Taking a Dog to Europe: Everything You Need to Know

Those of us with dogs understand the importance of their involvement with the family. For years British people have been taking their beloved pooches across the English Channel to embark on a dog-friendly holiday.

Sadly, due to Brexit legislation, we have lost our our ability to take dogs to Europe with a pet passport. However; not all is lost, we may not have our pet passports anymore but it doesn’t mean Buddy can’t enjoy an international trip with you.

Is Europe pet friendly?

Europe is one of the most dog-friendly places to visit. Furry companions are welcome in shops, restaurants, even on public transport in many countries.

It’s always important to research each destination before travelling.  There are some particularly stand out dog friendly destinations in Europe, most notably the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. That’s not to say other countries don’t welcome dogs, but these are countries I have experienced and seen how dogs are embraced in every day life.

A trip to Europe with a dog is an easy way to travel without flying, travelling with a dog by train means you can enjoy the local scenery and not have to worry about your liquids! The alternative is to just head off in your own car.

Travelling through Rngland with my Cocker Spaniel, Baxter

Can I take my dog to France by ferry?

The answer is absolutely! There are many dog friendly ferries from the UK to France, once in France you have access to the rest of the EU where you can enjoy freedom of movement. 

As a child, I enjoyed lot of holidays to Brittany with our Springer Spaniel Tommy. Not much has changed, you can still take dogs on Brittany Ferries who offer ferry routes from Portsmouth to Caen, Portsmouth to St Malo, Portsmouth to Cherbourg, Portsmouth to Le Havre, Poole to Cherbourg, and Plymouth to Roscoff.

Do dogs have to stay in the car on a ferry?

Historically, dogs had to remain in their vehicle for the duration of the ferry journey. Due to this, many opted to take the shortest route from Dover to Calais, taking around 1 hour 30 minutes. The Dover to Calais ferry is run by various operators, including P&O Ferries and DFDS.

Fortunately for us, times have changed and more and more travel providers are understanding that people want to take their pets abroad.

Brittany Ferries offer three ways of travelling with your pet. The first and cheapest option is by leaving your dog in your car. Many are comfortable doing this, the cars are in a covered parking deck so remain cool, you must crank the windows down and leave them with sufficient water. You are able to periodically go down to the car and check on them if you ask at reception nicely. I have memories of my dad going down to the car to let Tommy out for a wee and a stretch of his legs.

Do Brittany Ferries have pet friendly cabins?

However, many people, including myself, are not comfortable leaving their dog in the car for more than a few hours. There are now pet friendly cabins on Brittany Ferries, the ships that offer these are Galicia, Salamanca, Pont-Aven and Normandie. These pet friendly cabins are designed to fit one pet comfortably.


Pet friendly cabins are a great way to travel worry-free with your dog

The ferries with pet friendly cabins also offer a safe space to take your pet for some exercise but your dog must be muzzled and on a lead at all times when outside of the cabin.

Last but not least, there is an option to leave your dog in onboard kennels during your crossing. There are two sizes of kennels to suit both large and small dogs. These kennels can be found on four of the Brittany Ferries ships – Bretagne, Galicia, Salamanca and Pont-Aven.

You can read all about bringing your pet onboard with Brittany Ferries here.

Can you take a dog from UK to Ireland by ferry?

If you are taking the ferry from the UK to Ireland, your pets are more than welcome to travel with you.

Irish Ferries offer two options for pet friendly travel, your dog can be pre-booked into the onboard kennels free of charge, or they can stay in the car for the crossing.

It is important to note whilst there is a Liverpool-Dublin ferry route with P&O Ferries, dogs (except for assistance dogs) are not permitted. 

Irish Ferries offer a great pet friendly route between Britain and Ireland

Can I take my dog on the Eurotunnel?

The Eurotunnel is an excellent means of reaching Europe without getting a ferry. It it is a quicker way to travel at just 35 minutes and you can stay with your dog in the car.

The service is officially named ‘Le Shuttle‘ and it is very pet friendly. Start the journey in the terminal before boarding where you will find a pet exercise area along with complimentary doggy bags.

Pets can travel for just £22 per pet each way, whilst Registered Guide and Assistance Dogs travel at no cost at all.

Just to note, when taking dogs on Le Shuttle, you must abide by the rules stated below.

The Eurotunnel is a brilliant option when taking your dogs abroad

Everything you need to know about taking your dog from the UK to the EU

If you are taking your pet into the EU, your pet MUST have an up to date microchip, valid rabies vaccination, an animal health certificate, or a valid pet passport that is accepted into the country you are travelling to.

If you are travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, or Malta, your pet must also have a tapeworm treatment.

Important details:

  • Your pet must be microchipped before or at the same time as their rabies vaccination to avoid having to get the vaccination again.
  • When getting the rabies vaccination for dogs, they must be at least 12 weeks old. Your vet needs proof that your pet is at least 12 weeks old. The vaccine must be an inactivated vaccine or recombinant vaccine that’s approved in the country of use.
  • Please be aware that you cannot travel with dogs until 21 days after they have been vaccinated. Day 1 is the day AFTER the rabies vaccination. If you are just getting a booster, you do not need to wait to travel unless there has been a break in the vaccine cover.
  • You will not need to get repeat vaccinations for trips to the EU or Northern Ireland if your pet’s rabies vaccination is up to date.
  • The date of you pet’s rabies vaccination must be correctly recorded on the animal health certificate. The vaccination record must show your pet’s date of birth, microchip number, date it was put in or read, and where it is on your pet’s body. Vaccination dates must be included as well as the vaccine manufacturer and product name, vaccine batch number, date the vaccination is valid until, and the vet’s signature and contact details.
  • You can add up to 5 animals on the animal health certificate.
  • You must get an animal health certificate in the 10 days before you enter the EU and they can only be issued by a qualified vet.
  • The pet’s animal health certificate will be valid after the date of issue for: 10 days for entry into the EU or Northern Ireland, 4 months for onward travel within the EU, and 4 months for re-entry to Great Britain.
  • Your pet will need a new animal health certificate for each trip to an EU country or Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
  • If you are travelling to a country that requires tapeworm treatment, this must be given no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before you arrive.
  • Tapeworm treatment must be approved for use in the country it is being given in and must contain praziquantel or an equivalent that is effective against the Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm.
  • The tapeworm treatment must be recorded in your animal health certificate alongside the name and manufacturer of the product, the date and time they treated your dog, and their stamp and signature

Rules when taking a dog to Northern Ireland

Despite it being part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland abides by EU law when it comes to the transportation of pets from Britain. This is due to Brexit and having no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

This means the border is now located in the Irish Sea and you must abide by the above points as you would when travelling to another EU country.

The shortest ferry between Britain and Northern Ireland is from Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne, this is serviced by P&O and dogs are welcome but must stay in their owner’s vehicles.

There is also a crossing from Liverpool to Belfast with Stena Line where pet friendly cabins can be booked in advance.

Exploring the Lake District with Baxter

Don’t be put off by the new rules for taking your dog abroad. Whilst it is not ideal, the list of things you need to do is easier than it looks. Call your vet and discuss your trip with them, they are well oiled in this process now and as long as you give them the correct dates of travel, they will do the maths for you.

If you travel to the EU regularly with your pet, keep up to date with their vaccinations so you can travel with more ease.

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