Have the documents ready, we're leaving!
I am sure this is one of the points that everyone who is thinking about traveling with their dog will want to know. Well, it is difficult to provide general information, as each country of destination has different requirements. The origin of your flight it also matters. Thus, as destination, for example, Latin American countries tend to be less strict than European and North American ones, and these, in turn, are more tolerant than countries like Australia, New Zealand or Japan. In relation to the origin, the first thing to do is to check if your country is classified as high or low risk for rabies disease. Yet you will have to inform yourself about the requirements that your specific destination for your nation (or, rather, the country from which you fly) specifically asks. Fortunately, in recent years, and little by little, the process of importing pets is easing. Largely because we are more and more the ones who consider our buddies as own members of the family.
Here we are going to focus on the requirements that most countries ask for. I have created another separate post with information on the strictest countries regarding rabies disease, so that you get an idea of what you are facing if you plan to fly to those destinations. In that post, you can also find out if your country is among the territories considered free of rabies. On the other hand, airlines will ask you the requirements that your country of destination asks for. So, basically, everything depends on the country you want to visit, but you should take a look at the website of the airline you are going to fly with to check if they do accept pets and what are the conditions (documentation and cage requirements). Read the post of traveling by plane with your dog for more information.
However, despite this variety of requirements that you can be asked for based on your origin and destination, there are several common aspects for everybody (and everydoggy!). No matter wherever you go, and wherever you come from, they will serve you. Let´s start first with the general information and then we will go into the detail.
TRAVELING BY PLANE
The first thing to do is to enter the pet importation section of the website of the country of destination, and if possible visit in person the consulate of the country, to obtain detailed and last minute information. Then, gather all the papers, which you will be asked for in the two controls: the AIRLINE CONTROL and the CONTROL at the DESTINATION AIRPORT. Both controls will be asking the same.
THE ESSENTIALS THAT EVERYONE ASK FOR: rabies vaccine, antiparasitic treatment, microchip, health certificate
Rabies vaccine in force, this is in the last 12 months. If it is the first shot for your furry friend, they usually ask you to have it done at least 1 month in advance before flying. That is, do not give your dog the vaccine two days before flying! If the dog is less than three months old they do not usually ask you this requirement (mostly because it is dangerous to get the vaccine at a very young age).
Vaccine against rabies. Ask the veterinarian to put the sticker of the vaccine and a stamp in the passport (although you will probably find clinics that do not even know what you are talking about)
Internal deworming and external antiparasitic treatment a few days before the flight. This usually has to be done between 3 and 10 days before the flight, but this you will have to check before leaving because for each country is different.
External antiparasitic treatment. Ask always for the stamp, just in case
Microchip. The dog's identification system, the equivalent of our fingerprints. In my experience, I have never been asked to try the dectector on Cocaí, but beware of some strict countries (Australia for example), because if their chip reading systems are not compatible with your dog chip you could be in trouble.
Health certificate from a veterinarian. She/He will write a letter stating that your dog has the rabies vaccine in force, and is in healthy condition to travel.
Some Cocaí´s medical certificates, required before flying or crossing land borders
Depending on the country you are flying to, and from where you fly, you will be asked for different things: additional vaccines, rabies antibody test (this is detailed later in this post and in the strictest countries regarding rabies disease post). Check it out before you leave accessing the pet import portal of your country of destination.
On the other hand, there is the issue of the cage, which is ruled by the airlines. It must be made of plastic (not cloth, unless it is a small dog and you can carry him/her up in the passenger area) and have ventilation (obviously). Airlines typically specify that the dog should fit well and should not touch his head with the top when standing. I have never been asked to show this, so with a cage big enough for your dog should be okay.
With this Ecuadorian kennel we flew to Lima, to Madrid, to Cancun and to Monterrey, where at last it stayed for the happiness of us all
Measures are usually indicated; Ours was ideal for dogs between 13 and 22 kg
RECOMMENDED: THE EUROPEAN PET PASSPORT
Congratulations to the Europeans, who are the ones who have benefited from this incredible advantage (yes friends, even European dogs have privileges when it comes to emigrating). This document, which has been created in recent years, will help you to travel to different countries in Europe, including those where it was very difficult, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland or Sweden. Not so long ago (before 2012), these destinations asked for the rabies neutralizing antibodies test (about which we will speak shortly), which meant money and time. Now, it is enough with this passport in which the data are registered (rabies vaccine, internal deworming, external antiparasitic treatment, microchip number). However, these destinations are still very strict, so make sure all the data is legible and are in their corresponding section (watch the veterinarian make no mistake!).
