Air travel with pets used to be restricted to within home borders but since the introduction of pet passports, our faithful companions can now travel with us. This is terrific in principal but the process for air travel with pets is actually pretty tedious, especially for traveling to Europe. The EU differentiates between pets moving between member nations and other countries of origin, such as the USA. They also classify pet travel as being either commercial or non-commercial but luckily American travelers fall with the EU regulations for non-commercial pet travel. Here’s the 7 Step Guide to Traveling By Air With Pets:
1. Type of Animal
Generally, most of the air travel with pets regulations apply to dogs, cats and ferrets. If you want to take a different pet species with you, contact your nearest US embassy or the embassy for your destination to establish the protocol to be followed. If your pet is classed as ‘exotic’ your case will be dealt with on an individual basis.
One of the original reasons for the restrictions for pet travel was the threat of rabies. For pet travel to Europe you have to prove that your animal is rabies free. Contact your veterinarian who can provide documentation to show your pet has been vaccinated against rabies.
3. Health Certificate
A health certificate is not only a necessity for air travel with pets within the US borders but for travel to Europe too. The certificate indicates your pet is healthy enough to travel and has also had all its shots. US veterinarians are very familiar with this documentation so just make an appointment. As well as the US certificate, for pet travel to Europe, there is an additional document. This can be downloaded at ec.europa.eu. Once filled out, you need to get it certified by your vet. These certificates need to be obtained within 10 days of travel.
4. Additional Documents for Certain Countries
Some EU countries (at the time of writing UK, Ireland, Sweden, Malta and Finland) require your pets to have been administered with anti-tapeworm and anti-tick treatments. Again documentary proof is required.
Currently, the rules for animal identification differ by country. In the EU, tattoo identification was only acceptable until 07/03/11 but that doesn’t mean all countries have yet adopted the change to electronic identification by microchip. Check with the embassy of your destination country for the protocol for air travel with pets. The UK, Ireland and Malta have some pretty specific requirements which are constantly being updated. Electronic tagging is becoming more popular in the US anyway, so it’s a worthwhile investment even if you only undertake air travel with pets at home.
Each airline will have a different pet travel policy. There are some basic standards laid down by the Federal Aviation Administration so there won’t be significant differences to watch out for. Contact the airline to determine the requirements for cages/kennels and documentation. Find out the rules if you want to take your pet as carry-on luggage.
7. Temperament and Comfort
The most important consideration for air travel with pets is making sure it’s the right thing for your animal. Taking your canine companion on vacation sounds like a great idea but it can also be very selfish if you don’t think about the impact on your pet. Air travel can be an unpleasant experience for humans so air travel for pets could be pretty rough. It’s also not something easily practiced. Unless your pet has flown internally in the US, making its first airplane journey a half a day’s flight across the channel is probably not a good idea.
Lastly, the comfort of your pet whilst on the move is paramount. Make sure you purchase the best carrier you can afford (and that fits with the regulations). Ensure there’s a good supply of his favorite food and including a favorite toy or blanket won’t go amiss. There’s no reason why pet travel can’t be done in style!
The key to air travel with pets is planning. You can make all the preparations you like for the humans in your travel party but forget any of the certificates or documents for your pet and everything will grind to a halt.
Top Photo Credit: traveltips.usatoday.com