We are coming up on the one year anniversary of adopting our dog Max from Dogs Trust, a charity that rehomes unwanted and abandoned dogs in the UK from several centers throughout the country. Max has been an amazing companion and this past year has been so memorable with him in our lives. Owning a dog in the UK isn’t that much different than in the US, but there are a couple key points that I can touch on.
There are four breeds of dogs that are illegal to own and breed in the UK. These breeds were banned through the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 and include the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa and Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero (aka Argentinian and Brazilian Mastiffs). These are dogs associated with being bred for dog fighting. I am of the school of thought that there are no dangerous dog breeds, only dangerous and irresponsible dog owners, but I will save that argument for another day. These breeds have a deep stigma in the UK which is reflected by legislation so they are not allowed here.
Identifying Your Dog
Sadly the UK government hasn’t done much to ensure dogs are properly identified. Dog owners are legally required to indentify their dogs through ID tags on their collars, although this law is loosely enforced. Dog charities like Dogs Trust are working hard to encourage new legislation to make microchipping compulsory for dogs, an action that I fully support to reduce the number of abandoned dogs and hold dog owners accountable for their pets. Dogs can be microchipped at a vet’s office for around £20-30 and discounted microchipping is available at all Dogs Trust rehoming centres in the UK and also many local councils sponsor reduced cost microchipping events to encourage the public to take this extra step in being responsible for their pets.
Restraining and Cleaning Up After Your Dog
Every council has different rules and regulations regarding keeping your dog on a leash and cleaning up after your dog. Most councils will fine you for having your dog off a leash in unauthorized areas and there are also fines for not cleaning up after your dog’s waste in public. Here in Hartlepool there are strict rules about keeping dogs on leash in parks and fouling laws that cover the whole town. Not cleaning up after your dog here can cost you £80!
This is probably the biggest difference I have found in owning a dog here in the UK, the cost of getting doggy health insurance is very affordable so it is more common for dog owners to take out insurance policies to cover vet bills for their pets. There are several companies that insure pets at different levels. The cost of insurance depends on the size and breed of your dog and if they have existing health problems. It is more expensive to insure a pure bred dog, and the cost goes up from there if your breed of dog is prone to certain health conditions. The cost is also higher for breeding dogs. Our Max is a neutered mutt so we only pay £12 a month for his coverage and he is covered for any vet bills over £75. It is a small price to pay to know that if he needs an operation or gets injured that vet bills won’t be a worry.
Bringing your Dog to the UK
The UK has some of the most stringent guidelines for bringing dogs into the country. Simply put if you are moving to the UK for an extended period of time (over a year) it might be worth it to jump through all the hoops and bring your canine companion along, but if you are only coming for a few months it is best to find a friend or family member to care for your dog until you return from your stay here. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has set out a kind of “pet passport” program called the Pet Travel Scheme (or PETS for short) which allows certain pets to travel to the UK without quarantine. However the process is extensive and requires quite a bit of planning and attention to detail. If you choose not to follow PETS or fail to correctly complete the process, your dog must stay in quarantine for 6 months.
Under PETS dogs are required to be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and also blood tested. These processes must be carried out in a certain order and within a certain amount of time so this isn’t something that can be undertaken on short notice and you should allow about 6 months to go through the whole process to prepare your pet to come to the UK and meet the requirements of PETS. There are also specific procedural guidelines for how the vaccinations and blood tests must be carried out and any small discrepancy could land your dog in quarantine. More details and factsheets related to PETS can be found here on the Defra website. Animals must also travel on specific routes meaning you don’t have much choice of which flight you take and it could cost significantly more for you and your pet to travel to the UK and require you to travel far out of your way to get onto an approved route.
I think the biggest downfall of PETS is that animals traveling to the UK by air are required to travel as cargo. I would never allow my dog to travel as cargo as it can be a traumatizing experience for an animal and many animals that travel this way can end up injured or killed from shifting cargo and fluctuating temperatures in the cargo hold of the plane. I find it puzzling that a scheme aimed at protecting animals in the UK requires animals to travel in such an unsafe and high-risk manner. The only exception to this rule is for guide or service dogs which are allowed to travel on approved routes if the airline allows service animals in the cabin.
If you are planning to move to the UK and are a dog owner, carefully consider your options and plan well in advance.