Pets Travelling

PET CHECK BLOG - dog on ferry

\\\ Pets Travel

\\\ updated October 2021

Millions Of Pets Are Travelling At Home And Abroad Each Year

Our pets are being transported by millions of car journeys everyday by their owners. Most families owning a dog admit they take their dog with them in their cars very frequently here in the UK, but there’s also snakes, hedgehogs, gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, rabbits and more pets and animals being transported regularly on our roads, by plane and sea.

\\\ Size of Pet Transportation

Do you have the right size vehicle for your pet?

If you’re transporting small pets that isn’t such a problem to answer, but when our 12.5 million pet dogs that reside in the UK are being chauffeured around it can become more of a common problem.

Many owners changing cars forget about their dog requirements according to car vehicle sellers and have seen a rise of buyers having to exchange their cars, 2021, because they ‘forgot’ their dog may grow or mis-calculated their pets needs. Read more in our blog.


The recent pandemic has reduced the amount of animals being flown by air across the globe with hefty increases in their costs for doing so, reported by the Financial Times, Spring 2021. Where as the APATA The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association, confirmed in 2017 that more than 2 million pets and other live animals were transported Internationally from the United States and more than 4 million worldwide. Airlines had been increasingly advertising their pet services and care, vying for much needed passengers revenues.

2 dogs and suitcase

Taking a look closer to home, it’s important our beloved pets are carried safely, and that the driver and occupants of vehicles as well as the pet, are insured to travel in vehicles.

There’s facilities for pets to travel with owners on UK sea crossings, UK trains, as well UK internal flights. Pet Check offer some helpful FAQ’s and Tips.

How do I make my pet safe whilst travelling in a vehicle?

Perhaps, you’re a new pet owner or just bought your first car and treating your puppy or dog to it’s first trip out with you, or transporting a kitten or cat to the vet. Here are some helpful tips.

  • 1. Before your puppy or dog gets into a car, ensure it is wearing it’s collar and ID tag.
  • 2. Always carry a bowl and some fresh cool water for pet stops.
  • 3. Put a blanket down or soft duvet for your pet to lie on, so it’s comfortable during the journey.
  • 4. Harness your pet in the car, or secure the pet carrier, in the crate, or travelling secured in the boot of the vehicle with grills.
  • 5. If travelling a long distance, prepare the pet for this by letting them get used to longer journeys than just going round the corner to the park for a walk or outing beforehand, building up the time spent in the car.
  • 6. Train your dog to be calm and rested, as barking can be very distracting to the driver. Provide the pet with exercise before a long distance journey. It will help your pet to sleep more during the journey.
  • 7. Consider weather conditions, and if warm ensure the windows have sunshades and the pet is not placed directly in the sun.
  • 8. If your vehicle has air conditioning, use it.
  • 9. If your journey really isn’t necessary in warmer weather, then leave your pet at home.
  • 10. Give as much space to your pet as feasible and not sitting in direct sunlight.
  • 11. Make pet stops regularly. Stop where it’s safe to let your pet have a drink, stretch their legs and relieve themselves.
  • 12 If you stop for a break, Never leave a dog unattended in the car.
  • 13. It’s always useful to carry a picture of your pet, on your mobile, at all times, the insurance details and microchip details, where applicable, in case of any emergency whilst travelling.
  • 14. Small pets in carriers including cats may be just as nervous and will need settling in their carriers. Introduce the carrier in the home letting your cat get in and out of it and sleep in it, a couple of weeks before any long journey is taken for the first time.
  • 15. Never let your dog, cat or small pet roam around your vehicle. It is very dangerous and distracting to the occupants and other drivers on the road. This can invalidate any insurance claim you may have, if an accident occurred.

\\\ The Highway Code And Pet Law

Do I have to restrain my pet whilst travelling in a vehicle? Is it law?

In the UK –

Rule 57 of the Highway Code states:
“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you need to stop quickly.
“A seat belt dog harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

Highway Code

It’s very important to do this as accidents can easily happen including making sudden stops, where your pet may be flung into the air by the action. Larger animals have been known to injure passengers and drivers.

