Since Brexit and the removal of the UK from the EU rules around pet travel have changed somewhat. In many cases, as long as a few simple procedures are followed, you can enjoy a trip on a ferry with your dog, cat, or ferret with no problems at all.
Some ferry companies have rules that may differ from one another in terms of where your dog can stay whilst on the ferry, how many dogs you can take with you or where on the ferry you can take your dog, but overall, a boat trip with a canine companion is something that can be put together very easily.
Just be aware before booking, that each ferry company will have its specific pet travel policy.
In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the options available to you if you’re travelling to Ireland, France, Holland or any other port within Europe as well as trips within the UK by ferry.
(As an important side note, please be aware that policies change regularly, as do prices. We have attempted to provide the most accurate information possible at the time of writing, but encourage any potential traveller to double-check all information with their ferry company before booking).
General rules for travelling with pets on ferries
Most ferries’ pet policies focus almost entirely on dogs, as these are the most frequently transported animals. However, since Brexit, the rules that apply to dogs for the most part also cover the transport of cats and ferrets too.
Ferry companies will typically offer options for dog travel based on the length of the journey. Short haul journeys tend to mean that the dog or other pet is required to stay in the car or have access to a designated pet lounge. A longer haul journey will see the dog, cat or ferret be allowed access to a pet-friendly cabin where you can stay with your pet. They may also be granted access to pet-friendly kennels.
Some ferries even have a designated dog walking area so you can give your furry friend a chance to stretch their legs every so often. This again will vary depending on the ferry company.
It can be made a little more difficult for foot passengers, as many ferry operators will expect you to contain your dog in suitable (RSPCA-approved) dog travel crates during the journey. For owners of large-breed dogs, this may be a considerable inconvenience. In fact, some ferry companies do not allow dogs on with foot passengers at all.
Broadly speaking dogs must be kept within designated pet areas and are not permitted in passenger spaces unless they are assistance dogs.
Where dogs are in passenger areas, they are generally expected to be leashed and muzzled to avoid the risk of accidents. For the most part, take it as given that any time your dog is not in a pet-designated zone, it must remain on its lead and muzzled.
Requirements for dogs travelling on a ferry
If you are looking at booking a trip on a ferry for you and your dog it would be wise to ensure your dog meets the requirements of the country you are visiting. If travelling within the EU these are largely the same although there may be a few differences from country to country. At PBS Pet Travel we will be able to advise on the latest information, so you are not caught out at the last moment!
Travelling with a dog on a ferry to Europe
If you are crossing the channel and paying a visit to France, Spain, or any other EU country with port access, you will need to ensure your dog matches the entry requirements. In most cases, this means ensuring that your dog:
- Is microchipped before travel.
- Has an up-to-date rabies vaccination.
- Has an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) issued by an official veterinarian.
Should your dog have already been granted an EU pet passport, it will not require an animal health certificate. You must also ensure that the AHC is dual language covering both English and the language of the country you will first enter.
Should the dog be under 12 weeks old, it will not be allowed to travel on the ferry.
Travelling with a dog on a ferry to the UK
If you are making a journey to the UK, some rules must be adhered to to ensure your dog is granted access to the country.
If travelling from an EU country to the UK, you will need to ensure that your dog, cat or ferret:
- Is microchipped before travel.
- Has an up-to-date rabies vaccination.
- Holds an animal health certificate or EU pet passport.
- Has had a tapeworm treatment between 24-120 hours before the journey back to the UK. (dogs only)
In both instances of travelling either to or from the UK, you will also need to declare that your dog or other pet is not being bought into the country for commercial reasons. For further clarification over two of the most common destinations, we have covered pet travel to France and pet travel to Spain in great detail.
Can you leave your dog in your car on a ferry?
Most ferries allow you to leave your dog in your car. If doing so, be aware that it may not be possible to visit your pet during the journey. If in doubt, ask at the time of booking. Dogs left in cars should have suitable access to fresh water, and windows should be left ajar to allow fresh air in. You may also want to provide absorbent bedding in case of accidents. Most ferry companies recommend the use of on-board kennels if available.
