Beginner’s Guide to Pet Passports

(CNN) — It’s not just human beings who need a passport to travel.

Fashion designer Valentino had a coterie of six adorable pugs traveling with him on his private jet. Not only did they all have passports, but chances are they had more stamps than the average human traveler.

However, most of the time, “pet passport” is more of a metaphorical term. Rather than blue or red booklets containing names and photos, pet passports are more likely to be a pile of documents.

And while a passport can allow a human to enter multiple countries, the requirements for animals to travel vary widely between continents and countries. The process can be expensive and overwhelming, but it’s navigable.


Beth Schutte is President and CEO of ARK Import Export Center, which operates ARK at JFK, a full-service animal shelter and quarantine facility located directly on the runway at JFK Airport in New York.

“The European Union has mainly pioneered this whole practice of pet passporting which allows animals to move more freely with their owners throughout the European Union and the UK,” says Schutte.

“Countries like Russia or China, you would see pet passports, but they’re really not an official document, like a human passport. It’s more of a consolidation of all the pet information. The United States does not require the pet passport at all.”

No matter where you’re from and where you’re traveling or moving, there’s basically one piece of advice that all pet travel experts agree on: start as early as possible.

Dog trainer and author Bash Dibra, who has worked with the furry friends of celebrities like Mariah Carey and Sarah Jessica Parker, thinks it’s never too early to make your pet more comfortable with travel, even over short distances.

“Basically, the first time you get your dog, you should prepare him for the imaginary trips you’ll take,” he says. “Crate training allows you to train properly for everything else.”

He adds, “Once a dog or cat is crate trained, they enjoy being around the environment. You can do this by planning special trips, going in the car, or to a weekend house or visiting friends, or even if you want to take your dog to a hotel.”

Schutte recommends working with a reputable travel agency that specializes in transporting animals – some of these can be found by looking at the IPATA approved companies list.

Meanwhile, Dibra advises an overwhelmed owner to contact his local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for a veterinary referral if he doesn’t know where to start.

You should also see if your current vet knows the travel rules and consider a visit or two to another vet if not.

Schutte and his colleagues have seen pets being denied boarding for all sorts of minor reasons, like transposing two numbers into a date. In the United States, dates are written the month first, whereas in many other countries they are written the day first and the month second, so “May 10th” in the United States becomes “May 10th”. October 5″ in France.

To reduce panic for both human and animal, working with someone who is familiar with the latest documents and restrictions will help reduce stress and ensure everything is in order on D-Day.

In the USA

The transportation of animals to the United States is the domain of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture, more commonly referred to by its acronym APHIS.

The Department defines “pets” such as dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, hedgehogs and most classes of reptiles, amphibians and rodents. These animals must be privately owned and not intended for scientific experimentation or resale.
There is one major exception to the pet guidelines. If you have a pet bird, you will need to provide additional information to a veterinarian at an approved port. The Ministry of Fish and Wildlife may also need to be involved. More details here.
APHIS website contains useful information on transporting animals in and out of the country as well as between states and territories, as places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico have stricter regulations.

There are occasional exceptions to the rules in case of emergency – for example, at the moment animals brought from Ukraine can get their papers in order faster due to the situation there.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has specific guidelines for pets traveling by plane — check out their extremely cute pets, guide filled with gif for more.

In the European Union

One of the advantages of the European Union is that travel is quite easy for humans and their pets in these countries.

The best thing you can do is make sure your pet… defined in EU as a dog, cat or ferret – is up to date on rabies vaccinations and keep these documents with you in case you cross a border.

European Union pet passports can only be issued by licensed veterinarians in EU member countries. Those from the UK, USA or other countries will not be accepted.

Any pet entering the EU from a foreign country must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and over 12 weeks old.

If you are from the United States, you will need to complete the Annex II form issued by APHIS.

Individual airlines have different policies on whether pets can travel in the cabin with their owners or not – size and breed play a major role. Be sure to do your research before booking tickets.

This dog takes a nap before departure.

Adobe Stock


Thanks to Brexit, which means the UK is no longer part of the European Union, there are now different requirements for bringing a pet into the country. These rules apply to England, Scotland and Wales and not Northern Ireland, which has its own policies outlined here.

Cats, dogs and ferrets traveling as pets in the UK must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and have a valid ‘passport’ or health certificate. It’s also a good idea to give dogs tapeworm treatments before traveling.

Beyond that, some dog breeds – like pit bulls and Japanese tosas – are completely prohibited.

Because it’s an island, the UK strictly enforces its animal transport rules. If you do not complete the paperwork correctly or do not bring the relevant documents, your pet could be denied boarding, seized upon arrival and/or forced to spend up to four months in quarantine.

Follow UK government guidelines carefully – you can see them here.

The UK is also currently speeding up the process for pets being transported from Ukraine.

In Australia

In Australia, the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) manages animal movement criteria. First, all nations are placed into one of three groups.

The first two groups are mainly made up of neighboring countries and Pacific islands, while group three This is where you will find most EU member countries, many Caribbean islands, Canada and the United States.

Cats and dogs – no other animals – from approved countries can be brought in as pets, but will be subject to a 10-day quarantine at Mickleham’s post-entry quarantine facility in Melbourne.

Simply arriving in the country will not be enough. You will need secure a reservation for your pet in Mickleham and pay the necessary costs to take care of your pet. It starts with an import fee of AUS$1,200 (US$894).

Quarantine protocols are very strict. As tempting as it might be to send your dog or cat to Mickleham with a favorite chew toy. these will all be destroyed on arrival due to possible contamination issues. The food is also selected by the establishment, so if your pet has specific needs, be sure to let Mickleham know in advance.

If your country is not on the list of approved nations, you will need to arrange transport via a third country.

If you are in the continental United States, it is quite easy to travel with your pet by car.

If you are in the continental United States, it is quite easy to travel with your pet by car.

Adobe Stock

Passed the paperwork

Even if your pet doesn’t need a “passport” right away, you can start planning ahead by buying or organizing the things you’ll need later.

The Dibra dog trainer prefers crates for most dogs, although small dogs capable of flying in the cabin (or the backseat of the car) with their owners can be placed in smaller crates. When it comes to cats, he recommends plastic cages, which he says are “sturdiest and safer,” especially in an emergency.

Our partners at CNN Underscored have compiled a list of the best pet carrier brands for travel.

In addition to buying new things, you should also keep old ones. Favorite toys and snacks are travel essentials, and many pets are comforted by a familiar-smelling item like a stuffed animal or an owner’s t-shirt inside their carrier.

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