner and be travelling at the same time. 

    However, they do not all have to be the same species, they can be a mix of dogs, cats and ferrets. 

    How much does an Animal Health Certificate cost?

    There is no framework across the board to govern how much you should pay for an Animal Health Certificate.

    We have heard of people paying £75 and we also have heard of people being charged in excess of £250.

    Given the options available to you by the vets listed above we’d suggest that if you are requested to pay more than £100 – £150 for your AHC (for 1 pet) then perhaps you need to shop around a little bit!

    It will cost a bit more to add extra pets onto your AHC.

    The Actual Process For Taking Your Pet Abroad

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    So, now you know everything you need to about getting your AHC what is the actual process for taking your pet abroad and bringing it back home again.

    1. Ensure you pet has had a rabies vaccine a minimum of 21 days before collecting your AHC
    2. Pick up your AHC issued no earlier than 10 days before you are due to travel
    3. Present your pet and AHC to the authorities at your point of entry to Europe. They will need to examine the paperwork and scan your pets microchip.
    4. Enjoy your trip abroad for up to 4 months from the issue date on your Animal Health Certificate.
    5. Take your pet to a European vet between 24 and 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before your return to the UK to get it wormed. The vet will need to administer the worming treatment themselves and document this in your AHC!
    6. Return to the UK, once more presenting your AHC and pet to the authorities at your point of entry to the UK.

    One quick note on ‘point of entry’  to Europe and the UK. Likely this will be before you actually transit. At the Eurotunnel, for example, the outbound pet check is done in the UK and it is done in Calais for your inbound (return) journey. 

    Your carrier (ferry company, airline) etc. will inform you of where and how this is done when you book your pet in to travel with them.

    Finding Vets in Europe to administer your pets worming Treatment

    Finding a European Vet on Search For Sites

    There are a number of ways:

    • Ask on search on a  relevant Facebook Group (Animal Health Certificate, Touring Europe in a Motorhome)
    • Use Search For Sites. Press filter and scroll down to ‘Other’ and select European Vet
    • Search for ‘vets’ on Google Maps zoomed in on your area of interest.
    • Ask friends and family who visit Europe or live there with their pet for a recommendation

    Why Can't I just Use My Old Pet Passport?

    travel with a dog to Europe

    Since Brexit Great Britain has been given a ‘part 2 listed status’ for non-commercial pet travel. 

    This effectively means that pet passports are now deprecated and Animal Health Certificates are now required on a per trip basis. 

    Fact Finding: Animal Health Certificate Workarounds

    There are quite a few people unhappy with the additional cost and complexity of pet travel into Europe from the UK in a post Brexit world. 

    And there is a ‘workaround’, that whilst not strictly by the book, and could backfire, has been adopted by many people.

    Whilst you are in the EU some European vets are willing to issue your pet an EU pet passport instead of a GB pet passport. 

    This effectively allows you to travel into and out of the EU in the exact same way as before Brexit so long as your rabies vaccination is kept up to date using the European vets that issued your EU pet passport.

    This does mean you will have to ensure that you regularly visit Europe and the vets in question to keep this vaccination up to date.

    However, you will find it increasingly difficult to find vets that offer this service as it is being cracked down on. You may also need to be able to provide a ‘home address’ inside the EU – which will be problematic for many who don’t have second homes or relatives and friends living inside the EU.

    Will The Old Pet Passport Scheme Come Back?

    There are rumors, but unfortunately at this stage is it just that, rumors. 

    It would be great if we could negotiate with the EU to bring back the pet passport scheme but as of time of writing (March 2022) there is no real news on this happening. 

    We will up date this article if there is any real movement on this issue. 

    Animal Health Certificate: Further Reading

    Hopefully you are now clued up on everything you need to know about Animal Health Certificates (AHCs) but here are some official information sources as well as extra resources available should you so require. 

    Animal Health Certificate: A Summary

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    Animal Health Certificate Explained

    To briefly summarize, to take your pet(s) to Europe after Brexit:

    1. Ensure your pet has an in date rabies vaccination given a minimum of 21 days before your AHC is issued
    2. Get your Animal Health Certificate issued by a reputable vetinarian practice no more than 10 days before you are due to travel
    3. Enjoy your trip, ensuring you don’t stay longer than 4 months from the AHC date of issue
    4. Get your pet a worming treatment from a European vet between 24 and 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before your return and ensure it is recorded in your AHC

    That’s it!

    Go Explore! With your pet in Europe!

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