With all my backpacking trips behind me it was time to focus on the last things I needed to get done to make my move to England; this pretty much focused on everything to do with the dogs and the animal entry requirements to the UK. England is one of the strictest countries to move animals to, and rightly so since they are one of the only rabies-free countries in the world.
The official sites are helpful but I found few accounts of personal experiences with moving a dog (or more than one) from the US to the UK…so I thought I’d write out how things worked out for me. Please bear in mind that any information contained herein is only from my personal experience and should not be construed as legal advice or importation recommendations/regulations; refer ONLY to the two websites listed below for exact and current legal requirements.
While this is standard in the US there are a few more hoops to jump through when going to the UK: This includes any rabies vaccination prior to being micro-chipped and the vaccination recorded with the microchip number being classed as invalid by the UK. However, getting Cody and Kye micro-chipped and then vaccinated was a standard and painless process and no different from any other vet appointment for their regular vaccinations, albeit a year early. I was able to use my normal vet for this as there are no special USDA requirements for giving the rabies vaccination. You will need to ask for all the extra information regarding the specific rabies vaccine the vet uses as this is required to be included on the health certificate. I had booked this appointment for September 4th so that I had a good buffer for the 21 day minimum wait time before flying to the UK in October.
Health Certificate for the UK/EU
Due to being in a different town for my last month in the US I brought Kye and Cody’s entire vet records with me. Health certificates for international travel can only be issued by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian. Not all vet clinics will have this so you have to call around and ask. I only had to make a couple of phone calls to find a clinic close enough that had an accredited veterinarian on staff. Health certificates have to be issued no more than 10 days prior to arrival in the UK or they will be invalid.
I booked my health certificate appointment well in advance for the sake of caution; I tried to make sure all my T’s were crossed and my I’s were dotted immaculately…I didn’t want a single issue at the other end. When I called and asked the animal hospital said they had issued them before. However, when I got to the clinic no one really knew what they were doing and I was glad I had done my research as no one, including me, was sure which health certificate was needed.
After several phone calls to the USDA APHIS office in Idaho we finally found the right form and got it filled out correctly but the clinic’s computers weren’t behaving. For some reason none of the information would fit in the boxes, including from drop down menus built in to the form on USDA website. With the vet having checked out the dogs she approved them to travel and signed the health certificate. Thankfully the one page she had to endorse was not one of the pages that was having issues. I ended up returning home in order to redo the form which I then printed out at the library.
With the forms now looking better and fully complete I headed for the UPS store to overnight the health certificate and rabies vaccination certificates to Idaho. (Each region or state has a specific APHIS endorsement office so it isn’t Idaho for everyone). A return label is also required to be preppaid and sent with the health certificate and the website specifically states that your address has be both sender and receiver on the return label or it may be rejected. It was received in Idaho on time the following day and was back with me in under 48 hours of the moment I sent it out. I had two copies of the health certificate, just in case one got lost…never can be too careful. I also asked for a copy to be made after the APHIS endorsement. I was carrying a lot of paperwork.
For travel to the UK Cody and Kye were required to have treatment for Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm that include praziquantel or an equivalent. This had to be done 5 days or less before ARRIVAL in the UK and must be done by the vet and recorded on the health certificate. The tapeworm treatment is the only part of the UK entry requirements that can be done after the health certificate has been endorsed by APHIS.
I booked the dogs in for the tapeworm treatment on Monday as our flight was scheduled to depart on Wednesday. It was a pretty painless appointment except that the vet wasn’t really sure how to fill out the health certificate properly. We got it done though and I filed away both the health certificate, the rabies vaccination certificates and a copy of the de-wormer packaging that was used; the vet’s writing wasn’t the most legible.
And that was the last of the required legal and medical preparation that was needed to move the dogs to the UK
Beyond the legal stuff that is required to enter the UK there are so many other things to plan for and around.
I already owned a medium (400 series) Grreat Choice dog crate from Petsmart; it was what I bought Cody to use as a kennel in Arizona so both Kye and Cody were used to having free access to it, and I knew Cody liked having the hidey space. However, with there being specific travel requirements for dog crates in regards to size I made the decision to size up for Cody. There was a possibility that the medium-size would have been fine but I wasn’t willing to take a risk on it not being appropriate. In Bend I bought a large crate (500 series) that actually seemed too big for him. Once I was back in Washington I made sure that both dogs got used to sleeping in their crates; Cody took to his immediately (no surprise there) but Kye took a couple of days to be comfortable in using that as her bed consistently.
Taking time to let dogs get used to their travel crates is imperative. International travel is stressful enough on both you and your critters, and them knowing and feeling that their crate is their safe space goes a long way in reducing an animal’s stress level.
I bought beds specific to the crate size, added the non-slip memory foam bath mats they had used in the RV and added an extra blanket. They slept every night in the crates any time we were in a residential setting where I could set them up; no matter where we were they knew them as home and always went in and settled down. This was a good routine to get into, and the last month of our time in the US they were used exclusively as we no longer traveled.
Despite my own self-reassurance I kept questioning whether Kye’s crate was going to be classed as too small when I arrived at the cargo depot. It would have been a disaster to have them deny to ship her because of a crate that was deemed too small. She was at the maximum measurements for a crate of that size but could stand, sit and lay down naturally (ie not forced to curl up) which is what the specifications required…but I was still concerned. I measured and re-measured and emailed and sent pictures to as many people as I could at both ends of the shipping line…I got mixed responses but nothing concrete about whether it was suitable.
With a quote for only $200 more for two crates of the size Cody was using I decided to just do it…the worry wasn’t worth the stress and a slightly larger crate would likely make Kye’s travel more comfortable. So out I went again to buy a new crate for Kye and ended up donating the smaller crate to the local border collie rescue group.
Travel requirements also specify that bowls for food and water must be provided and attached in such a way that they can be reached from the outside of the crate. Most pet stores and Walmart sell suitable bowls that can be clamped to the wire door. This was when I was glad to have bought the larger crate for Cody as the bowls cannot take up much floor space so that a dog may lie down, stretched out (if they choose).
While the dogs were both micro-chipped and would be traveling in secure crates I like to doubly-cover my bases and bought a couple of key tags. On them I wrote their names and my mom’s UK cell number and added them to their collars alongside the tags that already had my US phone number on them. You can never be too careful when it comes to your pets.
Food was another issue I was facing; there are few dog food companies that sell their food in both the US and UK. Sure, IAMS and Science Diet are both available but I refuse to feed that junk to my dogs. The only brand of suitable quality I could find available in both countries was Taste of the Wild…my normal brand wasn’t available in the UK…but my mom couldn’t easily get a hold of it. I did some research and talked to some friends and family in the UK who owned pets and got their recommendations. This is where it is helpful to have my mom helping me out as I could have her look for what I needed and pick up what was necessary.