Planning a holiday overseas with your four-legged friend? My top tips for travelling with pets should help.
Whether you are planning a holiday with your pet, visiting a family member and want to bring your pet along, or relocating to a new country, my top tips for travelling with pets should help. I’ve got tips for travelling by plane and ferry, as well as the documents you need for travel within the EU or further afield.
If you fancy holidaying in Ireland with your pet, check out these posts:
1. Get a pet passport
Before you even think about travelling with your pet – get a pet passport. You will need one to travel overseas, and they are surprisingly straight forward to obtain. Your pet needs:
- A veterinary health certificate – contact your vet or the Regional Veterinary Office at least two-months in advance of travel to ensure that necessary documentation can be certified by department officials.
- A microchip
- An up to date rabies vaccination. Your pet will need to be vaccinated at least 21 days prior to travel and your pet must be at least 12 weeks of age before a rabies vaccine can be administered. Therefore the earliest that a pet can travel abroad is 15 weeks.
European pet passports are valid for life, once your pets rabies vaccination is in date. European pet passports are available for dogs, cats or ferrets only and are available from any authorised vet (permitted by the relevant authorities to issue pet passports).
What is a pet passport?
According to the Europa.eu website: A pet passport is a document, which follows an EU standard model and is essential for travel between EU countries.
It contains a description and details of your pet, including its microchip or tattoo code, as well as its rabies vaccination record and contact details of the owner and the vet who issued the passport.
2. If possible travel within the EU
EU rules (above) make it easy to travel to another EU country (27 EU countries + Norway and Northern Ireland) with your dog, cat or ferret.
A separate treatment against tapeworm is required for entry to most EU countries, however as Ireland is free from tapeworm this is not required for travel out of Ireland, but will be required for return to Ireland – see below.
Note: The EU rules described above apply to private journeys with pet animals which do not involve a change of ownership or sale.
3. If travelling with pets to a Non EU Country, you need an EU animal health certificate
If you are travelling to or from a non-EU country, your pet must have an EU animal health certificate issued by an official State vet in the country of departure, not more than 10 days before your pet arrives in the EU.
The certificate is valid for travel between EU countries for four months from this date, or until the anti-rabies vaccination expires, whichever lapses first.
What is an EU animal health certificate?
The EU animal health certificate is a document that contains specific information about your pet (identity, health, rabies vaccinations) and is based on an EU standard model.
In addition, you should also complete and attach a written declaration to your pet’s EU animal health certificate stating that its relocation is for non-commercial reasons.
4. Check individual country requirements before you book
While requirements are standard in most EU countries, there may be specific conditions attached. The Europa.eu website has a handy search box where you can enter the country you are leaving from, and it will tell you what the requirements for travelling with pets are.
5. There are 2 ways to fly with you pet – In the cabin or in the hold.
If you pet is small they may be able to travel with you in the cabin – although policies vary between airlines. There are limits to the number of pets that can be in a cabin on one flight – so early booking is vital.
Snub-nosed pets may have trouble breathing during the flight and may not be allowed to travel in the hold. Dangerous or banned dog breeds are not accepted by most airlines, and maximum weight limits apply to containers.
6. Polices vary between airports, airlines and aircraft type.
Pet-friendly airlines like KLM allow one cat or dog in the cabin when travelling within Europe. Your pet should fit in a closed pet travel bag or kennel with a maximum size of 46 x 28 x 24 cm, because they’ll need to travel underneath the seat in front of you.
Together with your pet, the travel bag or kennel can weigh no more than 8 kg. You’re not allowed to take your pet out of the kennel during the flight.
However, this may only be possible if travelling within Europe or on selected international flights. In Business Class on selected routes it is not possible to put a kennel underneath the seat in front of you.
KLM allow up to 3 pets in the hold and they can even share the same kennel depending on size. Price varies from €75 – €400 one way.
Ryanair do not allow any pets on board, with the exception of assistance / guide dogs. See Ryanair’s pet policy here.
Note: Airlines have exceptions too – some aircraft’s cargo holds are not sufficiently ventilated, so even with pet-friendly airlines, is not always possible to bring a pet on board.
