Traveling Internationally with a Dog
Traveling internationally can be all the more enjoyable when you can bring your most loyal and trusted canine companion with you. And if you’re moving to another country, bringing your dog with you may be essential. Either way, you’ll have to face the pet import policies and requirements of whatever country you’re entering in order for your dog to enter with you.
Navigating the dog policies and requirements of various countries can be confusing, and certainly the best way to find out exactly what you need to do to bring your dog with you into a country is to contact that country’s embassy directly to ask. That said, it can help to be aware ahead of time of the general qualifications you’ll likely have to consider to some degree, more or less, no matter to which country you and your dog will be traveling.
Every country treats rabies with dire seriousness. How that affects each country’s pet import policy depends on whether that country classifies the country of origin as rabies-free, rabies-controlled or high-rabies. Depending on this key factor, requirements for entry with a dog may involve proof of current rabies vaccination, quarantine of the dog for a period of time and a minimum residency requirement. Be aware that most countries outside of the US do not recognize the three-year rabies vaccine and require a rabies vaccination annually for it to be considered current and valid.
Rabies-free and Rabies-controlled Countries
Countries may be either rabies-free or rabies-controlled. Rabies-free countries, just as the name suggest, literally have no rabies. It is therefore a top priority for these countries to keep it that way, and their travel and immigration policies reflect that. In rabies-controlled countries, rabies is present but kept under control, also through strict travel and immigration policies (if perhaps not as strict as those in rabies-free countries.)
To complicate matters further, each country classifies rabies-free and rabies-controlled countries differently according to its own standards. The EU, for example, no longer classifies any country as rabies-free, only rabies-controlled (if applicable.) Hong Kong, on the other hand, classifies Japan, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom as rabies-free. You must therefore check with your country of residence to find out how it classifies the country to which you will be traveling.
Generally speaking, if you travel with a dog to a rabies-free country from a rabies-controlled country, you’ll have many hurdles to overcome to get your dog past customs. If, however, you travel with a dog to a rabies-controlled country from a rabies-free country, you’ll have a much easier time gaining entry for your dog.
To travel to a rabies-controlled country, your dog must have received its latest rabies vaccination at least 30 days before departure.
Note that, in addition to rabies-free and rabies-controlled countries are some countries considered high-rabies countries. Many countries consider any country not classified as rabies-free or rabies-controlled as a high-rabies country. If traveling to or from a high-rabies country, you may have the most severe hurdles of all getting your dog past customs, if that country doesn’t simply forbid dogs entry at all. Even the easiest countries to travel to with a dog may turn your dog away if you come from a high-rabies country, so be sure to check with your destination country’s embassy ahead of your planned travel.
The destinations currently classified by the European Union as high-rabies countries include the following:
Central African Republic
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Turkish Republic of (Northern)
Korea (North and South)
Papua New Guinea
Turks and Caicos Islands
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore all consider every country not considered by the respective country as rabies-controlled or rabies-free to be high-rabies countries. Note, however, that these countries all have different lists of what they each consider to be rabies-controlled and rabies-free countries.
Certain rabies-free countries like New Caledonia, Mauritius, New Zealand and Australia prohibit all dogs originating in high-rabies countries from entering under any circumstances.
To travel to some countries with a dog, your dog will have to receive more than just a rabies vaccination. Australia, for example, requires vaccinations as well for:
- Canine influenza
Australia also requires dogs be treated for canis, ehrlicia, brucellosis, leptospirosis, and brucellosis before entering the country. Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the UK, meanwhile, require dogs receive a distemper vaccination in addition to a rabies vaccination in order to enter.
Veterinary Health Certificate
Whether you’re planning on traveling or moving overseas with a dog, every country on your potential itinerary, bar none, will require a veterinary health certificate to permit your dog entry. Every country’s version of that certificate is unique, however, although many countries utilize the same form, APHIS FORM 7001, the official US-origin international health certificate also known as the United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals. The best way to be sure you have all the right documents you need to enter a particular country with your dog is to contact that country’s embassy and request a copy of whatever veterinary paperwork you’ll need to submit.
Regardless of destination country, this paperwork should be filled out by your dog’s veterinarian and returned to the address in the destination country listed on the form within 10 days of your planned arrival. Countries will not accept health certificates signed more than 10 days before the date of travel. If you are departing from the US or Canada, your veterinary health form must be additionally endorsed by a veterinarian accredited by the CFIA or USDA. You can contact your nearest Veterinary Services (VS) Endorsement District Office to find the nearest vet to endorse your dog’s veterinary health certificate.
