Does your new pet passport fall foul of the rules?
Last week I travelled back from France to the UK with my two dogs. We’re frequent travellers so I know the pet passport rules and it’s the third time this year we’ve travelled using the dogs’ current passports. The passports are almost identical having been issued at the same time, by the same vet using the same stamps so you can imagine my surprise when I was stopped at pet passport control at Calais and told I couldn’t travel because one of the passports wasn’t valid. Even though we’ve travelled on this passport before. And I wasn’t alone, there were half dozen other travellers being told the same.
The new scheme for pet Passport entry into UK
It turns out one of my dogs’ passports was issued under the new scheme which came into force at the end of last year. And one of the changes that the new scheme brought in concerns the details of the stamp used on page 8 of the passport (the Rabies page) by the vet who issued the passport. It is no longer sufficient just to have just an “Official Veterinarian” stamp. Instead the verification must include the name, address, telephone number and signature of the vet (notwithstanding that these details appear on the page before and didn’t appear at all under the old scheme).
Although the rule came into force some time ago, it clearly hasn’t been enforced until now and it’s tempting to think that with the new building and new uniforms have come a new approach. It’s also not easy to spot whether you have a new or old scheme passport as from the outside they are more or less identical. However inside the new passports have a different layout and laminated areas.
The morale of the story
I was eventually allowed to travel but only after my vet in the UK had been contacted and had completed and faxed back (yes faxed) a particular form. Had they not done so on the day I was due to travel, I was told I couldn’t travel at all.
So, if you are travelling with your pet to and from France:
1. Even if you think you are compliant, double check before you go. Your vet in the UK and France should know the rules but they don’t always. I’ve had a vet in France refuse to sign as well as stamp the passport, until I begged him to humour me. And don’t assume if there are changes to the scheme and the headline changes don’t apply to you, that you haven’t been affected. There’s lots of help online https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad if you are in any doubt.
2. Hard as it may be, don’t lose your temper in passport control. The changes are ridiculous and they said as much to me. But I was dealt with much quicker than my fellow travellers who lost their cool. In fact, the lady dealing with me couldn’t have done more for me, even calling my vet in the UK for me and generally calming my mounting sense of panic.
It’s great that that pet lovers can take their pets with them to France and back these days and such a change from when I was a child and there were long periods of quarantine. But it is important to remember that the rules surrounding taking pets abroad are evolving and you have to keep a firm eye on the changes.
(Dated September 2015)