How to Transport Pets from the U.S. to Europe

by Cindy Quarters

Traveling with a pet from the United States to Europe requires considerable advance planning. If it's not done right, your pet may have to stay home or be quarantined at your expense when he arrives in Europe. If you are traveling and want to take your dog with you, or if you will be shipping him unaccompanied for any reason, it is important to be sure he will meet all the requirements for entry when he reaches his destination.

Step 1

Check with the country’s embassy for specific instructions if you are flying to a country in Europe that is not a part of the European Union. Some countries ban certain dog breeds or individual dogs that may be considered dangerous. The laws vary by country, so check embassy information to make sure your dog will be allowed into your country of destination.

Step 2

Make reservations for your dog with the airline at the same time as you book your own travel, if he will be flying with you. Airlines vary as to whether reservations are required, and in many cases your pet will fly on a space-available basis. If you are shipping your pet unaccompanied, or if he cannot fly in the cabin with you for any reason, he will travel as cargo. In that case, you need to make reservations and pay for his travel before you can be sure there will be a spot for him. Puppies must be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned.

Step 3

Microchip or tattoo your pet. European Union regulations now require microchipping, but some countries outside the EU will accept tattoos. Only International Standards Organisation (ISO) microchip readers are used in Europe, and your dog must have a microchip that complies with these standards so it can be read in Europe. His microchip number must be on all of his documents, particularly his health certificate and his certificate of rabies vaccination.

Step 4

Update your dog's rabies shot after his microchip is in place. If he was vaccinated against rabies before getting his microchip, he will have to be vaccinated again. Some countries may require a blood test to show the shot was effective, but as of January 1, 2012, most will allow the dog to enter, provided the first shot was given at least three weeks prior to travel. Pets that are too young for a rabies shot can skip this step, but check with the embassy for specific entry requirements if your dog is under 3 months old and not vaccinated against rabies.

Step 5

Take your pet to a veterinarian and obtain an international health certificate within 24 hours of scheduled departure. The certificate remains valid for 10 days. If your dog doesn’t have a clean bill of health, he can’t travel to Europe.

Step 6

Deworm your dog for tapeworms by taking him to a licensed veterinarian one to five days prior to departure. This must be documented by the veterinarian on your pet’s paperwork.

Step 7

Purchase a crate for your pet, and ensure that it is an approved type of airline crate. The most common shipping kennels are solid plastic. They are leak-proof and cannot collapse. These typically have raised seams along the sides that prevent anything from getting too close and blocking air circulation. Your pet must be able to turn comfortably in his crate, sit up without touching the top and lie down in a natural position. His crate must include labels stating that it contains a live animal, as well as giving feeding and watering instructions. Food and water dishes that can be accessed without opening the crate must be securely attached, and food may need to be provided if your dog will be in transit for an extended period. Crates for pets that are traveling in the passenger cabin do not need to be rigid or have labels or dishes attached, but they must fit under the seat and have enough room for your pet to be comfortable.

Step 8

Arrive at the airport in plenty of time to get your dog checked in well in advance of flight time. If he is traveling as cargo, you will need to take him to the airline’s air cargo office, which usually is in a separate building from the terminal.

Items You Will Need

  • Microchip
  • International health certificate
  • Certificate of rabies vaccination
  • Airline-approved shipping kennel with dishes and labels

Tips

  • Get your pet accustomed to his travel crate long before the trip so that he feels comfortable and secure in it when it’s time to go.
  • If you will be traveling with your dog while in Europe, get him an EU pet passport to simplify border crossings.

Warnings

  • If you plan to take a small pet in the cabin with you, be aware that pets cannot travel in the cabin on flights into the United Kingdom. This is true even if the pet remains on the plane en route to another destination. Some airlines won’t allow pets in the cabin on any flights, even if it is legal. Check carefully before you purchase your ticket to avoid the upset of having to unexpectedly check your small pet into the baggage compartment. Also ask to verify that your airline will accept pets for your selected destination, as some airlines will not carry any pets to certain countries.
  • Check with your veterinarian well in advance of travel if you think your pet might benefit from a tranquilizer for the trip. Many veterinarians recommend against sedation for pets traveling by air, since the effects are uncertain at high altitudes, and at best the sedation may make the pet unsteady and prone to injury.