International Travel with Your Pets
Looking to take Fido to Finland, or Spot to Spain? Fear not! With careful planning, you can take your pet to many international destinations. However, be advised that animal companions are viewed differently in each culture. Your accommodations, restaurants choices, and ability to see many sites may be restricted when pets are included as part of your travelling group. Before deciding to take your pet out of the country, ask yourself if your pet will enjoy the experience as well. Some pets have a difficult time adjusting to a change of environment and routine especially if the trip is 1 to 2 weeks in duration. However, if you are moving abroad as the result of a job transfer, are accepting an overseas position in a new company, or making an extended stay abroad, leaving your pet back home could be akin to leaving a family member behind! If you find yourself in one of these situations, here is how to best prepare yourself and your pet for your international travels.
Leaving the US
It’s the latter question that is the topic of this section of PlanetGoRound. After all, you don’t want to pack for sunshine if it’s supposed to rain the entire week that you’re in London. Conversely, wearing sweatshirts in Rio de Janeiro during February when the average daily high is 85 degrees is probably an equally suspect idea.
Always be sure to check with the country your pet is going to well in advance of your trip. Each country has their own set of rules: some simple, some complex. So, the first step is to contact that country’s consulate or embassy for information regarding the transportation of pets. Many countries require a health certificate signed by the country's health official or a licensed veterinarian the week of entering the country. Not all countries have documents available online, so plan on giving yourself at least couple of weeks (if not, months) to receive the forms via post. A complete listing of foreign consulates can be found at the State Department’s website under the Foreign Consular Offices section
In speaking to consulate officials, you should be prepared to ask them the following questions:
Let’s take the United Kingdom as an example. The U.K. has a strict quarantine policy meant to discourage short-term pet importation. Many pets are required to be micro-chipped, vaccinated, tested and certified...a process that can take up to six months. U.K. requirements for import of pets are changing on January 1st, 2012 when the U.K. brings its regulations into line with the rest of the European Union, however, so please check for the latest information at the U.K.’s DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
Additional information about restrictions placed on pets from qualifying non-European Union countries can be found here.
And, further information about quarantining your pet can be found at the following location.
Pets and Airlines
Airlines have a wide variety of animal transport rules, unique to each carrier. If traveling by air, please check with your airline for their policies well in advance of your travel dates. A number of airlines have website pages listing their specific pet policies, and we’ve provided just a few of them below. As always, be sure to check and fully understand your airline’s transport rules prior to making any international bookings.
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- United Airlines
- KLM / Air France
- Qantas Airlines
- British Airways
- Emirates Airlines
If your pet will be flying with you, be sure to contact the airline well in advance of your trip and clarify:
The International Airline Transportation Association (IATA) also has some useful information concerning the transportation of pets, including container size, pet passports for the European Union, etc.
Pets and Cruises
Pets are generally not accepted aboard major cruise lines. The exception is Cunard’s QE2 and QM2 which are equipped with air-conditioned kennels. Contact Cunard directly at 1-800-7CUNARD for additional details. However, some small charter companies will accept sea-worthy pets. Many islands of the Caribbean quarantine pets and you may not be able to take your pets ashore at all stops. So be sure to check with their Foreign Consular’s Office prior to embarking on your trip.
Pets and Trains
Pets are not accepted aboard America’s Amtrak service. In Europe, each rail operator has their own set of restrictions, but generally, pets are allowed to travel in containers with appropriate documentation. Contact your rail operator to confirm their specific requirements.
Returning to the US
Pets taken out of the United States are subject upon reentry to the same regulations as those entering the country for the first time. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requires a proof of Rabies Vaccination for entry into the U.S. The CDC, however, does not require general certificates of health for pets for entry into the United States. But, be advised that health certificates may be required for entry into some individual states, or may be required by airlines for pets. You should be sure to thoroughly check with officials in your destination state as well as with your airline prior to your international travel dates.
There are specific requirements for horses, cats, turtles, bats, birds, snakes fish, monkeys, civets, rodents and rabbits. Monkeys and other primates may not be imported as pets under any circumstances. Please review the CDC's webpage concerning which animals can be imported.
There are also companies that specialize in transporting pets. These businesses are licensed and inspected by the USDA. Many of the licensed animal transporters are listed on the member pages of the International Pet Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) web pages.