A doctor’s letter is indeed required for you to travel internationally with a service dog. There are other requirements as well. That is why you must prepare well ahead of any intended international travel on which you intend to bring along your service dog.
To take a service dog with you on an international flight, you must provide certain documentation within a certain time-frame. Note, as you review these documents below, that, while some may be required by all airlines and destinations, different airlines and destinations may have their own additional requirements. Therefore, always check with each airline you plan to book with and each destination country you plan to visit to find out their specific requirements.
Health and Rabies Certificates
You’ll need both a current health certificate and rabies certificate for your service dog to board most, if not all, international flights. The health certificate must must be printed on a licensed veterinarian’s letterhead and include language stating your service dog is in good health and current with all vaccinations.
Note that different countries may require additional vaccinations. Contact the Department of Agriculture or Ministry of any country you and your service dog plan to enter to find out its list of required vaccinations. Another reason to prepare well in advance for an international trip with your service dog, in fact, is that giving your service dog all the required vaccinations can get expensive and, as such, another part of your travel budget for which you must save up.
If you don’t have a veterinarian currently, you can use the services of Certifymypet to get connected with a qualified vet who can provide you this documentation. Note, however, that certain countries may require the veterinarian who signed the letters be on their list of those approved to do so. You can find out whether this is the case in a given country by contacting their Department of Ministry or Agriculture.
Once you obtain these letters, have them notarized and then get them certified by the US Department of Agriculture.
Letter of Eligibility/Qualifications for a Service Dog
Your physician must also write and sign a letter on his or her official letterhead stating that you have a disability that qualifies you for a service dog and, if applicable, even requires you to have one, such as a guide dog for the blind. This can be particularly useful if your disability is not obvious. The letter need not identify your disability. It simply must validate your qualifications and authorization. Again, if you lack a physician to write this letter for you, contact Certifymypet for assistance.
Microchip Number (If Applicable)
Some countries may required you to implant a microchip in your service dog, if you haven’t already, before the animal can enter. In such cases, you must include that microchip number on all documentation you bring with you. Be advised that US microchips do not comply with International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements. Therefore, if you learn before traveling that a destination country will require a microchip, make sure to bring your own microchip reader with you in your carry-on baggage. Alternatively, you can get a second ISO-compliant microchip installed in your service animal.
Letter of Introduction (Optional but Helpful)
Another document that, while not required, may be wise to bring with you is an official looking letter, written in the language of the destination country, introducing your service dog and identifying him or her as such. Be prepared to present this letter to any business owners, government officials or others with the power to restrict your service dog’s access somewhere.
Proper Identifying Gear
Many, if not most, airports, airplanes and countries require that service dogs be outfitted with certain identifying gear, such as a jacket or harness labelled “Service Dog.” Even if this isn’t required anywhere on your itinerary, it can still be useful to do this to avoid unnecessary delays or harassment from individuals who simply don’t know the regulations.
Want To Travel With Your Service Dog Without Any Hassle?
Another option available to you is to get your dog certified with a Pet Passport. You may even be required to get one, such as if you plan to travel with your service dog to multiple countries. Whether a country requires it or not, however, Pet Passports can be immensely helpful in identifying your dog as a service dog qualified to enter any given country.
A Final Note on Documentation
Note that, while all of these items are good ideas to have with you even when and where they aren’t required, the Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines in particular to recognize any written documentation, identification cards, identifying harness or tags or even your verbal assurance as valid and acceptable evidence that your dog is a qualified service dog you require medically to have with you at all times. This does not, however, apply to destination countries, which can impose any restrictions and requirements they want.
Even if you have all the documentation required to take your service dog with you on an international flight, there are still certain eligibility requirements you must meet to be able to do so. Some of them aren’t even in your control.
Non-stop Flights of Certain Durations
On certain international flights, namely those lasting certain lengths without any stopovers in-between, animals of any sort are simply not permitted.
Foreign Countries Restrictions
You also may not be able to get your service dog into certain countries without a quarantine period, or even at all, despite that the airline you book with might otherwise allow your service dog to travel on board with you.
Therefore, before you book any of your travel, contact the consulate or embassy of the country or countries you have on your intended itinerary, including those you will not be entering or leaving by air. You wouldn’t want to get to a border on a train or rental car either only to find that you can’t enter with your service dog.
Make sure your dog’s breed is not on any of these countries’ banned or restricted list. If a quarantine may be required in one of your destination countries, contact that country’s Department of Agriculture of Department of Ministry to learn their specific quarantine policies. Even if you would be willing to quarantine your service dog for a time, you don’t want to find out after you arrive that the required length of quarantine is longer than that of your intended stay.
Always check specific airlines’ and countries’ requirements for your return trip so that you can re-enter your country of origin without problems.
Even if you have all the proper documentation and you and your service dog meet all eligibility requirements, an airport, airline or country can forbid your service dog entry or even ask you to remove your service dog from the property, if the dog behaves aggressively toward any person or other animal or if the animal appears visibly unhealthy. Snarling, growling and lunging at others are all just causes to disallow your service dog access to any property, including an airplane, as well as a visibly haggard, injured or foul-smelling animal. A service dog’s access to any property can also be rescinded if the animal causes a substantial disruption, such as barking, whining, yelping or crying incessantly.
Treatment Towards Pets
Though not required to fly internationally with a service dog, it can be wise and helpful to contact a disability or service animal organization in your destination country or countries to learn about the cultural treatment toward service dogs. Learning this ahead of time can help you avoid some embarrassing, uncomfortable or even hostile situations.
Follow these guidelines and you should have no trouble enjoying your international travel experience with your service dog by your side. You may consider taking all of the actions outlined above even if they may not be required just to be on safe side, particularly if your disability is not overtly apparent. For instance, a psychiatric service dog may not look like a service dog, nor you like a psychiatric patient.
Lastly, a friendly reminder that, as you proceed to investigate specific airlines’ and countries’ requirements, remember to check those for your return trip as well. Find out whether you’ll need anything specific, documentation or otherwise, to reenter your home or origin country. The last thing you’d want, of course, after returning from a lengthy trip abroad is to return home only to find that you lack what you need to get you and your service dog in.