You may like to read our blog Does my pet need to be harnessed whilst driving? which provides more information.

\\\ Pet Accidents Whilst Driving

Do I have to stop if I hit an animal on the road?

Much of the UK population are unaware that whether the animal is dead or alive, you are bound by the law to stop if you hit an animal, whilst driving a vehicle in the UK.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that legally, you must report hitting dogs to the police, and a number of farm animals, including horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys and mules. However, you are not obliged to report cats or deer. The government website has details about what you should do in such an emergency. 

As pet lovers, dogs and cats can be in great pain after an accident, and should be taken to a vet preferably. However they make not take kindly to you touching them when trying to see if they are wearing their contact ID tags to be able to contact the microchip company or owner.

You may like to read our blog about the steps you can take by contacting the RSPCA, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, helpline and other drivers who may have stopped to help.

\\\ Pets Travelling On Trains

What Rules are there for pets travelling by train?

Two pets can travel with their owner on UK trains, free of charge, but there are Rules that have to be followed.

  • Dogs must be kept on a lead at all time if not in a carrier.
  • Dogs must not sit on seats and this could mean you will be charged if they do.
  • Dogs cannot enter the restaurant or refreshment carriage.
  • Train staff are authorized to remove dogs from the train if their size or behaviour is, or is likely to cause, an inconvenience or danger to other customers.
  • If another passenger objects to your pet, then you may have to muzzle your dog, making sure it has it is wearing it’s collar and ID tag or move to another area of the train.
  • Guards can take care of pets in carriers if they have a secure guards area.

Always check the railway’s operators rules before travel.

9 helpful tips travelling with pets on UK trains

  • 1. Avoid busy times and arrive with time to spare providing your pet plenty of time to prepare themselves for the journey, felling less anxious.
  • 2 Bring plentiful freshwater, bowl, treats, particular if travelling a long time and ensure you have vets and medication details with you.
  • 3. Before you board make sure your dog has eaten about 3-4 hours before travelling to avoid sickness and had a walk and relieved themselves.
  • 4. Bring a blanket for them to sit on but don’t encourage them to sit on the seats.
  • 5. Find a quiet area in the carriage and where your pet will be able to settle with room to turn, and sit down and be comfortable. This allows them to sleep more easily.
  • 6. Plan a break in your journey if long, so that your dog can walk around and possibly relieve themselves outside the station before re-boarding.
  • 7. Try not to sit near other animals to avoid confrontations.
  • 8. Trains can have different levels at stations to platforms and some dogs may find it difficult to board the train and disembark. Care is needed and they may need some help being raised up or down from the train.
  • 9. Let other passengers get off first and on, so as not inconvenience them and see where there is space for your pet after they have sat down. On short or busy journeys, you may have to stand up and have your pet close to your side until there is adequate room.
  • 9. Cats and small pets are likely to be travelling in a carrier which should be placed on the floor for the journey and where they can settle down and sleep. A blanket placed in the pet carrier is ideal for extra comfort.

\\\ Pets Travelling By Sea

Can pets travel on UK sea crossings?

Dogs can travel on most routes and ferry crossings within the UK which are free of charge. Cats and small pets can be carried in a carrier or crate.

Each operator has a dedicated webpage about their guidelines when you are booking the crossing which need to be adhered to due to the length of the sea crossing and the dimensions and size of the ferry.

Hover ports operate around the UK and these are generally walk-on, walk-off quick crossings where pets may also go free with their owner. Cats and small pets in carriers or crates whilst dogs have to be on a collar, ID tag and lead.

As a general rule any pet found fouling crafts or port areas would be charged a penalty.

12 helpful tips for pets travelling by UK sea crossings

* Many of these tips apply for longer European sea crossings.

