Who to contact for travel support
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The majority of dogs will have been trained to support their owners in familiar environments, travelling to and from places they know well. Therefore taking them on a trip to an unfamiliar place with an environment, weather, infrastructure and attitude towards assistance dogs and disabled people which is different from the UK may be challenging for some dogs and you as the owner.
Your local Guide Dogs Mobility Team or assistance dog training organisation will have a wealth of knowledge and experience which can be used to help you prepare for your journey.
Assistance dog owners should contact their training organisation, the details of which can be found on the Assistance Dogs UK website.
It is also vitally important to make contact with your vet, especially if you are planning to take your dog abroad. Veterinary practices should have access to at least one vet who is an Official Veterinarian (OV) who has the knowledge and skills to prepare a dog owner for travel abroad.
Your guide or assistance dog will need to have a European PETS passport for any trips made outside of the UK, including the Republic of Ireland. The process of obtaining the passport also means your dog will be vaccinated against rabies and will be required to have a tapeworm treatment prior to re-entry into the UK.
The rabies vaccination and tapeworm treatment are for public health concerns; however there are many diseases your dog might pick up when visiting foreign countries, which you will need to prepare for, but fall outside of the regulatory framework. Your OV will be able to advise you about these and what you need to do to prepare your dog.
You may also find a wealth of information and advice about the PETS Travel Scheme by visiting the PETS Travel web pages on the Department for the Environment, food and Rural Affairs website.
The PETS Travel Scheme is primarily designed for dogs entering or re-entering the UK or the rest of Europe. However, countries outside of Europe may well have their own importation rules and regulations. It is therefore advisable to contact the Embassy or Consulate of the country you are planning to visit, to make sure you have all the correct paperwork and procedures in place, so that your journey with your guide or assistance dog is a success.
You may also find that the appropriate agency in the country you are visiting, designated to manage importation, may have website resources which can help you with this process, as places like Japan and Australia have very strict rules regarding the importation of dogs, with guide and assistance dogs being treated similarly to other pet dogs.
You may also find that the operator, tour operator or agent of the service you are travelling with may have advice or guidance to support you with your journey, especially with regard to the specialist provision made to accommodate guide or assistance dogs and their owners.
You may also like to think about contacting the ports you are visiting along your route, to inform them that you will be entering into or departing from them with your dog, although most operators and their agents should be able to advise as to what the disembarkation or embarkation rules are in each port.
It is vital that you ensure you have knowledge of, or a booking with, a vet in the country you are visiting. This is mandatory, especially when departing on the last leg of a journey prior to re-entry back into the UK or Europe, as it is the vet in that place who is legally required to administer the tapeworm treatment and stamp your PETS passport.
The other reason it is vital to know where a vet can be reached is if your dog becomes ill when travelling abroad. They will be able to advise on treatment, operate on your dog if necessary, or help with long-term residential treatment and repatriation.
To that end, health insurance is vital for your dog to cover the cost of treatment, residential or long term care, your extended stay and/or repatriation of your dog. In extreme circumstances, this may cost thousands of pounds, which you will more than likely have to pay upfront and recover the cost of on return to the UK.
Lastly, you may be able to get some support for your visit from the guide or assistance dog organisation in the country you are visiting, although it may be advice and support that you will need to pay for. A list of these organisations can be found at:
- Travel by air
- Travel by car
- Travel by coach or bus
- Travel by rail
- Travel by water
- Assistance dogs (UK) ID book
- Welfare of a guide dog when travelling
- Advice on entering the UK for international visitors
- Information on Pet Travel Scheme
- Support from UK service providers
- Regulations that support international travel
- Who to contact for travel support