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It is usually safer and less traumatic for pets to accompany their owners during international travel to ensure the least amount of time in transit. This handout offers some suggestions for shipping animals humanely.

Pets under 10 pounds may travel as excess baggage in the cabin of the plane. The number of pets allowed on each flight is limited, so reserve space for them as soon as your travel plans are firm. The traveling container must fit underneath the seat and may not exceed 9 X 12 X 22 inches. Quarantine regulations differ in each country, so check with your travel agent when planning your itinerary. Flights to London will not accept reservations for pets in the cabin because of British government regulations.

Larger pets may be shipped in the belly of the aircraft in a pressurized compartment, which is heated or air-conditioned. The airline must be notified in advance of the type of pet, its weight and the size of the container. The charge for shipping animals in this way is equivalent to the cost of one piece of excess baggage.

If it is inconvenient for the pet to accompany a family member, it may be shipped at cargo rates, which is considerably more expensive. The pet must be delivered to and picked up from the cargo building and travels on an airway bill number. To avoid problems at the destination point, since travelers and baggage don't arrive at the same point simultaneously, arrange for a friend or kennel to pick up your pet when it arrives. The name and telephone number should be on the shipping documents.

Tranquilizing dogs and cats before travel makes adjustments to traveling in a container and unfamiliar sensations of the aircraft easier when the drug wears off in six to eight hours. There is usually no need for additional tranquilizers. Check with us for correct dosage and take an extra supply for later use. Some animals have an adverse reaction to the tranquilizers, so it is a good idea to give them a test run several weeks before shipment. Animals should always be fed their regular diet up to eight hours before travel. Water may be given up to 2 hours before travel. The amount of dehydration the animal experiences is dependent on the environment in which it is traveling. When traveling in hot climates, try to water the animal during each plane transfer.

Some airlines sell kennels. Check this out with your airline. If you are going to purchase a kennel, be sure you pick it up well in advance of travel since supplies in each size may be limited.

Keep a copy of all shipping documents and flight numbers in hand to enable you to give precise information to airline officials when trying to locate a lost pet.

Check List for Shipment Of Dogs and Cats:

  • Arrange with your veterinarian for required shots and certificates within the specified time periods. Even though not always required, it is recommended that you include Vaccination for Distemper and Hepatitis (DHLPI-Parvo & Corona - the annual 6 in 1 vaccination) and Bordetella (Kennel cough).
  • Medications may be difficult to obtain, be sure you are well supplied. Ask us about mailing arrangements.
  • Some countries and some states require certification of the Veterinarian's Health Certificate. (See below)
  • Reserve airspace as soon as possible. Be sure to schedule arrival on a weekday and not a weekend, as it is usually necessary for animals to be cleared by a veterinarian on arrival.
  • Provide a sturdy, leak proof crate that is large enough for the animal to stand, lie down and turn around in. Let him get used to the crate well before you leave with practice sessions that build the time of confinement. Most U.S. carriers have shipping containers in various sizes available for purchase. However, shop early, as they may not have all sizes in stock at the particular time you need one.
  • Be sure he has a comfortable pad to lie on and a few familiar toys. A leash should also be included in the crate.
  • Print your name destination address clearly on the shipping crate itself; include the pet's name, so that the attendant can talk to him. If he has special habits -- or he bites -- include that information also.
  • Feed him up to eight hours before shipping, water up to 2 hours before shipping unless it is very hot (or he is very small or has kidney problems). A water dish should be provided and attached so that it cannot tip. It should be conveniently located so that the attendant can provide water at stopovers without being bitten.
  • Send dry food along if the trip is long. If you send canned food, fasten an opener and dish to the crate in a cloth or mesh bag with feeding instructions clearly marked on the crate.
  • Exercise him well just before he is shipped so he'll be ready to sleep.

Veterinarian's Health Certificates

1. Cats and dogs entering other countries from the United States need to meet the requirements set by those countries. If you are transiting one country on your way to another country you may have to meet requirements of the transit country as well as those of the country of destination. Your veterinarian and the USDA office are in position to supply information and assistance in the process, but the pet owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring all the requirements are met. Some travelers find that the services of companies which specialize in pet shipping are useful in this situation.

2. Pets may need to have microchips implanted to meet importing country requirements and almost always require a current valid rabies vaccination status. Other tests, vaccinations and treatments may be required. Individual countries may have timing requirements for tests and vaccinations that vary from those of other countries. It may take six months or longer to prepare an animal for export to some countries. Usually this information will all be put onto some type of health certificate or certificate of veterinary inspection by the pet’s veterinarian. Some countries have their own health certificate they want to be used for pets (EU, South Africa, Japan, and others). These certificates may be available online, directly from a ministry in the country, from an embassy office, or require an application for an entry permit to obtain. Other countries don’t have a health certificate form of their own and U.S. veterinarians use the USDA form “APHIS 7001, United States Interstate and International Certificates of Health Examination for Small Animals” for pets going there. The APHIS 7001 is a numbered and controlled distribution form that is provided to veterinarians by the USDA-APHIS-Veterinary Services offices. 