  • 1. On longer UK ferry trips take time to choose the right crossing time for your pet. Some pets prefer not to travel in the heat so night crossings or first thing in the morning could be a better option during warmer weather and your pet may sleep throughout the journey. Dogs which are more susceptible to overheating tend to be very old or young, have thick, heavy coats or have very short flat faces – such as pugs and bulldogs. Dogs with medical conditions or taking some medications may also be at risk and advisable to check suitability with your vet before travelling.
  • 2. Longer UK ferry journeys may or may not provide kennels for your pet whilst travelling. Take time to check out their facilities being offered.
  • 3. No pet paperwork is required when travelling around the UK by ferry. Other requirements, however, may differ between the ferry company.
  • 4. Always have the pet vets and insurance details available whilst travelling.
  • 5. Your dog may be required to be muzzled when on deck on a ferry. Taking one with you may be essential and naturally wearing a collar, lead and ID tag as required in public places.
  • 6. Poop bags in case of accidents that you are responsible to clean up, if your dog leaves your vehicle.
  • 7. Freshwater for your pet with a bowl that your pet can drink during a sailing if left in the car along with a little food and treats depending on the length of sailing time.
  • 8. Appropriate bedding so that your pet is comfortable whilst in the car during sailing and they must be able to get up and turn around in their space and lie down.
  • 9. Do not feed too heavily before sailing, at least 3 hours beforehand. Provide a walk and ensure they relieve themselves before embarking.
  • 10. Make sure the vehicle has adequate ventilation for your pet during sailing.
  • 11. Cats and small pets should be transported in a carrier or crate and be provided with a blanket/bedding, adequate water and container for the journey. If a longer journey, some dry kibble may be useful that they can snack on.
  • 12. On reaching your destination and dis-embarked, give your dog time to relieve itself, and have a good stretch, some freshwater and a meal if required

\\\ Pets Travelling By Air

Can pets travel by air in the UK?

It is possible to fly animals between local UK airports and DEFRA have an approved list of airports where there are veterinary services and facilities to handle pets. Pet owners can fly at the same time whilst their pet would be in the cargo hold.

Animals can be transported by both commercial and chartered air flights but naturally, there are charges. Read the government approved list and airports.

Pets cannot accompany their owners in the cabin which can only be allowed with written pre-approved conditions allowed in certain circumstances.

Pet owners are required to drop off their pets at the animal cargo reception centres and to pick up their pet at their destination or use one of the several dedicated air pet partners that can pick up your pet from home, organise the air shipment and deliver to your preferred destination address. Read the section ‘National and International pet travel by air shipment businesses’ about these services.

Forward planning is key ensuring that all paperwork and regulations are conformed to including the correct airline approved crate being used for transportation. 

Government-approved DEFRA checked UK commercial airports with approved pet handling veterinary centres are currently Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Doncaster, Sheffield and Bristol. You can drop off your pet at their special handling centres before your flight check-in and pick up your pet when you arrive at your UK destination. 

These services are limited. Flying your pet, for example between the largest UK airport Heathrow to Edinburgh is easier than to organise Doncaster to Bristol where there may be infrequent flights and limited cargo space.

Generally, there is a requirement that your pet kitten or puppy must be at least 10 weeks old to be able to travel in the hold. 

The golden rule is to read through the various airline pet handling website pages. Try some quotes which are easily accessible of the air transportation partners that offer the alternative to pick up from home to make the best-informed decisions for the comfort of your pet. 

12 helpful tips for pets travelling by air in the UK

  • 1. The government provide an approved list of airports both commercial and charter where pets may be transported between destinations from and to the UK.
  • These are airports that have the appropriate veterinary support and DEFRA checked and registered.
  • 2. UK airlines do not offer a check-in facility with your baggage for pets and live animals travelling. You cannot smuggle small pets into your hand baggage. 
  • 3. Adequate notice must be given that pets are travelling.
  • 4. Selected airlines permit pets to travel in the cabin where medically approved but at least a week’s notice is required. There are specific rules and guidelines to acquire this.
  • 5. The UK airlines generally allow dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, monkeys, ferrets, snakes, tropical fish and other live animals to be transported through dedicated and approved air partner services.
  • 6. Pets have to be checked-in well in advance of flying, at the cargo centres, normally at least 4 hours before the fight time.
  • 7. Pets can only be transported in the airlines and airline authorities approved crates. It is important to check this information with the airline concerned before buying a crate and accessories such as water bottles and feeders.
  • 8. Pets must, as usual, conform to all medical and travel regulations of the UK. 
  • 9. Pet crates must have your details and pet travel arrangements attached securely as well as any medication that may be necessary to be administered whilst in the handlers care. 
  • 10. Whilst air partners handlers are naturally insured, owners should also check their travel and pet insurance policy wording as a precaution. 

