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Travel Tips...

International Pet Travel

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Traveling with pets internationally can be much more challenging than domestic travel with pets because of long waiting periods, quarantine requirements and other importation regulations. If you are considering traveling internationally with your pet, it's important to begin planning way ahead of your intended time of travel. Proper planning will help better prepare you and your pet for the trip, lessen the stress on both of you and provide realistic expectations of international pet travel.

Traveling internationally with pets obviously involves crossing at least one international border. You will need to know the basic requirements for that particular country, regardless of the method of transport. International pet travel requirements can vary country to country but will most likely mandate certain vaccinations and a veterinary health certificate.

Flying internationally with pets

If flying with your pet internationally, you should contact the airline carrier with which you plan to travel for its latest airline pet policies. Be sure to ask questions that will help you determine whether international pet travel is even feasible or a wise choice, depending on size, breed and physical condition of your pet. Some questions to consider include:

  • What types of airline restrictions do you have for international pet travel?
  • Do you limit the number of pets allowed in cargo and in the cabin?
  • Are certain breeds of pets not permitted or not advised to travel internationally?
  • What are the container requirements?
  • Will my pet have to change planes?
  • Will my pet be able to relieve himself somewhere if it is a long flight?
  • When and where should I drop off my pet?
  • What documents will I need to transport my pet?
  • Where will my pet clear customs?

Sedation of pets and air travel

Don't sedate or tranquilize pets traveling by air

American Humane Association cautions veterinarians and pet owners that sedation of your pet is not generally recommended for air travel. The pet's safety is at risk. Please refer to these FAQs from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) under Should I tranquilize or sedate my pet for long flights?.

Pet safety on airlines

Many injuries, deaths, and escapes can be attributed to either the pet trying to escape from its kennel and, as a result, hurts its paws and/or gums, or due to an actual escape. Escapes can be for several reasons, such as a dog can chew its way out of the kennel if it can get its upper and lower teeth between slits or holes in the plastic sufficient enough to apply force; dogs and cats are able to push the door open or partially open and escape; the kennel lock is broken or not properly latched; or the kennel itself is not properly and securely assembled. For more information on the types of injuries of transported pets, visit the Department of Transportation's consumer report page. Scroll down to the last page for animal incidents. The reports are by month and year.

Contact the embassy or consulate about importing pets

It's important to contact the embassy or consulate in the country in which you plan to visit. You can find a list of Foreign Consular Offices in the United States on the Department of State's website. Keep in mind the following questions to try to determine the general restrictions and requirements for international pet travel:

  • What are the restrictions for importing a pet?
  • What are the local quarantine requirements?
  • What documents will I need to import my pet?
  • What are the age restrictions?
  • What special vaccinations should my pet have?
  • How will my pet clear customs?

International Health Certificate

If the country to which you're traveling with your pet requires an international health certificate (IHC), you will need to contact the embassy or consulate to find out what the requirements entail. Determine if the IHC needs to be in the country's official language or if it requires an official stamp. IHC's are completed by an APHIS-accredited veterinarian who certifies the pet's health status, conducts tests and records test results for the individual pet being exported. In order for the certificate to be valid, it must be endorsed by a Veterinary Services area office. Locate the VS Area Office for your State. The APHIS area office for your state can also provide you with details regarding fees for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) endorsements.

Taking Your Pet to a Foreign Country

The following information is from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website on Taking Your Pet to a Foreign Country.

You may also want to see:

United Kingdom Pet Travel and the PETS Travel Scheme

PETS Scheme for Dogs and Cats Exported to the UK

  1. An accredited veterinarian must certify the identification, rabies inoculation and results of rabies testing. The PETS certificate bearing the VS logo, available to accredited veterinarians through the Federal Veterinary Services offices, is the only certificate which can be used.
  2. Microchip identification must come first. Only microchip identified animals will qualify for entry. The accredited veterinarian must certify he/she verified the chip number. (UK port officials will have available readers which can read microchips conforming to ISO Standard 11784 or Annex A to ISO Standard 11785. If other chips are used, owner will be obliged to present the proper working reader to the port inspector on arrival into the UK.)
  3. The microchip-identified animal must be properly inoculated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian using an approved labeled vaccine.
  4. After rabies inoculation (an interval of 30 days is suggested), the microchip-identified animal is subjected to a blood sample to confirm that vaccination has resulted in a satisfactory titer. The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Kansas State University, is the Laboratory of choice for nonmilitary US and Canadian pet owners. The certifying veterinarian will confirm microchip identification at the time the blood sample is collected.
  5. Once the laboratory verifies that the microchip identified-animal has a satisfactory level of antibody against rabies of at least 0.5 International Units per milliliter, the PETS Certificate may be issued by the accredited veterinarian. The microchip identification will be verified at the time the certificate is issued. (The certificate will indicate period of validity starting 6 months after the date the rabies blood test was drawn and ending on the expiration date of the rabies vaccination. Certificates can then be reissued so long as the rabies vaccinations are updated prior to expiration, and the replacement certificate will again be valid as long as vaccination is current).
  6. In addition to the PETS Certificate, between 24 and 48 hours prior to being checked in for departure, the pet must be presented to a licensed, practicing veterinarian who will read and verify the microchip number, treat the animal for ticks and tapeworm using approved products, and issue the Certificate of Tick and Tapeworm Treatment. Both the PETS certificate and the Treatment Certificate must accompany the pet to the UK.

Approved EU Countries
The PETS Travel Scheme allows entry to the UK for those animals originating and/or residing in approved European Union (EU) countries.

UK-resident dogs, cats and ferrets can travel to any of the EU countries and territories shown in this list and return to the UK under the Scheme. Pets that come from any of these countries can also enter the UK under PETS as long as they meet the rules. Pets must not have been outside any of the EU or non-EU listed countries in the six (6) calendar months before traveling to the UK.

Non-EU Countries
Certain non-EU countries are also eligible for the Scheme.

UK-resident dogs, cats and ferrets can, having travelled to any of the non-EU countries or territories shown in this list, can return to the UK under the Scheme. Pets that come from any of these countries can also enter the UK under PETS as long as they meet the rules. Pets can enter the UK via any other EU or non-EU listed country. Pets must not have been outside any of the EU or non-EU listed countries in the six (6) calendar months before traveling to the UK.

NOTE: These listings are updated on a regular basis and should be reviewed prior to making travel arrangements.

Owner's Procedure for Using the UK Pet Scheme

Questions and answers on the qualifying European Union countries.

Questions and answers on the EU Regulation on the movement of pet animals and the EU pet passport.

Fact sheets on PETS and European countries

Procedures for vets preparing a dog, cat or ferret to travel under the Pet Travel Scheme.

More pet policies on international pet travel

Here is some other helpful information about international pet policies, importing a pet to the United States and exporting a pet from the United States.

Basic information on domestic and international travel of common pets and other animals.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is another federal agency that has a role in the import and export of animals.

Animal Export Regulations — Veterinary Services

Do your homework on traveling with pets internationally

When considering international pet travel, always do plenty of research to make sure you get all of the information you need to prepare you and your pet for your trip. Be aware that some countries may require strict pet quarantines of several months. In some cases, unless you're planning to visit for an extended length of time, traveling with pets internationally may not be a feasible option. It takes considerable more planning than domestic travel but can also be worth the effort to have you and your pet together at the end of your destination.

By following these pet travel tips, and rules and regulations, you are sure to relieve some of the stress of traveling internationally with your pet.

Other international travel resources

How to Get Your Passport in a Hurry

Kanetix Itinerary Planner -- online travel insurance resource includes information on travel insurance and pet insurance, among others

International Travel: Resource Library