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Moving your pets to France

The idea if moving your pets to France can feel like an overwhelming obstacle. Here I cover the current UK requirements and associated costs which accompany moving our companions over to a new life in France or bringing them to your French holiday home.

Moving your pets to France
Taking pets to a French holiday home also requires some planning

What steps do I need to take?

Currently, coming from the UK, you will need to ensure that your pet has a microchip, is vaccinated (including a rabies vaccination) and holds a valid pet passport to allow them to travel from your country and into France, whatever means you travel by. France (and the Schengen Zone) monitor the animals passing through it to ensure that the risk of contagion and infectious disease transmission is minimised (for example rabies).

It’s therefore imperative that you talk to your vet early in your moving process about what steps need to be taken to allow your pet to move to France with you – or to come with you to your holiday home.

This can be expensive, depending upon the veterinary surgery in question. In my experience visiting the vet is never cheap, so there is likely little cost cutting that can be done here bar calling several vets in your area and asking for a quote for the issuing of a Pet Passport.

In my experience, the Pet Passports for two adult cats cost me around £300 including rabies injections. This is a significant sum for anyone, so including it in your list of moving costs is a worthwhile exercise to avoid a nasty surprise later on.

My beloved Ginger cat before our move to France

Further information on the current rules for travel from the UK to the EU can be found on the gov.uk website here – unfortunately, these fairly straightforward rules will soon change because of Brexit, meaning there will be additional costs for all those who wish to travel with their pets.

How to transport your pets to France

The logistics of moving pets to France as economically as possible is not necessarily going to be the best one for your pet. You will need to take into account their temperament and put their wellbeing at the top of the agenda, before price.

We chose to move our cats to France by car to reduce stress

We chose to travel via the Eurotunnel which meant that the cats could be in the car with us and that we could make them as comfortable as possible for the long drive. We actually ended up buying a bigger car to be able to fit in large carriers which I picked up second-hand in Bristol before we travelled. The carriers were large wooden air freight animal carriers, and allowed space for constant access to food and water, somewhere to lie down and a small kitten-sized litter tray. Our cats managed this fourteen-hour journey with no issues whatsoever and did not need to be sedated.

The Pet Passports were not checked on departure from the UK, nor where the cats examined for corresponding microchips etc – however, I would not have taken the chance of not having them in case we had been stopped, and I wanted to be sure that my cats’ health were optimal for the journey.

Travelling to France with pets via the Eurotunnel
It does cost extra to take your pet with you on the Eurotunnel (or Le Shuttle)

There is an additional cost to travelling on the Eurotunnel with pets – in December 2018 we paid £16 per cat for a single crossing. If you want to cross with Eurotunnel legally, there is no avoiding this charge. In my opinion, this method of travel is less stressful for pets, since they are inside a vehicle with you and have the comfort of familiar sights, smells and sounds, and this is particularly true for dogs. The crossing is very quick at only 35 minutes and we had a very efficient and positive experience using Eurotunnel for this part of our move to France.

How Brexit will impact travelling to France with your pet

The UK has now left the EU and is currently within the transition period for its departure ending on 31st December 2020. For the purposes of the movement of animals, the UK is now considered to be a Third Country.

Moving your pets to France
Moving pets to France involves some costly paperwork

From 1st January 2021, the rules around moving your pets to France will change depending upon the outcome of the trade talks between the UK government and the EU.

There are several – quite complicated – potential scenarios:

The UK becomes a Part 1 Listed Third Country – if the UK becomes a Part 1 Listed Third Country then it is likely that a replacement Pet Passport document will be required at your own cost, however, in terms of procedure, things may not change much versus the current requirement for satisfactory vaccinations and the issuing of the Pet Passport.

The UK becomes a Part 2 Listed Third Country – in this instance, it is likely that a replacement Pet Passport document will be required at your own cost, in addition to the issuing of an Animal Health Certificate or AHC, (which you will need to purchase from your vet) no more than ten days before your arrival in the destination country. If you are visiting France for a short-term visit or holiday then a new certificate for each trip to the EU is required. For further information on the validity of an AHC, see below.

The UK becomes an unlisted Third Country – current EU Pet Passports will no longer be valid for travel to France. I’m including the guidance directly from the gov.uk website here as this outcome is even more complicated:

The webpage for the full official UK Government’s advice on travelling in the EU with your pet after the end of the Brexit transition period can be found here

  1. You must have your pet microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.
  2. Your pet must have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after its last rabies vaccination (whether that’s a booster or initial vaccination). Your vet may recommend a booster rabies vaccination before this test.
  3. Your pet’s blood sample will be sent to a to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory.
  4. Wait 3 months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you can travel.
  5. The vet must give you a copy of the test results and enter the day the blood sample was taken in an animal health certificate (AHC).

You will not be able to travel with your pet if you have not completed these steps. If the blood test result is not successful, you’ll need a repeat vaccination and another blood test taken at least 30 days after the repeat vaccination.

Get an animal health certificate (AHC)

You must also take your pet to your vet no more than 10 days before travel to get an AHC. (The AHC needs to be signed by an official vet. Check with your vet that they can issue AHCs for pets.) You must take proof of:

  • your pet’s vaccination history
  • your pet’s microchipping date
  • a successful rabies antibody blood test result

Your pet’s AHC will be valid for:

  • 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU
  • onward travel within the EU for 4 months after the date of issue
  • re-entry to the UK for 4 months after the date of issue

This is the most expensive outcome for pet owners, because of the additional cost of blood tests and AHC’s. It also introduces a long lead time for blood tests into the procedure, which may mean that cheaper last-minute travel options become more difficult to commit to as owners await test results, allowing them to be sure that they can travel with their pet.

Please note: If you are travelling from another country you can find your home country’s travel advice on their official government website.

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