To a lot of us our pets are a part of our family, we may even think of them as our children. But unlike human children travelling across an international border with pets requires preparation. while it can be done there are services that can help wade through the paperwork and help prepare your pet for the trip so they can enjoy it with you. In this blog we will discuss what to do, we won’t recommend any services to help though as that is personal and should be left up to you. And we want you to leave us comments with questions or your experience so that we can all grow and learn together.
When I started traveling internationally over 25 years ago I didn’t have a pet at the time but I was considering getting one. At the time I was traveling for work and doing 3 weeks in the UK and then back for 3 weeks in the U.S. I explored what it would take to bring a dog or cat to the UK and then decided against it. Back then you needed to get your pet current on their vaccinations. Have a vet sign off on that they were in good health. Presend (Fax or mail) their vet records to the UK Customs Animal Office and arrange for a local vet in the UK who also needed the records. Then most airlines would only fly them in the hold for a 7 hour flight. And when they arrived they would be quarantined from between 14 and 28 days.
The good news is that it is much easier these days to transport a pet with you. If you live in the U.S. there is a USDA website that helps walk you through the process. Vet records can be sent from your vet through the USDA as certified to the countrry(ies) you are visiting and be processed. If you follow the rules of the country you are visiting you may not need to quarantine your pet on arrival they will just get a health check and you can pick them up. But if you mess up or something goes wrong your pet will be quarantined. Also most pets will need to travel in the hold which may be stressful for them.
What pets can travel
Typically any normal pet will be accepted into most countries. A normal pet is usually a Dog, Cat, Ferret, or Hamster/Gerbil. Pigs, Goats, other farm animals, exotic pets (alligators, snakes), typical wild animals (squirrels, pigeons, geese, ducks) may not be allowed or may require approval from both the U.S. government for export and the destination country for import.
What is the process?
The process differs between countries and also for species. As a starting point refer to the USDA website linked below. But generally it is as follows in the list below. Also note that airlines may and do have additional requirements for transporting your pets.
- Be current on all shots in the U.S.
- Receive shots that may be specific for the destination
- Have a current rabies shot
- Get a Rabies test prior to travel
- Have a Microchip implanted and registered
- Have a Vet Checkup prior to travel (1-2 weeks)
- Post a bond
Some things to plan for
Some countries have requirements that may require you to start planning for your pet up to a year before you travel. Japan for instance has a requirement to have a rabies shot for your pet followed by a second shot 31 days later. They must also have a rabies test after the second vaccination by a lab approved by the Japanese Government (Most US labs are approved as there is an agreement between Japan and the US for labs). This must all be done 180 days before you travel. You must also have your pet microchiped at this time and it needs to be registered. If your pet isn’t vaccinated for 180 days upon arrival it will be quarantined until 180 days has elapsed. You must also alert the Japanese government 40 days before your trip that you are arriving and provide all the required information. This can all be done on the USDA website but you must do it in time.
Some things to consider
When you bring your pet with you, note that U.S. laws do not apply, we’ll cover this more in the section on service animals. Hotels and AirBnBs may not allow pets to stay so you will need to check each location before you book. They country may not have the food your pet normally eats, and may not allow you to import your pets food with you. You should have a local in country vet in case your pet gets sick. Your pet may need to fly in the cargo hold in a crate per airline guidelines.
Service animals and emotional support pets are common in the U.S. but you may not be able to bring them with you. You have a better shot if they are a cat or dog, while a miniature horse is a legal service animal in the U.S. it may be considered a farm animal in another country and not allowed in. Also note that while in the U.S. most hotels and businesses cannot stop you from bring in your service animal or ask if it actually is a service animal this does not hold true in other countries. They may legally be allowed to bar your pet entry into their business or house and there will be nothing you can do about it, so do your research and be prepared.
Also note if you are not flying on a U.S. airline you may need to put your service animal in the hold so check with your airline first before arriving at the airport.
Here is the website of the USDA that will help you prepare and start the process if you want to travel with your pet.
Food for thought…
While you may want to travel with your pet, you should think whether you should. Does your pet normally stay at home or do they travel with you, will the travel cause your pet anxiety, will they be comfortable in a crate for the length of your flight(s) plus multiple hours on both sides? Will your pet need medication that might not be available or allowed where you are going? Will your pet be able to eat the food?
Personally when we travel we put our dog in a kennel. The staff is great and she likes to get away from us, and if we want to talk to her or check up on here we just call. It is very unstressful for her and I think she is happier then if we take her with us.