Do you travel with a dog or cat? You are not alone, but international travel with pets offers logistical challenges. If you are planning on traveling with Scout or Mr. Whiskers, we recommend that you follow the steps below to prevent any hassles on your trip with your pet.
Check the Pet Travel Requirements of Your Destination Country
Every country has their own rules about the importation of live animals, including domestic pets like cats and dogs. The biggest potential problem you may face when traveling with your pet is quarantine. If your pet is quarantined, it means that he will be taken to a government-controlled kennel facility to be kept in isolation until the authorities can be certain that he does not carry any dangerous communicable diseases like rabies. Pets who are quarantined may have to spend several months in the quarantine facility before they are reunited with their owners!
The good news is that if you can provide appropriate paperwork to show that your animal is healthy and fully vaccinated, your pet should be cleared to enter your destination country with you. A good place to start checking the pet travel requirements is the USDA Pet Travel website. You can also contact the embassy of your destination country to find out exactly what documentation will be required.
Check the “Pet Passport” Requirements
The term “Pet Passport” was created by European Union authorities. In the interest of easy travel between European nations, the EU instituted a Pet Travel Scheme to coordinate the paperwork requirements for taking domestic animals between EU countries. Veterinarians in Europe are able to put together a blue Pet Passport book for dogs, cats, and ferrets that contains all the animal’s health and immunization records. Once the animal has that EU Pet Passport, they are able to travel with their owner across the continent and to the United Kingdom.
Outside of the European Union, you may still hear people talking about “pet passports.” These aren’t actual passport books, but just refer to the health records and certificates that your dog or cat will need to travel internationally. In the United States, these documents are issued by veterinarians and by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).
Check With Your Veterinarian
Your next stop should be your vet’s office. Your vet should first determine whether your pet is healthy enough for travel, especially if your pet is going to face challenging travel situations like flying in the cargo hold of an airplane or visiting a high-altitude destination. If your pet is elderly or has a serious health condition, it may be kindest to leave her at home while you travel.
Your vet will also make sure that your dog or cat has all the necessary immunizations for travel, and will help you prepare the health certificates to prove your pet is disease-free and fully vaccinated. The specific format of the certificates will vary according to your destination country. If you are traveling to the United Kingdom or anywhere in the European Union, for example, there is a specific EU Health Certificate which must be completed by an accredited veterinarian.
You might need to make two trips to the vet. On a preliminary visit, your vet can check your pet’s overall health and administer any vaccines that have a long activiation time, like the rabies vaccine. You may then need to make a second visit closer to your date of departure so that your vet can complete the health certificate for your pet, as many countries require that the certificates be signed shortly before the trip. The European Union Health Certificate, for instance, must be completed and signed no more than ten days before your pet enters the EU.
Check With Your Airline
Flying with your cat or dog isn’t as simple as just popping him into your suitcase! Airlines have regulations for travel with pets that you should confirm before you buy your ticket.
Whether your animal can fly in the passenger cabin with you is likely to depend on the size of your pet. It’s far more likely that your cat or toy poodle will be able to be carried on to the airplane than if your pet is a bull mastiff or St. Bernard! Large dogs typically need to travel as cargo, in the baggage hold of the plane. If your pet has to be checked as cargo, rest assured that your pet will be stowed in a climate controlled and pressurized cargo hold, where she will be as safe and comfortable as possible. The International Air Transport Association has more detailed information about airline travel with pets on their website.
In the cabin or in cargo, your pet will need to be in an appropriate travel crate or container. The crate must be adequately sized for your pet, have appropriate ventilation, and a leak-proof floor.
If your companion animal isn’t just a pet but is a service animal, make sure to let your airline know. Different travel requirements apply to seeing-eye dogs and other registered service animals.
Check With Your Lodgings
It isn’t always easy to find hotels that welcome pets! It can be particularly difficult to find lodgings if you are traveling with a large dog, as many hotels and rentals have size restrictions for the animals they will accept. You may want to consider booking a private vacation rental through a service like Airbnb, where you can specifically search for rooms and rental houses that allow you to bring your pets.
At both hotels and private rentals, you are likely to have to pay an additional cleaning fee because of your furry guest.
Check the Requirements for Returning to the United States
In most cases, the same health and vaccination certificates that you used to take your animal out of the country will be all that is needed to bring him home to the US. However, if you have visited a country where certain diseases like screwworm are endemic, you may need to have your pet checked to ensure that he is not infected.
The USDA also recommends that when you bring your pet home from international travels, you should bathe them thoroughly when you get home, and limit contact with other animals for at least a few days.
If you notice that your cat or dog seems under the weather or is exhibiting any new symptoms after traveling overseas, take your pet to the vet right away!