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December 4, 2013updated 11 Jan 2016 2:21pm

Pet Passports mean you needn’t leave your dog behind this Christmas

By Spear's

The night before Christmas, I go to bed early, hoping that Father Christmas will come down the chimney to fill my stocking. While I dream of a white Christmas (and a new set of skis), Father Christmas and his faithful reindeer, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, and of course, Rudolph, dash through the night to deliver presents across the globe.

But have you ever wondered how Father Christmas’ reindeer can cross international borders free of any immigration controls? Come to think of it, how about the Snowman and the Snowdog? A sprinkle of star dust and a little Christmas magic certainly helps but for us lesser souls, a little more administration is required before our faithful doggy friends can travel with us this Christmas holiday.

Read more on the law from Spear’s

Under the PETS travel scheme, a dog (keeping with the Christmas theme, let’s call him Snowflake) can travel freely within the EU without quarantine provided that he has been microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and issued with a Pet Passport. Certain countries (UK, Ireland, Finland and Malta) also require Snowflake to have been treated for tapeworm. Furthermore, Snowflake can only enter the UK at certain, specified ports or airports using approved travel companies. Always check with the relevant travel company, particularly as not all private jet charters are approved.

For travel further afield, the specific requirements of each country must be considered (and local advice taken). Some countries have more onerous requirements, for example, Russia requires Snowflake to be examined by a vet in the country of origin who must confirm that he is ‘fit and well’ before an export health certificate will be issued. Often, officials in the destination country must also be notified of Snowflake’s intended arrival in advance and an import permit obtained.

Mistakes can be costly, upsetting for the family and horribly unfair on Snowflake who is most likely to be refused entry at the border and sent back to spend Christmas in quarantine. Only twenty days to go – so top of the to-do list for Christmas – get Snowflake a passport.

But if the passport doesn’t come through in time and Snowflake must be left at home, don’t forget that you can provide for Snowflake in your Will to ensure that he is properly cared for should the unthinkable happen on your Christmas hols. Unlike the US, where trusts for pets are becoming increasingly common, English case law does not generally allow trusts for the maintenance of a particular animal (although a trust for one testator’s ‘favourite black mare’ was allowed in the 1850s).

So how do you provide for your beloved pet when you are gone? One option is to leave both your pet and a cash legacy to a named beneficiary (the cash legacy may or may not be conditional on the beneficiary undertaking to look after your pet). Alternatively, you may prefer to leave your pet and a cash sum to an animal welfare charity coupled with a request that the charity finds a suitable home for him. After all, a dog is for life – yours as well as his. And not just for Christmas.

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Emily O’Donnell works at boutique private wealth law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP.

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