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Travelling with pets

Regulations regarding the carriage of animals are complex and vary from country to country and airline to airline. You are advised to contact the authorities in the destination country, as well as seek advice from your airline or a specialist pet travel agency before planning your journey.


Airlines will only carry animals if advanced arrangements have been made, as space is often limited. There are two options and your airline will be able to tell you which services they are able to offer:

  • Accompanied baggage – most airlines will accept animals as accompanied baggage providing they are in a suitable container. They will travel in the baggage compartment where a suitable environment can be maintained (note – animals arriving in the UK may only do so as manifested air cargo).
  • Air cargo – owners can arrange for their animals to travel as air cargo without making the journey themselves.

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These vary depending on the length of the journey, the weight of the animal and the size of the container. Your airline should be able to give you an estimate of the costs.

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Journey planning

It is advisable to avoid arriving at some airports at weekends when inspection staff may not be on duty. Unlike Heathrow Airports, very few airports have reception centres where animals can be released and cared for until inspection is possible.

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Taking pets out of the UK

You must comply with the requirements of the destination country. Some will only require an export health certificate, some will need proof of vaccination, whilst others will require you to obtain an import permit. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) operates an export helpline on +44 (0)20 7904 6347 or Fax +44 (0)20 7904 6395.

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Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)

The Pet Travel Scheme allows dogs, cats and ferrets to enter or re-enter the UK without serving statutory quarantine providing they meet the requirements of the scheme. Entry requirements vary depending on the species and the country or territory of origin. Pets arriving into Heathrow should be collected from Heathrow Animal Reception Centre their website offers guidance on the scheme and directions. 

The gov.uk website also offers further guidance on the scheme.

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Your pet's travel container must comply with IATA (International Air Transport Association) regulations to be used on the aircraft. The container must also be of suitable size for your pet; they should be able to stand up, turn around and lie down all in a natural position. For further guidance we recommend you watch HARC's YouTube video and speak to an IPATA approved transport agent who should be able to provide a suitable container.

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Assistance dogs

All assistance dogs arriving and transiting through Heathrow must be pre-approved and compliant with The Pet Travel Scheme to travel through all terminals. You can apply for pre-approval by visiting the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre (HARC) website and following the instructions provided; a pre-approval letter will be issued by HARC upon completion. This letter must be shown to check-in staff at your departing airport so your assistance dog may board with you. Upon arrival at Heathrow a member of staff from The Animal Reception will meet you at the flight to check your assistance dog's original paperwork. This should take no longer than 5 minutes.

Please note: additional charges must be paid direct to HARC if your assistance dog has not received training from an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

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