This post explains how to bring your dog with you from the US or Canada, when relocating to the UK.
It costs around $286 to get all the necessary travel papers to move your dog from the US to the UK. That figure includes mandatory vaccinations and vet treatments, as well as a government-endorsed health certificate. It doesn’t, however, include the actual cost to TRANSPORT your furry friend from one country to the other. Travel for your pooch can range from $500 in ‘excess luggage’ fees on a flight to Europe, to more than $2,000 for six nights of kennel space and a cabin on a luxury transatlantic cruise ship.
In this post we highlight:
- The steps you’ll need to take to put together your dog’s paperwork
- The main options you and your canine have for transport to the UK
- How to find pet-friendly accommodation once you arrive in Great Britain
UK pet entry requirements
The current requirements for entry into the UK are quite clear. Your dog must:
- Be microchipped
- Have had its rabies vaccination (AFTER being microchipped)
- Have a health certificate issued endorsed by an official government body
- Have recently been treated for tapeworm
Let’s briefly look at each requirement in turn.
Getting your pet microchipped can cost up to $60 (USD) – although you can beat this price if you’re prepared to shop around. There are different types of microchip. So, be sure to let your veterinary professional know that you need one that can be read in the UK – one that is ISO compliant.
You MUST get your dog microchipped BEFORE (or at the same time) it is vaccinated for rabies, otherwise you’ll have to redo the vaccination.
A rabies vaccination will cost about $20. Timing is very important. Pet owners typically wait for puppies to be at least 4 months old before travelling to the UK with them. This is not an arbitrary age. Puppies can’t get their rabies shot until they are at least 12 weeks old – and then your pet won’t be able to enter the UK until 21 days after the vaccination.
Official health certificate
Dogs entering the UK from Europe can travel on an EU Pet Passport. But, canines entering from most other countries will need a third-country official vet certificate. For those leaving the US, that means you must have a health certificate issued by a USDA-accredited vet. This non-commercial health certificate plus vet visit will set you back about $150.
In America, the health certificate also needs to be endorsed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which currently costs $38. This used to be a cumbersome process for pet owners who had to book an appointment with APHIS, and then physically take a hard copy of the certificate down to their local APHIS office for endorsement. Now, the vet issuing the health certificate can complete your digital health certificate via an online system, called VEHCS. They can then transmit the form to APHIS on your behalf with the press of a button!
A paper copy of the UK health certificate will be sent to you by mail. You’ll then have 10 days from the date of issue to get your dog to the UK/Europe. Miss this window of opportunity and a new health certificate will be required.
In Canada, the process is similar to the US. However, the Canadian International Health Certificate can be obtained from your regular vet. It must then be endorsed by an official Canadian government vet.
N.B. Disability service dogs are exempt from the APHIS endorsement charge.
The tapeworm treatment should cost around $18 plus your usual vet visit fee. This is another task that needs to be timed well. The treatment must be given 1-5 days before arrival in the UK.
Now that your pet’s travel paperwork is in place, let’s turn our attention to how your dog will arrive in the UK.
From A to B: Transportation
|Method of travel||From||To||Company|
|Air||US||Edinburgh, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Manchester||Delta Airlines|
|Air||Canada||Edinburgh, Glasgow, London Heathrow, Manchester||Air Canada|
|Ferry||Paris, France (Calais port)||Dover (UK)||DFDS Seaways, MyFerryLink or P&O Ferries|
|Cruise ship||New York (US)||Southampton (UK)||Cunard [must be booked 2 YEARS in advance!]|
|Rail||Calais, France (Coquelles station)||Folkestone (Cheriton station)||Eurotunnel Le Shuttle|
Flying directly from Canada or the US into England or Scotland is one of the most expensive options because your pet will likely be classed as manifest cargo (as opposed to ‘checked luggage’) and charged accordingly. Frankly, it depends on the individual airline’s policies. Air Transat takes a very different approach to pet transport than British Airways.
Some owners choose to fly into Europe e.g. Paris, before making their way to the UK by sea ferry or Eurotunnel. Escapist Atlas is one such example. The blogger even handily published an itemised breakdown of the costs involved – although it’s from 2015, it’s still a useful guide.