Guide, hearing, medical and autism assistance dogs

Dogs are welcome to travel by buses, coaches, ferries, hovercrafts, trains and by air. They are encouraged to sit with their owners including the cabin of an aircraft with UK, European and most long haul carriers who will provide space such as the adjoining seat usually at no charge, but must be booked in with notice of assistance flying.

\\\ Pets Travelling By Coach And Bus

Sadly, UK bus and coach companies are not nationally regulated to carry pets and rules vary from region to region, bus company to bus company and charges apply.

One is required to check with bus or coach operator with regards to their individual animal transporting rules.

\\\ Pets Travelling By Cycle

2020 – 2021 Saw an increase in bicycle sales as more and more of us stayed at home with our pet taking them with us on days out more frequently

Naturally this is a free option in the UK where travelling with your pet on a bicycle, the cyclists can use certain highways. There are restrictions to cyclists, for example, they cannot use motorways. There are few written laws regarding cyclists on the road with accompanying pets, however, there are a number of Highway Rules and Regulations which can interpreted that cover cycling and cyclists behaviour whilst on the highways.

Travelling with a pet sitting in an open basket can be precarious particularly in a busy environment where a perfectly normally subdued pet can suddenly try and bolt if they see something of interest. This can lead to the cyclist having an accident which may involve other vehicles and where they become liable for the event. Basket travelling is better suited to small docile pets and should be harnessed in for the cyclist and their pet safety.

There are numerous manufacturers making bolt-on cargo huts for cyclists which allow transporting your pet in safety and comfort. This particularly is suitable for older dogs who may be suffering from mobility problems and if you travel on longer journeys.

Other manufacturers have adapted the faithful backpack for safe pet use providing smaller pets the opportunity to be carried safely, securely and allowing visibility.

Pets may need extra water when on a cycling journey particularly if they have breathing difficulties or during warmer weather and you need to take a travel bottle and container with you. 

\\\ International Pet Travel

The recent pandemic has bought about new Rules to the way we must travel. It may have changed some of the travel operators’ Rules and Regulations concerning your and your pet travel. It is important to check with each company before booking travel for their latest updates.

\\\ Pets Travelling By Ferry And Ships

On longer sea crossings to European destinations pets are welcome under the new AHC travel scheme as long as they travel in a car.

Travelling with your pet on sea crossings

Pets not only travel by air but by sea crossings particularly to Europe accompanying families on holidays and on trains across the continents. Pet travel to these destinations is charged.

Ferry companies have several combination of offers rather depending on the length of their sea crossings.

Some shorter crossings only allow pets if they stay in the car. Passengers can move around the ship. Other crossings offer pets kennel facilities and longer crossings offer pet-friendly cabins where owners can take their pet with them for the entire crossing.

Ferry operators have comprehensive information about their pet travel arrangements including customer videos about the experiences when travelling with pets and most of these are similar with regard to their rules.

Choose carefully between routes that will provide the most comfort for your pet, particularly if ageing, or on medication, sailing at night times always advantageous when travelling with pets as they are likely to sleep through the entire journey.

International Pet Travel By Professional Animal Transportation Businesses

Animal trade shows, events and shows require transportation services picking up from homes and businesses and transporting to preferred locations, both domestically and globally. A door-to-door service in fully approved vehicles with necessary features for pet safety and comfort.

UK animal transportation companies seek approval from organisations such as The Kennel Club, and RSPCA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to advertise their business worthiness.

