Planning to travel to France with animals in tow? Consider these important points
For many of us, the family just wouldn’t be complete without a four-legged bundle of energy and the idea that we would move to France without them is unthinkable. Owning a pet can help you make friends, give you a reason to explore new areas and make the most of the extra space that homes in France are often able to offer. So, for those of you who are hoping to move to France with cats or canines in tow, here are a few things to think about.
There are no official restrictions on the movement of pet rabbits, rodents, fish or reptiles, so taking these domestic animals over to France is nice and easy. In the case of cats and dogs, however, these must have their own passport to cross national borders, including those that are within the EU. As of 29 December 2014, these passports include a unique passport number to improve traceability as well as the pet details and the contact details of the issuing vet.
Pet passports are used by border officials to check that animals have been properly vaccinated, and if these aren’t kept up to date you will not be allowed to come back to the UK. As part of your pet’s annual passport check, your vet will administer the usual vaccinations including the all-important rabies vaccine, and these must be entered correctly in the passport.
The issue of rabies is treated so seriously that modern passports now feature laminated strips that must be placed over each rabies vaccination entry, to prevent information being falsified. If you already had a passport before December 2014, you should note that you don’t need to request one of the modern versions until you fill your current passport up and need to get a new one. The cost of getting a passport and vaccinations is around £250.
Pet border control
In general, it is unlikely that your documents will be inspected on your way from the UK to France – which means that you need to make very sure that you have everything you need coming back. In order to cross the border, however, you must follow these requirements:
• Your pet must be microchipped by a vet
• Following the chip, your pet should receive a rabies vaccination. This must take place at least 21 days before you travel
• Your vet must complete a pet passport, documenting your pet’s chip number and stamping the correct page to show when the rabies vaccination was given and its expiry date.
Returning to the UK is a little more complicated and you need to follow the rules to avoid having your pet put in quarantine. Your documents will be checked so make sure you have everything with you – if a rabies vaccine has expired you will have to stay in France for at least 21 days.
In the case of dogs, you will also need to have your pet treated for tapeworm in order to cross back into the UK, and this must be given no less than one day (24 hours) but no more than five days (120 hours) before your return to the UK. It’s important that you build this into your schedule, so make sure you find a registered local vet who can do this.
A little research into the area you have chosen to live or holiday in should reveal where you’ll be able to find appropriate vets, and it is always worth looking in the Pages Jaunes directory. If you are at the stage where you are buying a property, you could also ask your local maire, who you will most likely be speaking to already. As in the UK, prices of services can vary from practice to practice.
The Brittany Ferries website has an extremely useful list of approved vets throughout Brittany and Normandy, while the Pet Reception Building is a handy source of information when travelling to France via Eurotunnel.
Rules for travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel
Whether you travel by ferry or Eurotunnel, there will be a fee for taking on most pets including cats and dogs (although you should note that rabbits aren’t allowed on Brittany Ferries routes). Currently, these are £18 each way per pet on Eurotunnel, and £16-£30 on Brittany Ferries.
Some ferry routes have kennels and pet-friendly cabins; those that don’t have these require the dog to be left in the car but owners can be given passes to visit their animals during the crossing. You should check the website for more rules on the size of car, ventilation requirements and so on. Some airlines also offer pet transport services and you could also look into using professional animal transfer companies.
Dogs in France
One important aspect of taking your dog with you to live your French dream is walking and exercise, so it is prudent to research your chosen area. Some beaches, for example, especially in the northern departments, place restrictions either banning dogs altogether or requiring owners to keep them on a lead at all times. National parks also have restrictions in some areas, especially during grouse seasons or where sheep dogs are working, so check that you won’t be leaving the dog at home more than you’d like.
On the other hand, the French are a nation of dog-lovers and many hotels and restaurants are very welcoming. You will also be pleased to know that the crackdown on poop in the streets is resulting in cleaner town environments for everyone!
Owning a cat or dog is a wonderful addition to family life, and for many Brits life in France wouldn’t be the same without them. Sometimes this might mean that your property search will have to be tailored to suit their needs as well as your own lifestyle.