Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why can't I fly to the UK with my pet in the cabin?

our dog Ellie on her way to Malta

A couple of months ago I started doing a little investigative blogging work, after many questions from readers and fellow travellers about bringing their pets to Malta. Travelling, particularly flying, with your pets is a tricky business. So here is the information I've gathered about a very specific situation that I hope will be useful to you in planning your trip or relocation.

We frequently travel with our dogs between Malta and Canada, which requires us to fly from Malta to Germany to Central Canada to Eastern Canada. We are originally from Halifax - a tantalizingly short 5 hour flight from London, UK. But we can't fly from London to Halifax with our dogs, as they are too small to fly cargo, and pets cannot travel to the UK in the cabin.

However, pet import rules to the UK and Malta, among other European countries, recently changed. And I wanted to know if this restriction would soon change too.

I contacted Air Canada and received this reply:
The rule regarding pets in the cabin to the UK is one that is enforced by the British Government. Per their rules, "All animals (except guide dogs) travelling to or from the UK must travel in the hold as manifest cargo". 
What changed with pets travelling to the UK is the the mandatory quarantine issue, allowing pet owners to avoid the six month quarantine provided certain conditions are met. 
As these conditions can only be verified by UK officials upon arrival in the UK, we are still required to adhere to the manifested cargo policy for all pet travel except guide dogs.
OK, that's fair. But I wanted to learn more about why animals had to travel as cargo to the UK. So I contacted the British Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). They told me that:
Defra’s [The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs] main concern is to ensure that every animal entering the country under PETS [the UK's pet import scheme] is properly checked for compliance. So that the operation of the scheme is not prejudiced and at an airport, this checking occurs at an animal reception centre (ARC). Pets enter the UK as 'manifest cargo' as this allows the carrier to log the presence of the pet on board the flight and further provides documentary evidence of this. By doing so, UK portal staff are made aware of a pet's presence on board a flight and can thus ensure staff from the ARC collect the animals from the aircraft, transport them to the ARC where full PETS checks are carried out upon the entry of the pet into the UK. Compliant pets can then be released to the person responsible for them, while any discrepancies can be dealt with during which time the pet concerned is safely housed in quarantine conditions at the ARC.
Essentially, pets cannot travel in the cabin to the UK because staff cannot, or will not, be allocated to meet travellers with cabin-travelling-pets at arrivals and take them to the ARC. Unfortunate, but that's the way it is. You can find a list of approved routes for travelling to the UK with dogs here.

Oh well - we chose to get small dogs and we chose to live abroad and travel with them. In the larger scale of things it's a small inconvenience. But when someone tells me 'No' my first question is always 'Why?' (it's that darn journalistic training) and I hope this helps other curious travellers answer their questions too.

HELPFUL LINKS


// Our previous post about traveling with and importing pets to Malta


// A great resource for easily finding airline pet policies (they are often hidden away deep within an airline's web site)

// A fantastic guide for traveling with pets - everything from how to prepare, pet crates and carriers, and traveling by plane, ferry, car, or through the Chunnel - from AHVLA in the UK.

- Jess

7 comments :

  1. One change (that doesn't help you, sadly) is that small pets are now allowed to LEAVE the UK in cabin, when before they were still required to fly as cargo. We avoided the quarantine for our pets when we moved to England by following the PET Travel Scheme six months in advance, and that was two and a half years ago- the biggest difference now is that instead of having to prepare six months in advance it's only a 21 day wait. Air Canada's information makes it sound like the six months were required prior to 1 January 2012, and that's not the case (assuming you were prepared). That said, I wish ours could fly in cabin- but they're too big by any airline's standards!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. holy moly you are a dedicated dog mother!! three flights one way!! yikes.. now what about if they're emotional support animals.. you should look into that... my dog is my emotional support animal so he gets to fly free with me on airlines in the cabin... but within the US not sure how it works abroad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had no idea emotional support animals even existed, I just did a quick Google and they're fascinating! I would be interested to know if other countries have similar arrangements.

      Delete
  3. I need to move my Chihuahua with us back to the UK in about 5/6 months time. I am trying to prepare now, and get my plan of action sorted. How do I get my baby back with me, so that I can travel with her (as she gets scared when she's not with me)

    Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated

    x Kim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kim,

      Thanks for stopping by! We have never taken our dogs into the UK, but here are a few ideas:

      While not ideal, you might try flying into a nearby country and taking a train or bus from there. You could also fly to a nearby country with your pet in the cabin, and then take a shorter flight to the UK with your pet as cargo, so she doesn't have to spend too much time separated from you. Since you have a Chihuahua you should do some research about cargo and weight restrictions, as some airlines restrict the weight of dogs they will carry as cargo.

      I hope this helps, do let us know how you get on. Good luck and safe travels!

      Delete
  4. Hi Jess, nice post!

    I also love the why's!

    Called DEFRA today and just found out you can now take pet in the cabin to the UK. Great!

    PETS Helpline

    Telephone: +44 (0)370 241 1710 – Monday to Friday – 8am to 6pm UK time (closed Bank Holidays).

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/imports-exports/pets/

    Spread the message!

    Cheers
    Leandro

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Jess, nice post!

    I also love the why's!

    Called DEFRA today and just found out you can now take pet in the cabin to the UK. Great!

    PETS Helpline

    Telephone: +44 (0)370 241 1710 – Monday to Friday – 8am to 6pm UK time (closed Bank Holidays).

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/imports-exports/pets/

    Spread the message!

    Cheers
    Leandro

    ReplyDelete

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