What ‘Brexit’ Means for Pet Travel


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The dog Daisy being carried by Charlotte Usher after arriving in England through the Channel Tunnel in 2000. The animal was one of 16 dogs and a cat to cross the Channel into Britain on the first day of the pet passport program that abolished Britain’s 100-year-old quarantine laws.

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Gerry Penny/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

They had no say when Britain voted to leave the European Union, but the nation’s cats, dogs (and ferrets) may be losing a symbolic benefit with “Brexit.”

That perk is the ability to get an E.U. passport for a pet, allowing free travel among the 28 member countries, with less red tape and no quarantine requirements.

Does that mean your labradoodle or Russian blue will have a tougher time traveling from London to Lisbon? It’s too early to tell, since the avalanche of details surrounding the break with Europe have yet to be worked out. As of now, all travel regulations for pets remain the same, and despite some early reports raising worries, the procedures might change a bit but remain essentially the same.

But there’s also a possibility the process could become more complicated after Britain invokes Article 50 and leaves the bloc.

“There’s no speculation as to what they’re going to do,” said Jason Grant of PetTravel.com.

To understand what might happen next, it helps to understand the current system.

Currently, British pets can get the passports, provided owners make sure the pets have microchips and are vaccinated against rabies. The passports, which can be obtained from veterinarians, document the pets’ vaccination history and what treatments they’ve had.

Generally, travel restrictions for pets that don’t have the E.U. passport depend largely on which of three classifications a country falls under: rabies-free, rabies-controlled or high-rabies. Britain and the United States are considered rabies-controlled countries.

There are stricter requirements for animals to enter the European Union from non-E.U. countries, especially from high-rabies nations. Animals from high-risk countries could be subject to quarantine and blood tests.

Countries can apply to be listed, however, which would exempt their travelers from jumping through the extra hoops when entering an E.U. country.

If Britain were to be listed, as the U.S. is, pet owners would need to produce paperwork almost identical to the E.U. pet passports, minus the Instagram-friendly blue book.

“For all we know, they could keep it the same and use a different booklet,” Mr. Grant said.

Anecdotal evidence and informal surveys, mainly promoted by the travel site TripAdvisor, suggest that more and more people — especially dog owners — travel with their pets. (It also remains largely an American phenomenon, and Americans must get U.S. passports for their pets.) The various rules and regulations for airlines, trains and border crossings are topics for robust discussions in the site’s reader forums.

If you plan to travel with a pet, it is best to check with your vet and visit the websites for your destination country, including those in the E.U.

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