The European passport, in addition, will save you headaches when you return to your European country from another continent, especially from countries classified as high risk rabies disease. It was very difficult for me to bring Cocaí from South America. I was asked for the damn certificate of the rabies neutralizing antibodies test to fly from Ecuador (this applies to the rest of countries throughout Latin America, except Argentina, Chile and Mexico). Had I had the European passport everything would have been much easier. So, if you have to fly from a country that the European Union (or other strict countries) considers high risk of rabies, you will not need to do this procedure or, as I did, travel a thousand kilometers to another country from which you will not be asked for this test.
The European passport costs around 25-30 euros and you can get one at your veterinarian. If your veterinarian does not have this document ask in others. It is just like any dog vaccination card, which details the biography of your dog, the data of the chip (code, date and place of implantation), vaccines, deworming and so on. The only difference is that it has the European flag in the cover. By the way, it is also valid for cats and ferrets, in case that instead of a dog traveler you are a cat or ferret traveler.
This is the European Passport
Cocaí posing proudly with her passport
IMPORTANT: RABIES ANTIBODY TEST
Now, let's see what is this. If you fly from a country considered by the destination of your flight as a high risk of rabies, it is not enough that your dog has the rabies vaccine. They will ask you for this paper. The procedure from Europe (recommended if you are going to travel to one of these "dangerous" countries, lest you get problems later) is not that bad: it costs about 100 euros and takes around two or three weeks (one month as much). And it lasts for the whole life of the animal. But if you have to do it from another place in the world, let's say Latin America, the price could go up to 400 or 500 dollars and the whole process can take up to 3 months. And how come is so expensive from outside Europe? This bureaucratic process is as follows. A blood sample is taken from a veterinarian in the country of origin. This sample is sent to an approved laboratory, and this is probably where you spend the money. These laboratories where they prove that your dog does not have the disease don´t abound around the globe… To give you an idea, in Spain there are only two authorized laboratories: the the Valencian Institute of Microbiology (IVAMI), a private institution; and the Animal Health Central Laboratory of Santa Fe (Granada), under the Ministry of the Environment. The owner is responsible for shipping the blood sample to these laboratories. If you are flying from South America to Europe, the sample will have to be analyzed in a European laboratory, something that as we have said will not be cheap. Click here to take a look on the authorized laboratories worldwide that can carry out this test.
While most countries in the European Union, Canada and the US request this test to a number of countries listed as dangerous for the spread of rabies, other countries such as Australia or New Zealand request this test to all dogs entering their territory, regardless of their origin. In addition, some extremely strict countries have directly prohibited some nationalities of dogs. For example, Australia does not allow the entry of dogs from many Latin American countries. The “lucky ones” who can access the country have to go through a mandatory quarantine. To find out which countries are safe from this requirement, take a look at the post of the strictest countries with the matter of rabies.
Facing the rabies neutralizing antibodies test. You have several options.
If your dog has the European passport you have free rein to fly from wherever you want to almost all destinations (exceptions: Australia, New Zealand). This would be a good alternative, but you cannot always get one of these.
Travel to a country from which you will not be asked this absurd requirement. This is what I did: from Ecuador I traveled to Chile. It is totally a nonsense... If you do this, the countries that the EU considers free of rabies in Latin America (at the moment) are: Mexico, Chile and Argentina. For the rest of them they will ask you for this damn control.
Pay and wait
OVERLAND TRIPS / BORDERS
It is usually easier. In fact, among some countries, such as those in the European Union, you will have total freedom. Depending on the destination, some countries do not ask for anything and others do (in theory). And I say in theory because sometimes these countries do not ask for the documentation of the dog they are supposed to ask (for example, they did not ask me for anything when crossing from Mexico to USA). It will depend on whether you choose a touristy and transit border for crossing (where the law will be applied without discussion) or a less visited one by which hardly crosses anyone. I was asked for the dog papers when crossing from Bolivia to Brazil and from Peru to Chile (the latter was the most complicated). Again, I recommend, at least for Europeans, that you make the European passport because everything will be easier.