3. Regulations and health certificate forms for many countries may be found at the USDA webpage.  These regulations are the most recent ones supplied to USDA by responsible officials in other countries and by no means are there requirements listed for every country.

4. You will need to work with a USDA Accredited Veterinarian (we are) who will do the required health exams, draw blood samples for testing, administer vaccinations and treatments and prepare a health certificate just prior to travel. All private practitioners are licensed by the state they practice in, but not all are USDA Accredited. Approximately 80% of practitioners are accredited by USDA to do export work. A few countries specifically state in their requirements that USDA Accreditation and USDA endorsement of the documents are not required. There are special arrangements in some countries for US military family pets going to bases in those countries.

5. You are responsible for obtaining the necessary forms (most are available online at the address above).

6. You will also need to contact the airline you and your pet are flying on to find out if there are any special requirements. Speak to the airline personnel at the airport you will be leaving from. Believe it or not, some airlines vary their policies between airports. Will your pet (cat or small dog) travel in the cabin with you, or will they travel in the cargo hold? Does the airline require any additional paperwork? These are the kind of questions you want to have answers to. For travelers to the European Union, some airlines will want to see a copy of an APHIS 7001, the health certificate form used for pets to Europe before the present EU forms were issued. Many veterinarians issue both an APHIS 7001 and an EU health certificate “just in case”.

7. The health exams and certificates for travel to most countries should be done within 10 days of travel. This is because the US Animal Welfare Act sets that as a standard for air travel for covered animals. Some airlines pay more attention to this than others. Technically, a pet traveling in the cargo hold is covered by the AWA, while one traveling in the cabin with the owner is not, but most airlines don’t make the distinction.

8. After our veterinarian has prepared the health certificate it needs to come to the USDA Veterinary Services Area office to be endorsed. Endorsement means that USDA places a signature, seal or stamp on the documents attesting that the USDA Accredited veterinarian is approved to do export document work. There is an Area office in Richmond, Virginia.   You may use one that is most convenient for you. The information here applies to the Area office in Richmond. There are minor differences between offices (office hours, scheduling, etc.).

9. You can bring your documents to the Area office in Richmond, VA in person or you can send them. If you bring want to bring them in person us, please call and make an appointment with the Veterinary Medical Officer in the office to sign your documents. The veterinarians have multiple duties in the three state/district area we cover and we want to avoid your making a wasted trip to their office. The number for appointments is 804-343-2560 and whoever answers will be able to make the appointment for you. Typically it takes 20-30 minutes to process your paperwork in person. 

10. If you send the documents to the USDA, use an express service with next day delivery (UPS, FedEx). Surface mail is not recommended. Include a prepaid return label so they can send the documents back. Include payment to the USDA and allow 2 days for processing once the papers are received.  Provide phone numbers where they can reach you when your documents arrive in their office. Often there are minor corrections they can make if they can contact you. They will process and send back your documents the same day they receive them, unless they arrive late in the day or there are problems with the documents and they can’t reach you.  Our office offers this service for an additional fee.

11. They need to have the following documents presented to process your health certificates
A. Health certificates (originals) to be endorsed
B. Copies of the current rabies vaccination certificates for each animal
C. Check, money order, credit card info to pay the USDA user fee. The fee varies with the country of destination, number of tests required and number of animals. You may call for the fee in advance. Checks and money orders should be made payable to USDA. They are unable to accept cash.
D. Prepaid, return label if you are expressing documents to them.
12. Address:
          USDA-APHIS-Veterinary Services
          400 North 8th Street, Suti 726
          Richmond, VA 23219-4824
          Phone: (804) 343-2560
          Fax: (804) 343-2599
13. If you have any additional questions, please call (804) 343-2560. The members of the staff will be able to help with your export.


Not everyone knows that the ASPCA runs a shelter at Kennedy Airport for traveling animals. It is open 24 hours a day including weekends and holidays. They are equipped to handle all kinds of animals and have over 140 species pass through their hands. They will examine, clean, feed, water, exercise and care for your pet during stopovers; Veterinarians are available through the New York City Veterinary Medical Association; you can also write for crating directions and crates.

If there is a delay, they will kennel the pets. This is very helpful if your pet arrives in New York before you or leaves after you. State on your airway bill that your pet is to be taken to the ANIMALPORT if there is a delay or stopover. The address is:

ASPCA Animalport
Air Cargo Center
Kennedy International Airport
Jamaica, New York 11430
(718) 244-4444 (Kennedy Airport)

If you have any questions, or are in doubt, write or call your local customs office or the specific agency mentioned below:

U.S.Public Health Service
Center For Diseased Control
Quarantine Division
Atlanta, Georgia 30333
(404) 639-3311

Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
In Annapolis

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