Transporting Dogs and Cats from the UK to Spain

Having moved my dogs several times to different countries I can say that relocating to another country with pets can be a very stressful time. For most people the thought of leaving your ‘baby’ behind is just not an option. This is when the ordeal of moving your pet to Spain becomes a reality.

Often referred to as ‘PETS’, The Pet Travel Scheme, has been set up so that dogs and cats that normally call the UK home can travel to other countries. This is provided they comply with the strict requirements, and fortunately, Spain is a country that accepts pet relocation. The scheme is also beneficial in that it allows your pet to also travel back to the UK, should you ever need to go home due to any unforeseen circumstances.


No Quarantine

It used to be that; it was standard practice for your pet to have to go into very extended quarantine after travelling outside the UK, and other countries may have required quarantine on arrival . Today, fortunately, this is no longer the case, preventing much distress to your pet, this is due to the Pet Travel Scheme.

Essentially PETS is a set of requirements, which are in place to ensure your pet meets the regulated standard deemed safe and healthy for travelling in or out of participating countries. The reasoning behind this is to prevent the transmission of disease (particularly rabies) from country to country.

It is therefore extremely important to follow and comply with the rules down to the very last detail. This will ensure the smoothest transition for you when moving your pet to Spain.

Only specified routes allow pets to move between the UK and Spain

These routes are covered by air, ferry, and rail transportation

There are several options that include ferry crossings from Dover to Calais, as well as the popular Portsmouth routes to Coen, Cherbourg, Le Harve and other destinations You can also opt for rail crossings making use of the shuttle services of Eurotunnel, unfortunately it is worth noting that Eurostar does not offer pet transportation.

Movement by air is mostly serviced from Heathrow airport, but there are flights from other airports such as Manchester and Gatwick, although it is advisable to check with individual airlines operating out of your chosen airport to see if the service is available, before you begin your search for flights remember that Easyjet, Ryanair and some other ‘no frills’ airlines do not fly animals.

UK to Spain travel Options

1.A combination of Ferry/Rail and Driving:

You may drive to Spain, either via the ferry across to Santander from Southampton or by driving across France and on to Spain. This can be a long journey however, and may cause a very unhappy pet and family Driving is sometimes the only option we are left with, as your pet may be older with health issues or perhaps even be excluded from flying. For example, Boxers and other very short nosed breeds are not permitted to fly due to the high risk of suffocation during flight time as they may be stressed and need to pant more than their short nose will allow.

2 Fly Direct to Spain:

This is usually arranged through a third party company who work alongside your chosen airline. Through these specialist companies you may organize for your pet to fly a few days after you or even more conveniently on the same flight, ensuring everyone arrives safe and sound on the same day. If you have chosen to fly your pet to Spain however, please note this option usually requires a little more organization. It is therefore important to give yourself plenty of time to start planning ahead, as it will take longer than you think to organize. You will need to begin by researching which airline or companies at your chosen airport will courier animals, as not all airlines will offer this service. Companies who allow animals to fly in cargo include Air Lingus, Monarch, Norwegian Airlines, Jet 2 and Fly Be.


Flying your Pet with an Animal Transportation Company

It is important to note that most airlines will not let you book directly with them, however will have third party representatives deal with pet transportation on their behalf. The role of these types of companies is to book your pet onto the flight, prepare the relevant paper work and transport your pet into cargo.

Details of these companies can generally be found on an airlines website. If you are having any problems locating them though, it is best to contact the airline directly and ask for their representative. These companies will all work independently, so it is a good idea to contact several of them and ask around for quotations. When you have received quotations, you will then be in the position to decide which company suits your own individual needs and requirements.

NOTE: Remember to ask about hidden charges when enquiring. It has been known for people to arrive at Alicante or Valencia Airport, and get a nasty surprise bill when collecting their pet. These additional charges can be harsh and are often “reasoned” or “justified” by the airport or courier service as their fee for transporting your pet from the cargo to collection point or ‘out of hours’ services. You could therefore be looking at an additional payment before being handed your pet. So, even if this is out of the hands of the company you chose to use, at least ask them to be honest or reasonable in letting you know if this could be a reality you are faced with.