Pet transport van
Vans fitted out for pet transportation journeys

Countries have dedicated networks of pet transport services for moving pets both domestically and internationally, where it has never been so easy and we see the rising trend to take your pet away with you rather than leaving it at home.

Companies partner with various air partners and organise forward on international services to the locating country, offering quotations online, whilst other countries specialise with particular country to country.

Forward planning and preparation is key, for a smooth journey, as it is to keep all routine jabs up-to-date for your pet. Rabies jabs, boosters, blood tests, tapeworm and other regular treatments, microchipping and pet passports all need to be in place with any other paperwork required specifically by the country journeying to.

\\\ Pet Vaccinations

Vaccinations required by international pet travellers – rabies

Many countries have different strict rules and regulations which must be adhered to. It’s essential to read up before booking and travelling what the country requires.

Dogs, cats and ferrets must have proof of a current rabies vaccination administered after a microchip is implanted to enter the country they are travelling to.

  • The number of the microchip must be recorded on the new Animal Health Certificate AHC form or official third country veterinary certificate by your vet.
  • If your microchip does not conform to ICO standards then you must take with you a reader so that the animal can be read when entering countries.

Rabies vaccination certificates must provide the following details – The birthdate of your pet, the date of microchipping, it’s serial ID number and location on the pet’s body (normally the back of the scruff), date of vaccination, manufacturer and vaccine name, the batch number, the contact details of the vet and authorising signature and the expiry date of the vaccination.

  • Your pet dog or cat will need to vaccinated for travel to and from any country in the EU, European Union, and EEA, The European Economic Area, against rabies.

\\\ Pets Travelling To The EU

Taking Your Pets To Europe Rule Changes 1.01.2021

Dog and pet passport
Picture of The currently obsolete PET passport for European and EUR countries for Great Britain

1 January 2021 saw new pet regulations for cats and dogs and ferrets travelling to and from Europe and Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The UK has become a Part 2 listed third country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme which means pet owners will have to ensure they have an animal health certificate (AHC) instead of the pet passport whilst previously enjoyed as a full member of the European Union.

The government are trying to secure a Part 1 listed status for the UK from the EU Commission, as they believe that Great Britain meets all the requirements to secure it. Part 1 is the same pet travelling rules as EU member states and where the Great British UK pet passports could remain in use.

For more details as to the new rules read our blog ‘Choosing To Travel To Europe With Your Pet’.


International travel outside of the EU with your pet

Contact your veterinary practice firstly to see if they can advise you about the country you wish to travel to and the requirements needed for your pet’s travel arrangements. They may refer you to a more experienced authority.

Rules are different than those of the EU.

Your pet must be healthy before setting off and strong enough to withstand along air journey.

It is advisable to take with you a muzzle as many countries require these to be worn when dogs are being dog walked.

Dogs returning to the UK from the EU

Rules returning to the EU have not changed since 1.01.21 as entry will remain the same for all EU travel into the UK.

This means you will need to visit a vet at the port before embarking on a ferry / ship so that your dog can have its regulation tapeworm treatment before entering the UK and your must have this stamped on your new paperwork by the vet. This treatment is normally by tablet and there are normally several vets available nearby. It can be useful to book your dog in before leaving the arrival port starting your journey.

Dogs returning to the EU from UK

A pet passport issued in an EU country can still be be used by a pet travelling from the UK to the EU.

An EU passport is valid for the life of the pet. The nationality or residency status of the pet’s owners is irrelevant.

Research the country before travelling

It is advisable to research the country’s requirements before making bookings if you intend to travel with your dog.

  • Check also what the weather is likely to be and whether your dog can handle soaring temperatures.
  • Research the vets in the area and emergency facilities.
  • The length and type of journey and how you consider your dog will cope.
  • The dog-friendly accommodation availability.
  • Whether local restaurants allow dogs to accompany you and dog walking on resort beaches?
  • Whether your dog would be content and safe staying in the holiday accomodation without you if they cannot accompany you?
  • Is there access to plenty of open space, and being able to relieve themselves adequately?

