Pet owners who want to take their animals to the EU face having to make plans at least four months in advance if there is no Brexit deal.
This worst-case scenario is set out in the latest batch of government papers about planning for leaving the EU without a deal in place.
Currently pets can travel with their owners throughout the EU thanks to the pet passport scheme.
But without a Brexit deal, the UK will become a “third country”.
At the moment people can take their dogs, cats or ferrets from the UK to the EU and back again without quarantine using a pet passport, for which the animals need a rabies vaccination and a microchip.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has previously said “the ability… of dogs and cats to cross the Channel” will be affected if the UK leaves the EU without a deal – a scenario both sides say they are keen to avoid.
According to the government’s advice for pet-owners, the scale of checks required in a no-deal scenario will depend on which category the UK falls into.
The government said it was pressing to become a “listed” third country when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, which it says would avoid “burdensome” changes to requirements.
But if it becomes an “unlisted” third country, pet-owners wanting to travel with their animals to EU countries would need to discuss this with a certified “Official Veterinarian” at least four months in advance.
They would need to prove their pets were free of rabies – which could involve a vaccination followed by at least a 30-day wait before a subsequent blood test, which itself is then followed by a three-month waiting period before travel.
The government says it believes reaching a deal with the EU is the most likely outcome but that it is its “duty as a responsible government” to prepare for the failure to reach one.