Among the easiest countries to travel to with a dog are European countries, provided you’re a resident of another European country. If you are resident of the EU departing from one of its countries, you can get a dog passport to use instead of a veterinary health certificate. Similar in many ways to regular passport for people, a dog passport allows your dog to travel freely with you throughout the EU.
Some countries require a dog be microchipped before allowing it entry. To qualify, the microchip must have a 15-digit ID and be non-encrypted. If a dog is current with its rabies vaccination but not yet microchipped, it must receive a rabies vaccination again after being microchipped in order to be allowed entry into another country. Note that most countries outside of the US require an ISO type of microchip, which is different than the standard type of microchip used in the United States. Therefore, when you get your dog implanted with a microchip, make sure it’s an ISO microchip if you’re planning on taking that dog with you on international travel or when moving overseas.
How long a country may require your dog to be kept in quarantine before being released to you to enter the country freely can have a huge impact on whether or not your dog can accompany you on the trip, depending on the intended length of your stay.
Fortunately, even in many countries with quarantine requirements, those requirements are lifted if you provide the necessary rabies documentation, veterinary health certificate and proof of microchipping. Other countries may require quarantining of dogs prior to entry regardless of meeting any health or documentation requirements. Depending on the country, a mandatary quarantine period can last between seven days and six months. Make sure to find out the quarantining requirements of any country you’re planning on visiting or where you’re planning on moving overseas with a dog before boarding that plane.
Some dogs are not allowed to travel internationally to certain countries no matter if they meet all other entry requirements. These particular breeds are prohibited due to a country’s determination that they are “violent” and pose a threat to its citizens. Do not attempt to bypass a country’s policy on banned breeds, no matter how exceptionally sweet and obedient your dog may be. If you try to bring a banned breed into a country, the dog may be sent back to your country of origin at your expense or, worse, be euthanized.
Each country has its own list of banned breeds, though the most commonly banned breeds of dog include:
- Neapolitan Mastiff;
- Fila Brasilieros;
- Japanese Tosa Inus;
- Dogo Argentinos;
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier;
- Pit Bull.
Some airlines also prohibit snub-nosed breeds of dogs like pekingese and pugs for the dogs’ own safety. Other airlines only allow these breeds during certain months of the year. If you have such a breed, be sure to call the airline ahead of time to make sure your dog will be allowed to travel.
Note that some airports ban all dogs from entry, even if the airline and country both permit dogs of your breed and qualifications to enter. In such circumstances, you must schedule your flight to land in a different airport in that same country that does allow dogs entry.
Some countries require miscellaneous additional pet travel documents and other requirements to allow dogs to enter from other countries.
Australia, Bahamas and France require you also obtain an import permit for your dog.
To travel from a high-rabies or rabies-controlled country, chances are that, in addition to a current rabies vaccination record, you’ll also have to present proof that your dog passed a blood titer test. If your dog is required to pass a titer test, you may need to wait three months after the test results come in before the dog can travel.
To travel to certain countries like Norway, you will also need to treat your dog for tapeworm and ticks before your dog will be allowed entry.
Titer Test Requirements
If your dog is required to pass a titer test, you may need to wait a period time after the test results come in before the dog can travel. For example, to travel to the EU that waiting period is 90 days, while to travel to Australia that waiting period is 180 days.
Some countries require dogs be microchipped before entering. This includes all EU member countries as well as Australia, Belgium, the British Virgin Islands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Japan, Morocco, Netherlands, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Thailand, among many others.
Other Vaccination Requirements
In addition to rabies requirements, some countries require dogs be vaccinated against tapeworm before entering. This includes Wales, Norway, Ireland, Finland and the UK. The UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France also require dogs have current distemper vaccinations prior to entering.
Other Paperwork Requirements
To bring a dog into the Bahamas, France or Australia you must also present a valid import permit.
Bringing Dogs into the US
Whether you’re returning to the US with your dog or bringing a new dog into the US, you’ll have to pass through US Customs and Border Patrol. There, dogs must be clear of any observable evidence of illness or disease potentially communicable to humans. If importing a puppy into the US, it must be quarantined for three months, though at a place of your choosing, which can even be your own home. The pup will then receive its rabies vaccine, after which it must remain in quarantine for an additional 30 days. Dogs coming into the US from a rabies-free country must have a current and valid rabies vaccination certificate dated a minimum of 30 days prior to entering the country. Barring an expiration date this certificate remains valid for 12 months from its date of signing. Dogs entering the US from rabies-free countries do not require a rabies vaccination.
