Costly travel to take pets to the EU

Poodle by Mark Lamplugh on Flikr

A tough choice to make: visit my family and leave my dogs? Having had to leave a dog behind when I moved to the UK because of quarantine rules, I am now again facing difficulties with travelling with my dogs through the loss of pet passports.

My first dog 

Like a lot of children who love animals, for many years my sister and I begged our parents to allow us to have a dog. We lived in a flat but there was a shared garden and many parks for walks. Our father worked mostly in the evenings, so the dog would not be left alone for long. At last, when I was 15, our parents bought us a little miniature poodle. We were over the moon. 

A daily routine and a walking rota ensured that my sister and I shared the responsibility for Betty, our new dog. She was a cute, playful, intelligent dog who learned very fast. She even got our father, who was not that keen on dogs, to give her treats. He told us she pulled the box with her yummies to his chair and pulled his trouser leg when he wasn’t paying attention. 

Travel with pets before EU membership

Sadly, when I was 18, our parents separated and our lives were disrupted. Our Mum decided that she wanted to move to Britain to remarry. She wanted all of her children to go with her. Apart from the upset of leaving our friends of many years behind, there was the question: what about our dog Betty?

In Europe we were used to traveling with our dog on holiday, without any difficulties at borders. She had a vaccination certificate which included rabies and there were no restrictions to travel with dogs. However, Britain did not allow dogs to enter the country without six months quarantine for the animals. 

We were told that our Betty would be in a kennel, and we were not even allowed to visit her for a few weeks, supposedly for her to settle down. That sounded very brutal to us and we knew our intelligent, loving Betty would suffer terribly in a cage. And six months in a dog’s life is the equivalent of three and a half human years.

We faced a huge dilemma. We loved Betty too much to expose her to the quarantine (which by the way cost a small fortune in the bargain). We’d heard of several dogs who died in quarantine. But what options did we have?

In the end, one of my sister’s friends who we knew loved dogs and whom Betty knew well, offered to give her a home. With a very sad heart we left our beloved dog in her care when we moved to the UK. Dog owners will know how heartbreaking this decision was for us. 

I have since had several dogs in my life but I will never forget Betty. My sister’s friend wrote to us that our dog insisted on going to the front door of our flat where she expected to see us. Her new family had to leave her alone for longer periods than she was used to. After two years, we heard the devastating news that Betty had kidney disease and died. I never stopped blaming myself for leaving her behind. 

Travel with pets in the EU 

That is one of the reasons I have always taken my dogs with me when I travelled. Thanks to the EU Pet Travel Scheme they had pet passports. Valid for three years from the rabies vaccination, all one needed to do was to see a vet 24 hours before wanting to enter the UK for flea and tapeworm treatment. That would then be entered into their passports which were checked at the ferry or Eurotunnel port.

My dogs by Magdalena Williams

Travel with pets after Brexit

Unfortunately, travel to Europe and back with pets has now become difficult again. The pet passports became invalid when UK left the EU. Now for every trip pets need a new animal health certificate costing about £120, issued less than 10 days before crossing an EU border. These rules make touring to visit several countries on the continent virtually impossible. 

This dilemma is a bit of a deja vu for me to the time when I left my first dog behind and brings up sad memories. I have relatives in several countries in mainland Europe. I am missing them badly, especially after the lockdown year, but to visit them would mean either putting my two dogs in kennels which will upset them or having to get the new animal health certificate for them for every trip I plan to take them with me. 

Cost of pet travel 

Both above options are expensive: for a ten day visit, it would cost £150 each way for the paperwork. That is £600 for two dogs for a return trip, in addition to the usual travel costs. Kennels would also cost on average £30 a day for two. But my dogs are elderly and if I leave them in a kennel, I will worry about their welfare and not enjoy my trip. 

It’s a no-brainer for me: it looks like I will not be able to visit family this year, unless the UK negotiates a better agreement with the EU on pet travel.  

Bringing your dog to the UK 

Do you live in mainland Europe, have an EU pet passport and want to bring your pet into the UK? You will be pleased to hear that the passports are valid for travel into the UK and back again. But, please do check the government website for the newest regulations before travelling.