Alternatives are to consider leaving your dog at home and booking pet sitting arrangements or kennel accommodation.

Pet crates kennels grills and carriers

  • Sky Kennel for dog or cat
  • Pet transport van
  • Dogs in crates being loaded onto air cargo
  • Soft small pet carrier
  • dog, in, crate,
  • Cat crate

There are several different solutions for domestic travelling including crates, kennels, grills and carriers to secure your pet whilst travelling depending on their size and the vehicles boot area, back seat availability, ensuring they travel as safely and comfortably as possible.

Pet crates and carriers, harnesses and grills all help to stop the distraction of pets roaming around a car, which can lead to accidents and injury. They protect drivers from sudden impact if they have to stop suddenly. It may not prevent injury to your pet but it will help to protect the drivers and passengers from sudden flying objects.

Pet crates and carriers can be used for taking pets to the vet, use on weekend short breaks or holiday breaks, double-up as a pet bed, whilst the pet retains some familiarity and makes them less anxious.

Pets travelling by air are required to travel in specially approved kennels. Checking with the airline is essential that your animal kennel conforms to their standards. Just like passenger travel, each airline has different rules and regulations for animal transportation which needs careful attention. When buying a kennel, and travelling by air, check the airline regulations carefully and purchase a kennel only from their approved list.

What’s the best sort of pet crate for vehicle transport?

The best sort of crate depends upon the size of the pet and the required use.

  • Dogs should have room to be able to stand up, turn around and sit down, in the crate, otherwise, they will be cramped. 
  • Crates are designed in different shapes for different vehicles.
  • There are some crates designed with two or three door openings, those separating the cage for two dogs travelling and for hatchback and sloping boot shapes.
  • Important to measure the area where the crate is going to be used carefully before purchasing.  
  • Crates can be sold as ‘small ‘medium’ or ‘large.’ Important to check the sizes offered against your actual dog size, to ensure you are providing enough room.
  • If your pet is at puppy stage, budget wisely and buy the size appropriate for when it is larger in a few months time.
  • Dog crates come with a range of accessories including covers which can provide your dog with a feeling of safety and security when in an enclosed environment. 
  • Crates can fold down and become multi-functional. They can be used inside the home, and be taken out of vehicles and used in the home. Great for pet-friendly holiday vacations away.
  • Complete by providing a duvet mattress inside the crate for your pet to lie on providing comfort.

What’s the best sort of pet kennel for airline use?

Before purchasing any kennel, ensure you check with the airline which kennels they approve. They will not transport your pet if you have not conformed to their regulations including within the UK.

  • The IATA, the International Air Transportation Association, require you to purchase a kennel that allows the size to be the dog’s length and half leg length providing room for them front and back of the kennel. Pets must be able to turn around and lie down comfortably.
  • You are allowed to supply two water bottles and food bowls attached to the front of the crate. This allows staff working with the animals at airports to replenish when necessary without opening the door and the risk of your pet escaping.
  • Kennel doors are normally caged wired so that the pet can breath fresh air and see what is happening around them. The door must shut well.
  • Approved IATA pet kennels are made of fairly lightweight but robust plastic. For ease, there are crates with wheels, similar to suitcases, which help with generally manoeuvrability around airports.
  • You must provide details attached to the top of the carrier of any food, with the food, required during the journey, a list of any medications needing administering in addition to your name, contact details, flight number and destination airport and contact details for pick up.

GPS pet activity trackers

GPS pet activity tracking devices have become more and more popular with the rise in pet theft, to use whilst your pet is travelling. They can monitor your pets movements across the globe whilst flying or being taken in a car from England to Scotland. They are special devices that are attached to pet collars and monitor movements in real times and now through the advances with satellites, monitor in about 150 countries worldwide.

More affordable than ever, it is a great way to help cut down on pet theft opportunities, or know if your pet has escaped from home, making sure your pet is safe at all times.

You can read more about GPS trackers in Pet Check’s blog post and their use to help stop losing pets –


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