Flying Internationally with Pets

I always recommend making an honest, personal evaluation as to the wisdom of flying with a pet: As a quick reminder, size is a bigger obstacle than you may think, and the pet’s temperament may make the voyage some combination of dangerous and cruel. Age is a big one, too. And while you may discover these problems before you make a mistake, the whole process can be a time and money-waster. On the other hand, if you have the right pet and the right destination, there’s no reason you can’t successfully take your pet to another country on your international trip. Here are the 4 big things you’ll need to do to create a master to-do list that you can then check off:


U.S. Pet Travel Requirements: You need to look into leaving and entering the United States with your pet. This online guide from the United States Department of Agriculture is a good place to start. Even if you’re not traveling to another country, you’ll want to check with the state you’re traveling to. I’ve never flown internationally with my Papillon, but I have taken him to Hawaii and know about their 5-Day-or-Less Program. And then there’s California, where it’s one thing if you’re traveling with a cat or dog, but for livestock, you’re going to need to navigate this state-by-state portal.


International Travel Requirements: Each country has slightly different rules for different types of animals. Local politics aside, many of the requirements are based on the regional vulnerabilities of the public health and ecosystem. In the most common example, rabies-free countries like to stay that way. So always check with the appropriate civil authority in the country you’re traveling to about requirements, including documentation. Again, the USDA is the best resource for information for flying internationally from the U.S.


Airline and Travel Companies: Each airline and even each flight may have slightly different rules for weight allowances, carrier sizes, and costs. Always double-check that the cargo hold has A/C, but even then making the trip is contingent on the temperature and forecast on the day of travel. The airline may also have limited space in their pet cargo hold, so contact them as soon as possible. Beyond the airline and country, you may also need to check with any travel company or local jurisdiction you may be traveling to. There’s a reason African safari companies forbid pets on their trips!


Vet Check-Up: This is mandatory to complete all the necessary paperwork. It’s also a good idea to confirm your own opinion that your pet is a solid candidate for international travel and to make sure they start out the trip in as good health as possible. Wondering what’s involved with this visit and international health certificate? Take a look at this checklist.


Exotic Pet Travel

The general steps may be the same for traveling internationally with cats or dogs, but even these rules tend to vary from country to country. Other kinds of species may have very different rules and are often banned altogether. Let’s say your crazy friend smuggled some kind of exotic pet back into the U.S. from his last African safari trip. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to take that exotic pet home for a visit to the motherland. Several species are banned from international travel. Though far from the entire list, the CDC explicitly warns people that monkeys, apes, and African rodents are not allowed to enter the U.S.—even if the animal originally came from the U.S.


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