Top Tip: If booking connecting flights make sure you allow plenty of time for your pet to be transferred from one aircraft to another – a minimum of 3 hours is recommended. Make sure to discuss your requirements directly with the airline before booking as some airports don’t allow transfers of pets from one aircraft to another.
7. Think about the ferry when travelling with pets
Although the same rules apply regarding pet passports for travel by sea, this may be a less stressful way to travel with your pet. If travelling as a foot passenger you will require a pet cage to transport your pet, however if travelling by car there are more comfortable options available.
Stena Line allow cats and dogs to travel free of charge in kennels or in your vehicle between Ireland & UK. For travel to or from France they can avail of heated onboard dog lodges for an additional fee. The new Stenaline ship, Stena Vision, which will be sailing from Rosslare to Cherbourg this summer, will have 42 pet-friendly cabins.
Lodges and cabins are subject to availability and must be pre-booked. Dogs can be exercised under controlled conditions when staying in dog lodges. If staying in your vehicle you can visit your pet during allotted time.
Irish Ferries allow cats and dogs to travel free in your vehicle or in kennels between Ireland and the UK. There is an additional fee for sailings to France.
If sailing to France your pet will be housed in their dedicated onboard kennels. You will be allowed to visit your pet during the crossing and bring them for a short walk. A crew member will accompany you to the kennels. Prices vary from €30-€60 depending on kennel / pet size.
Brittany Ferries allow pets to travel in your car, in a kennel, or in their pet-friendly cabins. The choices available depend on which ship and route that you travel on – see more here. Dogs must be muzzled when outside of your vehicle.
Guide / assistance dogs are welcome in most areas of ports and ships – see individual websites for more details.
8. Travelling with guide or assistance pets
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Airlines operating within the EU are obliged to allow disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility to bring their recognised assistance dogs in the cabin of the plane. All dogs travelling in a cabin of an aircraft must be fully compliant with the rules for pet travel.
It is a matter for airlines whether or not they will allow animals providing other types of assistance/services, such as emotional support, to accompany passengers in the cabin of the plane.
This rule applies for travel within the EU only. For instance, guide or assistance dogs are NOT accepted on flights to and from Morocco or Israel with Ryanair.
The EU Pet Passport or veterinary health certificate must be supported with documentation confirming that the guide/assistance dog is affiliated to one of the following organisations to enable pet travel.
- International Guide Dog Federation
- Assistance Dogs UK
- Assistance Dogs International (ADI)
Guide/assistance dogs must sit on the floor at your feet. In some cases airlines will have a maximum number of guide / assistance dogs allowed per flight so early booking is essential.
If you are travelling to or from a non-EU country, rules will vary depending on the country. You MUST provide advance notice of your intention to bring your service dog into Ireland, at least 24 hours before your departure time.
9. Remember to check trains, taxis and pet-friendly hotels.
When you have the flight or ferry booked for your pet, don’t forget to pre-book your airport transfer and hotel accommodation in advance. Uber Pet offers pet-friendly airport transfers, and there are many hotels and Airbnbs that cater for your four-legged friends.
You can filter your search on Airbnb and Booking.com to select hotels and apartments that allow pets, while worldwide hotel chain Kimpton are renowned for their pet-friendly policy – they invite all dogs, regardless of size or breed to stay at their hotels free of charge.
Bring Fido is the TripAdvisor for dog owners. It has over 500,000 places to stay, play, and eat with your dog.
10. D0n’t forget about the entry requirements for returning to Ireland
Pets arriving into Ireland must meet the requirements for entering Ireland from that country – as if it was a pet from that country.
As well as having a pet passport, (and EU animal health certificate if travelling from outside the EU), your dog needs to be treated for tapeworm by a local vet between 1-5 days before your return flight.See more here
Travelling with other pets
European pet passports are issued for dogs, cats and ferrets only. If you are travelling to another EU country with any other pets, such as birds, ornamental aquatic animals, reptiles, rodents or rabbits, check the national rules of the country you are planning to visit for information on the entry conditions.
Selling a pet or travelling with pets you don’t own:
If you are travelling to sell your pet, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. See more information about travelling with pets that you do not own, or if you are travelling with more than five pets here.
While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, information, airline and country rules regarding travelling with pets can change at any time. It is important you check the up to date requirements for pet travel on gov.ie and with your local vet.
Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links where I receive a commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.