Transport: points to clarify
- Check with your travel operator/airline that they are happy to take your particular animal
- Check that they are happy for you to travel with your pets if you have more than one. It’s usually ok to take up to 5 dogs on one itemised health certificate
- Check whether your airline will allow your dog in the cabin. It’s rare, but some small breeds may be allowed if their crate can fit under the seat in front of you
- If you’re going to fly with British Airways, check with IAG Cargo what size your dog’s travel crate must be
Travelling On to Northern Ireland
If your final destination is in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to travel there via Great Britain (i.e. the mainland), or via the Republic of Ireland. At least, that’s the most straightforward approach. But, if for some reason you prefer to travel direct to Northern Ireland you will need to apply for an Import Authorisation from the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs Trade Section. It can take up to 28 days to get that authorisation. So, be sure to leave yourself enough time.
If you have a service dog because of a registered disability, you should be able to take it with you into the cabin of your plane. But, as always, be sure to check ahead with the airline. Such service dogs will still require the same travel documents as any other pet dog.
Arriving into the UK
Once you arrive in the UK, your dog will need to be taken through customs. This is an extra cost that you’ll need to budget for because it’s usual to arrange this with an agent, travel company or airline. However, if for some reason no one is able to help take your pet through customs then you should seek advice from the National Clearance Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org before you travel.
Also, to ensure the smoothest trip through customs for your canine, you might want to complete an application for Transfer of Residence relief BEFORE you leave the US. If for some reason you are unable to do this, you’ll be required to pay Customs VAT.
Pet Moving Services
If you’re already moving your whole life over to the UK, attempting to find somewhere to live, and maybe a new job, it’s sensible to get help where you can. Pet travel companies can take care of the travel logistics for you – if you’re willing to pay, of course. We were quoted just over $3,600 to fly a labrador-sized dog directly from New York to London on a British Airways flight. That price includes home-pickup, a travel crate with food and water and clearance through customs.
If you’d prefer to use a pet moving company, look for one that’s a part of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. IPATA shipping members have to operate to set ethical and quality standards.
N.B. The moving quote above came from Britt’s Bow Wow. Check them out. That’s not an affiliate link by the way. They were the quickest IPATA member to respond with an itemised quote.
Finding pet-friendly accommodation
For a nation of dog-lovers, the UK is surprisingly difficult to find pet-friendly accommodation when you are renting. So, you should start the process of looking for suitable digs (aka housing) whilst you are still in your home country. There are some good places to begin your search, though:
Nick-named in the States ‘dorms for adults’, these luxury new-builds have been popping up major UK cities. They offer fully-furnished apartments, a focus on community-building and contain high-end facilities like: gyms and cinema rooms. You are really going to pay a premium for living in a co-living building. But, the good news is they are almost always pet-friendly. Examples of such co-living spaces include: New Maker Yards in Manchester from £895 pcm; Hawkins & George development in Bristol from £895; Angel Gardens also in Manchester from £1,150 pcm.
The site helps tenants and private landlords to connect. Landlords advertise their properties, and tenants can rent whole houses or apartments. Use the Advanced Filter to select properties that ‘accept pets’.
The website is great for finding flat and houseshares. Living with a roommate will mean you get to split the rent. But, it’s also a good way to immediately make new friends in your new area. I personally used this site during all of my years in London, and never had any problems. The search facility on SpareRoom allows you to filter for homes that are pet-friendly.
Usually, you’ll be dealing directly with current tenants, although private landlords also post ads too. In order to respond quickly to new ads, though, you’ll need to pay for a subscription – these start from £10.99 per week.
Zoopla allows you to search through properties (usually) advertised by estate agents. Make sure you click on the rent tab, then check the ‘Pets allowed’ search filter.
The site has also put together interesting advice about pet-friendly parts of the country. I wouldn’t recommend limiting yourself to those areas. But, the interactive map does offer a guide as to the rental prices demanded in different parts of the country.
Lets with Pets
There’s more to finding suitable digs than just using search filters correctly. You can find a range of tips on how to win favour with potential landlords by following advice on the Lets with Pets website.
So, there you have it. The information needed to move your dog to the UK in 2020. My final thoughts are, if your dog is a nervous traveller, or is no longer a spring chicken, then give serious consideration to the transatlantic cruise ship option. Yes, it takes 6 nights. Yes, the current waiting list is 2 years long. But, it’s actually cheaper than using a pet moving service. The dogs are treated extremely well, are given toys, taken for regular walks by staff, and there are at least three visiting slots during the day so that you can spend time with your pet.
A gentle word of caution, though… unlike most of the things we’ve written about before, all of these options could be subject to change from 1st January 2021, once the Brexit transition period ends.