PETS CAN now be flown in and out of Scotland for the first time, after Edinburgh Airport opened the country’s first animal border inspection post.
Previously, pets had to be taken to an animal holding centre in England before being flown out from Manchester, Gatwick or Heathrow.
The detour meant pets and their owners often had to be apart for several days before leaving and after arriving back in the UK.
But now they only need to be separated for a few hours as they make their separate ways though the airport.
Owners no longer face the extra cost of driving down south to retrieve pets not coping well with separation.
The Pet Travel Scheme (Pets), which came into force in 2001, meant domestic animals from certain EU countries no longer had to spend six months in quarantine under strict UK anti-rabies legislation, as long as they met certain health criteria.
Since then more than 600,000 cats, dogs and ferrets from the approved countries have come in and out of the UK.
No ferrets have as yet flown through Edinburgh Airport, but they are also approved by the EU because they are popular pets in other parts of Europe.
The previous lack of a pet hub at a Scottish airport meant particularly long separations from owners on long-haul flights from destinations such as the US and Australia.
Sylvia Fleming, founder and managing director of Extrordinair, the freight forwarding firm which started the service, said the facility – which includes kennels and exercise areas – was better for animal welfare.
She said: “Our new facility means that animals flying into Scotland can be reunited with their owners within hours of touchdown, provided that they have a valid pet passport or EU health certificate and comply with Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] regulations.
“The service makes things much easier for owners and for pets, as a prolonged period of travel and separation in a strange environment can cause them stress. In Edinburgh pets are in and off the plane in around five minutes.”
Dogs, cats and ferrets from EU countries and listed non-EU countries can enter the UK without entering quarantine provided they pass through an approved animal reception centre and meet certain conditions.
Defra conditions state pets must be microchipped and have been vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel and after the chip was fitted. Dogs must have a tapeworm treatment one to five days before arrival. All animals must travel with an approved transport firm on an authorised route.
Currently, the only airlines approved to transport animals to Edinburgh are Lufthansa, United Airlines and KLM, but more are due to be given the go-ahead in the near future.
Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive, said: “We know it’s been an inconvenience for passengers to have to travel to England first when they’re bringing their pets back to the country, so we’ve worked with Extrordinair to set up Scotland’s first small-animal border inspection post, to give them the option of transporting pets directly to the capital.”