Can guide dogs go on ferries?
Guide dogs and assistance dogs are welcome on most, if not all ferries and for the most part will be allowed access to all passenger areas. They will still require a harness or lead whilst on board in public areas.
In many cases, if the dog is a member of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) or Assistance Dogs International (ADI) it will be granted access to the public areas of the ship. Dogs seen as emotional support dogs and not recognised by these organisations are not granted the same rights so it is always worth checking with the chosen ferry company first.
Items you need for your dog on a ferry
There is a small list of essentials you should bring for any trip where your dog will be onboard a ferry.
- A muzzle
- A lead
- Absorbent bedding
- Bags and tissues in case of accidents
- Some toys
Specficic ferry companies for pet travel
Each ferry company is different, so deciding on the best solution for your needs can be difficult. The following table is designed to help you identify the key points from each company. Below the table you will find a more detailed run-down of each company.
Dog travel Brittany Ferries
Brittany Ferries services both France and Spain, and the costs of taking pets vary by destination. At the time of writing the cost of taking a dog to France is £29each way, while journeys to Spain cost approximately £45. On-board kennels can also be made available too.
All pets must be accompanied by their owner (or handler). Brittany Ferries is one of the few ferry companies to offer pet-friendly cabins and exercise areas on some vessels – but you are advised to check for availability before booking.
Dog travel Condor Ferries
Condor services both France and the Channel Islands. If heading to the Channel Islands on foot, you simply pay £11 each way for your pet. If you are going by car, there is no charge for your pet. Should you use Condor for travel to France, you will be charged £20 each way for your dog to go on the trip. No dogs are permitted with foot passengers.
Dog travel DFDS Seaways
Costs vary by destination, typically ranging between £15 and £20. At the time of writing it costs £15 each way to take a dog from Dover to Calais, £18 from Newhaven to Dieppe and £19 from Newcastle to Amsterdam. On-board kennels are available for journeys to Holland, at a price of £6 each.
Dog travel with P&O ferries
As one of the largest ferry companies in Europe there are a host of routes available for you to take your dog, cat or ferret on.
Irish journeys are free for pets though they must remain locked in your car. However, the introduction of pet lounges has meant they can stay in their area with you for an additional cost.
At the time of writing dogs travelling from Hull to Rotterdam must be kept in the on-board kennels which are charged at £22 each way. Dover to Calais costs £15 each way, while Hull to Zeebrugge costs £22 each way. Assistance dogs travel free.
Dog travel on Pentland Ferries
It is free to transport dogs, though they must remain within your vehicle or on the outer decks at all times and are not permitted within the vessel.
Dog travel on Stena Line
Stena caused controversy in late 2022 with a plan to stop dogs and small pets from having access to passenger areas on short crossings but now that plan has been reversed and has instead seen the introduction of a specific pet-friendly area on those routes. For international trips, pets can benefit from dog-friendly cabins. On some routes, the dogs can be booked into kennels, on some they have access to specific lounges whilst on others it is possible to stay in the car. Pet travel is free when dogs remain in your vehicle and also comes at no cost on trips between Ireland and Scotland.
Dog travel on Wightlink
Dogs, cats and other small animals can be transported for free. There are no on-board kennels so your pet should be confined to your vehicle, though Wightlink does maintain a pet-friendly lounge area. Should your pet remain in your vehicle, whilst you are on the deck, you will not be able to return to your pet whilst the crossing is in progress
Dog travel on Eurotunnel
While not a ferry, taking your dog abroad along the Channel Tunnel is arguably one of the most practical solutions due to the short journey time. Additionally, the Eurotunnel offers dedicated exercise areas for dog owners (and their pets!).
Dogs, cats and ferrets may be transported with the relevant pet travel documents for £22 each way. Most other small pets such as rodents, cage birds, reptiles and amphibians are free. All pets must remain locked in your car during the journey.
At PBS Pet Travel, our years of experience have helped us facilitate pet transport across the globe. Should a ferry trip be in mind, contact us! We can help ensure the smooth, careful and safe transportation of your furry friends to your chosen destination.