PET-LOVERS heading to the UK must plan well in advance to avoid their animal going into quarantine and be ready for significant obstacles unless they are travelling by car.
Families wanting to avoid the tears of youngsters missing their family pet – and large kennel bills – must get their paperwork in order first by getting a pet passport through the Pet Travel Scheme at least six months ahead.
That means the pet must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and blood-tested – in that order. They must also be treated against ticks and tapeworms in the 24-48 hours before travelling.
Since a pug called Frodo launched the pet passport scheme on a P&O ferry in 2000 more than 600,000 animals have followed – but while the scheme has eased travel it has by no means made it easy.
One big decision is on which route to use as animal travel is restricted to certain companies and entry points.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs lists the recognised routes and carriers on its website www.defra.gov.uk
At the moment pets other than guide dogs can only enter the UK through six ferry companies: P&O, Norfolkline, LD Lines, Brittany Ferries, Condor and SeaFrance; three airlines, British Airways World Cargo, KLM and Thomson Airways, and rail firm Eurotunnel.
Defra says carriers ask for authorisation to carry pets and then it makes sure the company meets its standards for the pre-travel checks. The checks are intended to ensure that animal diseases do not enter the UK.
The only airports served are Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Toulouse.
Airlines restrict pets to a box in the air-conditioned cargo hold and, indeed, many carriers refuse to carry animals at all unless they are guide dogs – and even then only on certain routes.
Avignon, Bergerac, Brest, Chambery, Grenoble, La Rochelle, Limoges, Lourdes, Paris Orly, Rennes and Tarbes airports are also approved for guide dog transport. However, the Defra-authorised carrier on many of these routes, Flybe, says it does not transport guide dogs internationally. Where allowed, guide dogs travel in the passenger cabin at their owner's feet.
Fares are levied depending on size – not of the animal but the carrying container.
Eurostar refuses pets other than guide dogs but the Eurotunnel service is only for car users and they can carry pets.
Ferry travel seems to offer most options, but animals must stay in the car for short journeys – and on longer journeys are kept in kennels on the car deck. Some companies allow owners to check on their pets, but they must be accompanied by a crew member.
Foot passengers can only take animals on certain crossings.
Where allowed, they must put animals in a suitable container which will be looked after by ferry staff during the journey.
Brian Rees at P&O Ferries says the pawprint symbol of the Pet Travel Scheme is now well-known and passengers head straight for the marked channel to get their animal checked.
They handle thousands of dogs a year and it makes for “liberated holidays” for families.
Officials will hand a microchip scanner to the owner – to avoid stress to the animal – but once the formalities are checked the animal stays in the car or the lower decks.
Brittany charges e35 return for animals, Condor e23 one way but not on Portsmouth-Cherbourg where they are banned, Norfolkline e35 return, P&O e23 one way, SeaFrance £25 (but only on the France to UK journey).
All the ferry companies now highlight the importance of having the pet passport procedure carried out in the correct order – a problem that cost former Villeneuve-sur-Lot resident Albert Miller a lot of pain and money.
He arrived at the Channel Tunnel to find his vet had vaccinated pet Bruno before he had been microchipped. Mr Miller spent thousands in a bid to stay to complete the formalities but, sadly, Bruno died just after Christmas.