International Pet Travel Guide

International travel can be fun and exciting -- especially when you can share the adventure with a loved one. Sometimes that loved one is a beloved pet. See more pet pictures. ­
International travel can be fun and exciting -- especially when you can share the adventure with a loved one. Sometimes that loved one is a beloved pet. See more pet pictures. ­
Annie Marie Musselman/Photonica/Getty Images

­One of the great joys of traveling is sharing your new discoveries with your loved ones -- including your pets. Taking an animal abroad can be ­ complicated, but there are plenty of good reasons to do it:

  • You want the companionship of your best friend. You're simply not complete without your pet.
  • You're planning an extended stay -- a month or mor­e -- and the costs of pet-sitting or boarding would be prohibitive.
  • You have a service animal, such as a guide dog.
  • You have a comfort or therapy animal.
  • You have a pet with psychological needs, such as issues of neglect, who will suffer in the care of a sitter or kennel.

Can you pack a pet carrier along with your suitcases? Yes -- but just as your suitcases are subject to scrutiny, so are your pets. You'll need to know the rules and start preparing for your travel well in advance -- in some cases, eight or nine months before your trip.


­If you're flying, in most cases, you must check your pet as baggage, so as you prepare to meet regulations, you should also prepare to make your pet's trip as comfortable as possible. Make sure you give your pet enough fo­od and water for the voyage. You might consider gradually getting your pet to spend longer amounts of time in its carrier, so that being confined for the length of the trip is not a source of stress.

This article takes a look at the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of international pet travel -- obtaining a pet passport and vaccinations, procuring accurate identification and complying with different national laws.


Pet Passports

­For travel within the European Union, you need a passport for yourself -- and one for your pet. Sure, it sounds a little silly at first, but when you consider the number of animal-borne diseases the world has seen in the past decade alone -- hoof and mouth, mad cow, avian flu, SARS -- you can understand why a government would care about tracking the four-legged critters crossing its borders.

If you're traveling within the European Union with a dog, cat or ferret, good news: Pet passport requirements have been standardized for all member nations, and you can obtain a pet passport from your veterinarian. Once you've obtained a passport for your pet, it is valid for the rest of your pet's life.


To obtain a pet passport, you'll need to make sure your pet's rabies vaccination is up to date. Some nations have additional vaccination and identification requirements, which we'll discuss more on the next page.

EU pet passport regulations have not been standardized for pets other than dogs, cats and ferrets. To travel with a bunny, iguana or other pet, you'll need to check the requirements of your destination country or countries.

If you're traveling into the EU, your vet will need to complete a health certificate for your pet. You'll also need to prove that vaccinations are up to date; you must begin this testing process at least three months before you travel. You can find the applicable forms and regulations, in multiple languages, on the European Commission site.

The EU is the only place where pet passports are required. (You can obtain them from some pet stores in the United States, but they're strictly novelty products.) However, that doesn't mean you don't need any paperwork if you're traveling elsewhere.


International Pet Travel Requirements

Your pet must be clearly identified. A tag on the collar isn't enough. In some nations, a tattoo suffices. In other places,­ your pet will need to ha­ve implanted transponder­ (microchip) identification. The EU will require microchips for all pets starting in July 2011.

What else do you need? Maybe a file cabinet; documentation for pet travel can be extensive.


  • Most destinations will require an International Certificate of Pet Health or CFIA health certificate.
  • Some destinations require your pet's documentation to be translated into that country's language.
  • Most countries monitor rabies. Some, such as Ireland, have additional vaccination and testing requirements, such as tick or tapeworm treatments. Without these records, your pet will be quarantined at the border.
  • Pets coming into the United States are subject to regulation by the USDA and -- for reptiles and fish -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It's best to find the different species rules on specific government Web sites.
  • The U.S. requires rabies vaccinations for dogs but not cats. However, some states do require rabies vaccinations for cats, so check local laws.
  • To bring a bird into the U.S., you'll need a permit, a health certificate and a confinement agreement.
  • Some countries ask for the actual paperwork that came with the rabies vaccination. This is not the sort of thing you want to learn when you get off the plane. Check well in advance with the embassy or consulate of the country you're visiting.
  • If you have a comfort or therapy animal that needs access to places where animals are normally not allowed, you may need a doctor's letter attesting to your need for the animal.
  • When you're entering the U.S., you must list your pet on your customs declaration card.

Is this a lot of work? Yes. Is it manageable? Yes, if you start early enough. And is it worth it? Just look at your puppy. Can you say no to that face?

To learn more about pet travel and related topics, visit the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • "Bringing an Animal into the United States." Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed 1/14/09)
  • "Jet Lag Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention and Travel Diet." MedicineNet. 10/29/2007. (Accessed 1/14/09)
  • "Medical Documents and Suggestions." Pet Travel. (Accessed 1/14/09)
  • "Movement of Pets." European Commission. (Accessed 1/14/09)
  • "Pet Immigration Information." Pet Travel. (Accessed 1/14/09)
  • "Official CFIA Certification for Canadian Pet Travelers." Pet Travel. (Accessed 1/14/09)
  • "What Is a Pet Passport?" Pet Travel. 2008. (Accessed 1/14/09)