International Pet Travel Advice
There are typically up to four entities that one must deal with when transporting a live animal overseas: A USDA-accredited veterinarian, the USDA, the airlines and a government entity located in the destination country. The role of these entities discussed below vary depending on the airline and the country of destination. Australia, for example, can take six months lead-time and will involve extensive blood tests, vaccinations, and a stay in quarantine. Entry into the United States from a foreign country will usually only require a current rabies vaccination.
With the exception of Hawaii, domestic transport requirements for pet travel within the United States are much less stringent. For domestic travel, the entities involved are reduced to two: The airlines and a veterinarian. The guidelines below mostly deal with international travel. AE Pets handles both international and domestic relocation of pets.
In order for a veterinarian to prepare relevant international health certificates, he or she must be USDA-accredited to handle paperwork for the shipment of live animals overseas. You can simply call any veterinarian clinic and ask the person at the front desk if they have a vet with this accreditation. If that person does not know if any of their doctors are USDA-accredited, then they probably are not. Otherwise, the person answering the phone should know without hesitation. Usually, most of the paperwork must be prepared and finalized in the seven or eight days leading up to departure. Rabies vaccinations will generally need to be administered a minimum of 21 days prior to departure, depending on whether the rabies vaccine is current, i.e. has the rabies vaccination period expired?
Travel kennels often require the most attention. The airlines can be very particular about the type and size of crates, and will reject a travel crate at check-in on departure day if it does not follow the IATA standards. We buy our crates from Critter Crates. Many websites sell many different types of crates, some of which are not airline-approved. Critter Crates only sells airline-approved travel crates, and nothing else. Please see CritterTravelCrates.com
Once the health certificate and supporting paperwork are completed and signed by your vet, it must go to your regional USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office for review and endorsement. Different USDA-APHIS offices have different rules for dealing with pet-owners. Some take appointments, while others allow walk-ins. Many allow you to simply mail your paperwork directly to their office. Contact your regional USDA-APHIS with questions concerning the above options. Once the paperwork is endorsed by the USDA, then that paperwork should accompany the pet onto the aircraft on day of departure.
The airlines have their own set of rules for the transport of live animals, which vary airline to airline. Some allow pets in-cabin, others allow pets to be checked in as baggage, while others will require you to check your pet into “Cargo”. The latter is the most challenging, but also the most common, especially when dealing with international travel. The in-cabin and pets-as-baggage options require you to contact passenger reservations, and are allowed only under certain conditions. Cargo transports require a conversation with the cargo facility within the airline. The airline will have their checklist they review when checking in pets on day of departure. These rules can be reviewed with the booking agent on the day you book the reservation. Warning: For a number of reasons, airline booking agents frequently provide misinformation. It is usually a good idea to check with a second agent on a subsequent day to assure that you have a precise understanding of the rules and shipping requirements.
“Foreign Entity” is a broad term and can include customs, the quarantine facility or any other government entity dealing with the import of cargo—live or not—into their country. Including all information on all scenarios with relation to foreign entities would be impossible to include here. Just keep in mind when transporting pets via cargo, that the clearing of customs and the processing of other import paperwork at your destination will need to be arranged well before departure. In other words, you will not be able to approach the airline cargo facility at the destination airport and simply ask they hand you your pet. Regarding in-cabin or pets-as-baggage transports, there are also specific, required import procedures. Check with the booking agent concerning required import procedures.
In summary, shipping your pet can be daunting—and stressful! AEP International has relocated hundreds of pets around the world. Let us worry about all the required steps, and assure your fuzzy family-member a safe journey to its new home.