In Cabin or Cargo?
If you’re like most people, you’d prefer to have your international travel with dog in cabin of the airplane. In many cases, that can be arranged. In other situations, you may have to accept your dog traveling in the cargo hold of the plane. In fact, for many, if not most, international flights, particularly those lasting eight or more hours, dogs are not permitted at all in the passenger cabin of the plane, not even emotional support dogs or service dogs in some cases.
Read also: Taking Your Dog on a Plane: Do’s and Don’ts
An alternative to checking in your dog to ride in the cargo hold of the plane you’re flying, such as if that flight doesn’t permit dogs, is to use an international pet travel service. An international pet travel service will ship your dog for you separately so your dog can meet you at your destination. These services guarantee that your dog will travel in a completely safe, humane, well-ventilated and well-heated environment and manner. Your dog will be provided food and water, and if there are layovers of significant length involved in the itinerary, your dog may be walked as well.
In most cases of flying internationally with a pet dog (as opposed to an emotional support dog or service dog), if the dog is small enough to fit in an airline-approved pet carrier under your seat, you will probably be allowed to bring the dog with you into the main cabin on international flights that permit it at all. If you are traveling with an emotional support dog or a service dog on a flight that permits international travel with dog in cabin, then the airline must accommodate your dog in cabin regardless of its size.
If, on the other hand, an airline does not allow even small dogs in cabin, then the only way your dog will be able to travel with you internationally is in the cargo hold as a “checked pet.” And to reiterate, if an airline prohibits dogs from traveling on certain, or all, international flights altogether, then your dog will not be allowed to come with you in cabin or as cargo.
Note that traveling in cargo may not necessarily be such a bad option for many dogs. Any cargo hold that contains animals is sure to be properly heated and ventilated, and cargo holds can often be quieter and darker than passenger cabins, which can make some dogs feel calmer and more able to relax and even sleep. Speaking of heating and ventilation, note as well that with international pet travel airlines may refuse to carry dogs in cargo between the months of May and September or the respective hottest months of the year in the destination country or along the flight’s route.
Moreover, no airline will permit a dog to travel internationally or domestically if the weather forecast for any portion of the flight is above 85 degrees or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, to avoid potential travel day problems, try to book your dog on a flight expected to land in the late evening or early morning.
Flying Pets Internationally Cost Considerations
When flying pets internationally cost is a consideration not to overlook. The costs you pay to travel internationally with a dog can far exceed the simple price of a ticket. For international pet travel airlines all charge their own fee that normally ranges between $30 and $200 depending on the animal’s size. When traveling internationally with a large dog, this cost may increase significantly if the dog must be shipped in cargo as a checked pet. Costs to fly dogs internationally as checked pets can range from several hundred dollars to over $1,000, depending on the airline, destination and the dog’s size and weight. If you are traveling with your dog as an emotional support animal and all your ESA paperwork is in order, or if your dog is a registered service dog, the airline is required to waive its pet travel fee for you.
Regardless of which of these scenarios applies to you, however, there can be a host of other international pet travel costs not to overlook in your planning. These include:
- Airline-approved pet carrier
- Leash and/or collar and/or harness
- Costs for veterinary appointments, treatments and related documentation
- Costs for other required pet travel documents
- Food and water for your dog on the flight
- ESA letter (if traveling with your dog as an emotional support animal)
Returning to the US
Whether you’re visiting the US from another country with a dog or returning to the US with a dog after traveling abroad, you must still meet certain requirements for your dog to be allowed entry (or, as the case may be, re-entry.)
Firstly, your dog must appear to the naked eye to be generally healthy. If you’re returning from a high-rabies country, you must present a current rabies certificate. This certificate must be valid for the entirety of your trip, starting with your original departure from the US.
Depending on the state in the US where you’ll be landing, you may have additional requirements to meet as well, such as a valid veterinary health certificate. You can contact the health department of the state where you’ll be landing to inquire about any possible additional pet travel documents required. In addition, some states, cities and airports restrict particular breeds from landing there, so be sure to check that your dog will be permitted to land there providing all your dog’s other qualifications and credentials are in order.
If your dog is classified as a working dog, check as well with the US Department of Agriculture to find out any additional requirements you may need to meet to bring your dog back into the country after a trip abroad.
Making Your Pet Comfortable
Once you’ve met all the qualifications and requirements of the airlines, airports and countries involved in your trip, your last and most critical responsibility for traveling with your dog internationally is making sure your dog is as comfortable as possible throughout the travel experience.
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