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All you need to know about the pet arrival process at London Heathrow

Heathrow is the largest airport in the United Kingdom, with five terminals that have flights in and out to destinations around the world. Many airlines that transport pets internationally operate flights at Heathrow, and the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre (HARC) is one of the largest animal inspection centres in the world. Every year, HARC receives millions of animals including fish, reptiles and zoo animals, besides pets.

Here’s what to expect when your pet flies into London Heathrow airport:

Arrival into London Heathrow

Most animals travelling to London have to pass through the Centre before being allowed to enter the country. When your pet dog or cat flies into London Heathrow, he or she will be received at HARC near Terminal 4. Usually, HARC employees are responsible for collecting your pet from the aircraft and bringing them to the Animal Reception Centre. However, it is not unusual for airline staff to deliver your pet to the Centre.

Pets can only travel in the cargo hold of the aircraft when they arrive into or depart from the United Kingdom. As soon as your pet lands in Heathrow, they will be brought to HARC for a health examination to check that they are in good health. Your pet’s documentation and paperwork will then be checked to ensure that all veterinary regulations have been met. If everything is in order, your pet will be released to you without quarantine.

At HARC, your pet will undergo a vet check and a microchip scan. They will have access to water and food, and get a bathroom break. Your pet dog or cat will be released from the crate to an individual kennel to rest and wait for pick up after the examination.

Release from HARC

The animal release process at HARC is fairly simple. If your pet is flying into Heathrow from another EU country, they will be released in about one and a half hours, provided all requirements are met.

Pets flying in from other countries will have to spend a little longer at HARC before they are released. The inspection process can take up to four hours for cats and dogs flying in from non-EU countries.

If you are flying with your pet, expect a wait of one to five hours for your pet to be restored to you. You can also plan to arrive a few hours later than your pet to minimise the waiting time. Pet parents need not fly with their pets when travelling to the UK. However, there is a five-day rule which states that pet parents must travel into the country within five days of the pet’s journey.

Alternately, an international pet transport agency can assist by picking up your pet from the reception centre and dropping them off at your door.

Heathrow Animal Reception Centre

The Heathrow Animal Reception Centre is the border inspection post for animals for Heathrow airport. Dogs and cats at HARC are kept in individual heated areas when they are being processed. The dog pen has access to a large outdoor run for the dogs to stretch their legs after their flight. Similarly, the reptile, amphibian and bird wings are temperature-controlled and have a computerised lighting system that mimics sunrise, sunset and moonlight.

The Centre is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, and processes around 16,000 dogs and cats every year. In the last year, the Centre received 400 horses, 2000 birds, and 28 million fish.

HARC is responsible for examining and checking that all animals that pass through are healthy and have the correct paperwork. The Centre is located just off the Southern Perimeter Road, approximately half a mile before Terminal 4.

Flying to London?

If you are planning to fly to London with your precious pet, get in touch with our team at Petraveller for a detailed pet travel itinerary.