PETS Requirements

If flying your pet to Spain, ‘PETS’ requires your pet to be a holder of a pet passport. In order to be eligible for one, your pet must meet the following stipulations.

 Dogs or cats will need

  • To have been fitted with a microchip that meets ISO specifications

  • Have received all of its vaccinations protecting against rabies including any required booster shots

  • . NOTE: Pets must be a minimum of 12 weeks of age and be microchipped prior to receiving their shots.

  • Cats and dogs are only permitted to travel within 21 days of receiving the rabies shots.

  • It is required that each animal should have a blood test 30 days before travelling to prove they are not carrying rabies, if they should fail the test for any reason the rules state that the pet must again be vaccinated and then re-tested.

  • One very important point is that all pets are required to wait a rather agonising six months after a clear test before they are permitted to re-enter the UK.

Once all of the above has been undertaken and your pet has been approved with a clean bill of health, you will be able to apply for your pet passport. It will state your pet details (male, tabby, name etc) as well as certification of all the above (micro chipped, vaccinated etc.)

Your pet passport is as important as your passport, without it and your pet will NOT be able to travel!

Official UK Government information on importing pets

NOTE: Your pet will also have to undergo a final visit to the vet 48 hours before he or she is due to fly, even when they already have their passport. This is to be given the all clear, with all final paper work signed off. It advised at this stage to also obtain a signed letter from your vet stating that your pet is healthy and safe to travel. This ensures piece of mind in case there be any hiccups at the airport, as, the strangeness of government red tape means that your pets passport does not actually physically state that he or she is fit and healthy to travel. It prevents solely relying on passport stamps, especially as some airports are stricter than others.


Best practices on Travel day

If you are flying or using a ferry crossing it is a good idea to avoid feeding your pet on the day of travel. Although this seems a little cruel, it means that the pet is not stressing about going to the toilet, especially as it will not be used to going to the toilet inside a box. And in reality it can be pretty awful trying to get your pet clean at the airport if it has been lying in its own filth for a couple of hours.

If flying your pet to Spain, your transport company will have informed you of where to meet them in the airport. This is generally at the Cargo area and where you will hand over and say goodbye to your loved one until collection at the other side. Pets will be placed into a carry box legally suited to their size, which will have been organized prior to flying by the measurements of your pet you submitted.

Make sure the measurements you have submitted are correct, as this will determine the size of the travel box required on the day. At this stage, you will be asked to produce your documents and possibly payment if you have not already done so.

If you follow all of the steps above, prepare in advance and ask plenty of questions, flying your pet to Spain should be pleasant and stress free experience. You may say good-bye to your pet and sit back and relax during the flight, knowing that you will be reunited with them in a matter of hours.

Flying can often be a stressful time for pets and tends to throw them off form a day or two. The choice you have made to bring them with you, your life and to to a sunnier climate is something they will soon realize as a good choice and forgive you.

It is best to avoid feeding pets before flying or a ferry crossing, most pets know where they can and cant go to the toilet, so the unfamiliar surroundings of  the travel crate will confuse and stress them. also trying to get your animal clean at the airport after it has been lying in its own filth is not pleasant.


Tranquillising Pets

Some people give their pets mild tranquillisers before the flight, although this has its advantages the airlines are very much against this practice, as are most vets. You should be aware that at the height of summer just about all airlines will not carry pets to hot destinations such as Spain, or if they do, it will probably be a late night flight to take advantage of the cooler conditions, so that is something to check out early in the process.

That Stress problem

As I stated at the beginning of this article moving pets can be very stressful, but that stress mostly comes from getting the paperwork in order and not the actual flight or crossing. It is worthwhile considering using an transport company to help you deal with the paperwork and the airline or ferry company to reduce that stress so that you can just enjoy having you pet in Spain with you, instead of worrying about the details.

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