Have you decided to bring your pet(s) along with you while you travel? Great! This can be an exciting decision as we all know it’s hard to leave them behind when going on vacation or an extended trip. I referenced in my previous post “Arrival in Austria” that I would be writing a post on the nitty gritty of travelling with your pet to a foreign country. Please visit that post for details on my recent experience.
First, visit https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home. This is the website of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This agency provides information regarding the importing, exporting and interstate travel with animals. Specifically for this article, we will focus on the information provided for American citizens on bringing their pets into another country. This includes finding out the requirements of your destination country/countries regarding paperwork, pet health, and any thing else you might need to take them into that country.
Click on the Pet Travel link at the top of the page. For purposes of this article, take a look at the first category, which is about taking your pet from the US to a foreign country. There is a drop down menu where you can select the country you are travelling to. To be safe, you’ll want to eventually bring up information for each country you will be visiting or passing through with your pet. For my purposes, I only had to click on Austria. The selection you make here becomes very critical later on so make sure you click the correct country or countries.
The next page is where you will click on the category that matches your pet, whether it’s cats or dogs, birds or other. Here, I clicked on cats, the first category. This brings you to a new page with the requirements. As you can see, the first question asks if you have an EU passport for your pet. If not, then you will need to follow the following categories. I didn’t even know that EU pet passports existed so I obviously didn’t have one. (I will be looking into this for the future though!). Most folks do not have one so you will need to follow the remaining requirements. There is a down arrow in the right corner of each blue step. Go ahead and click these arrows in order to expand the steps and show the details of that particular step. I took the liberty of printing out this entire page once I had expanded all the steps. This way, when I did comply with all the requirements and for some reason had trouble at the airport, I could refer to this page as reference and say that I did comply with the rules.
I’m not going to get into the details of each step here as it could be quite boring and technical. Basically, your pet must have a microchip and a rabies vaccination. This is where it’s crucial to speak to your vet and generally start with these requirements at least two months ahead of time. This is because you will find per Step 3 that there is a 21 day waiting period after getting the vaccination. Luckily, my cat was not due for rabies until after my arrival in my destination country. Otherwise, I would have gotten him vaccinated and been subject to the 21 day waiting period on travelling. This was going to be impossible as I already had my trip booked within 14 days of when I found this out. I know, I know, I didn’t start early enough and was a bad example. However, I fully admit that this was my first time travelling with a pet and this is exactly why I decided to write this post and inform others so that they can travel informed and stress-free!
The next step, Step 4, is where a USDA certified veterinarian needs to examine your pet and fill out the forms. However, you need to first click on the link in the yellow box in order to obtain the forms. Be careful here, this is where your pervious selection for destination country in the drop down menu becomes very important. For example, the form I had to get from Austria were bilingual and were written in both German and English. These will likely NOT be the same forms if you are going to France or Spain, for example. This is why you cannot rely on old print outs from your vet, or forms they have used before, or why you think you can just select any country from the drop down. These are very specific forms. You need to have the forms for each of your destination counties. I cannot stress this enough. The first time I took my cats to the vet, the assistant had filled out the wrong form. So I got down to Miami and the first thing the USDA official did was reject my form and tell me I had the wrong one. I can only suspect that the assistant had a folder of these forms and just used one that was used for, say, Britain, or an old form that she had made copies of. This caused a lot of stress and running around and money spent unnecessarily while the correct form was easily accessible by clicking on Austria in the drop down and then this link in the yellow box.
Once you download and print the correct forms, bring these to your pet’s appointment with a USDA certified vet. (If you need to find out if there’s one in your area, visit this link: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/find-a-vet/pet-travel-locate-an-accredited-vet and click on the link to the pdf in paragraph 4). Make sure you bring all their health information and medical history if this is not their regular veterinarian. The office should be able to fill out the form for you with the microchip number and vaccination information and dates. You will need to assist by providing your name and information and where you will be going, and an address and phone number.
The last step is to take your USDA veterinarian certified paperwork to your local USDA office. Visit this link to find out your local office: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/service-centers-endorsement-offices. The office I went to was in Miami, near the airport, and allowed for walk-ins and appointments. Call your local office and decide what is best for you. At the office I went to, if you were a walk in, you had to come back the next day to pick up your endorsed forms. If you made an appointment you could get it all wrapped up in the same short visit. There is a fee so make sure you have payment. Once you get your forms endorsed, I recommend making copies and placing them in your pet’s carriers and also having copy on your person while travelling to reference. I also made sure I brought copies of my pet’s health and medical information just in case.
Safe travels to your and your pet(s)!!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu