What I Wish I Knew Before Taking My Dog Abroad
With good preparation, traveling abroad with your pet is a highly rewarding experience. But finding all of the necessary information can be a frustrating process.
According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), 85 percent of all dog owners consider their pet a member of their family. In fact, while 87 percent of Americans say they feel close to their mother, an astounding 94 percent report having the same feeling for their dog.
Many studies have also confirmed the mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of a canine’s companionship. On an overseas trip with various challenges and surprises, these benefits can become an invaluable aid. From the stress of packing to the ridiculously long airport lines, Biggie (my Newf Shepherd pup) definitely kept me sane during our trip to Italy. Backpacking through a foreign country also felt safer and more enjoyable with his company.
With that said, the first thing you must take care of is transportation for your animal to the respective location. Biggie and I have always flown with American Airlines (AA). Not only does AA boast one of the largest carrier dimensions for pets, but they also offer a highly competitive price at $125 per one-way trip. Small pets can even travel alongside their owners in the cabin, similar to service and emotional support animals. AA allows pets to be transported both as carry-on and cargo, but always requires a kennel.
Secondly, you must determine the foreign country’s requirements for animal imports and exports. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides all of that information on their website. Simply scroll down and select the country you will be visiting to see country-specific details.
Typically, all pets must be microchipped or have an identifying tattoo. The USDA requires that all necessary vaccinations and titer tests (blood tests) be performed after the microchip implant. They must also receive all vaccinations at least 21 days before the date of travel in order to be considered valid.
After the medical requirements are met, an international health certificate will be completed by an accredited veterinarian; most veterinarian offices will have at least one accredited vet. After that document is completed and signed, you will need to have it endorsed by your local Veterinary Services area office. If your animal did not require any titer tests for travel, the endorsement will cost $35. If titer tests were included, the cost rises to $130. Each additional animal pays $25. Finally, prepare the original vaccination certificate as well.
From there, pack and relax. Research more about the country that you will be visiting. Look into the difference in available foods, medicines, and especially pay attention to the difference in animal culture.
Italy, for example, has several country-specific laws in place for the well-being of both its dogs and people. But at the same time, talking to locals informed me that I should be careful about Biggie eating scraps from the street. There is apparently a dangerous practice in Italy by business owners, where poisoned scraps of food are used as bait to kill dogs. Some locals stipulated that it was most likely due to bad owners not picking up their dogs’ poop.
On the date of your trip, arrive at the airport two hours before departure. During holidays, add another 30-45 minutes. Giving yourself some extra time will allow you to focus on you and your dog’s comfortability. Once at your destination, follow two simple rules: 1) enjoy yourself and 2) always carry three water bottles!
Although bringing your furry friend along for the journey can be a tedious and extensive process, with the proper planning, it can also enhance your adventure abroad.