MORE OR LESS THE SAME ESSENTIALS (but possibly not as essentials as if traveling by plane)
Rabies vaccination in effect, this is in the last 12 months.
Internal deworming and external antiparasitic treatment a few days before entering the country.
Health certificate from a veterinarian. He/she will write a letter stating that your dog has the rabies vaccine in effect and is in healthy condition.
Depending on the country you go you will be asked different things, such as additional vaccines. Check it before you leave. The chip is not usually mandatory, but you would better get your buddy one in case he/she gets lost (so you have a chance to find him/her).
Note: Sometimes, at the border you may be forced to get rid of some dog stuff like dog food, treats, the bed or the blanket of your buddy...
THE STRICTEST COUNTRIES
If you are thinking of traveling to one of these countries - Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, among others – I am sorry my friend, it is going to be tough wherever you come from (or even impossible from some nations). Other countries that also have many (but not all) requirements are: Malta, United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden...
And one wonders, why? As it turns out that most of them are islands, and the animals that inhabit them have been isolated from the rest of the continental fauna. If an animal arrives with the rabies virus (to give the example of the most feared disease by the authorities), the native fauna will not have the defense mechanisms (immunological) to fight it back, and the disease could spread quickly. That is, the fact that those countries take many precautions (sometimes excessive, such as inhuman quarantine periods) has some logic, but it is a shame for those who travel with their dogs in a responsible way , with all the vaccines and treatments in order.
Check out the post of the strictest countries with in relation to rabies for more information.
Happy to be back on land (Lisbon airport)
FLIGHTS (both nationals and internationals included)
Quito – Lima. The common: veterinarian health certificate, passport in order, valid rabies vaccine, deworming in the previous days, chip. However, you will be charged an extra fee for entering Peru with a dog. It is supposed to be because there is an endemic breed, a type of hairless dogs, but I did not quite understand it. About 20 euros.
Santiago – Madrid. I was asked everything. I did lots of papers in Santiago city before leaving. Warning: they are very strict in Chilean controls.
Madrid – Cancun. I was asked the basics and there was no problema. Easy.
Cancun – Monterrey (national). Piece of cake.
Boston – Lisbon. I was supposed to need a specific medical certificate (European requirement) and go to an office in Albany city to put a stamp on it. I did not do the stamp thing because you had to ask for an appointment and I already had the flight ticket. When we arrived at the Lisbon airport they asked me for all the documents and they did a little medical check-up on my dog, but they told me that the medical certificate and the stamp were not necessary because we had a European pet passport.
LAND BORDERS (just nationals included)
Bolivia – Brazil (Guayaramerín – Guajara-Mirim). They asked me for the dog´s documentation but they hardly took a look on it. In fact I had not get Cocaí the rabies vaccine yet (because she was very young by that time and it was dangerous) and they did not tell me anything about that.
Brazil – Peru (by boat; triple border Tabatinga-Santa Rosa-Leticia, Colombia). I was not asked anything in any of these three countries.
Peru – Ecuador (La Balsa). I was not asked anything.
Peru – Chile (Tacna – Arica). They asked me for all the documentation and thoroughly reviewed it. If you go to Chile by land, either by Peru, Bolivia or Argentina, it is very possible that they ask you for all the papers, so be ready. They are very strict and if you are missing something they will not let you entry their territory. You would have to return to the nearest town of the country of origin and make the missing papers before returning to the border.
Spain – France (Pyrenees mountains). Nothing required.
[if !supportLists]France – Spain (Pyrenees mountains). Same thing.
Spain – Portugal (Extremadura). Nothing required.
Portugal – Spain (Extremadura). Same thing.
Mexico – USA (Nogales, Arizona). Although I did all the paperwork I was not asked for anything. The dog is supposed to have the rabies vaccine in force, have been dewormed in the previous days, and have a health certificate from a veterinarian.
USA – Canada. Exactly the same as USA: rabies vaccine in effect, deworming in the days prior to entry the country and a medical certificate from a veterinarian. They just asked me if she had the rabies vaccine, I said yes, they trusted me, and end of the story.
Canada – USA. They did not ask me anything about the dog (only about me!).