International travel with pets requires preplanning
The information included here was current on September 11, 2017
Ever since we decided to spend our early retirement years in Spain, one of our nightmare scenarios is imagining ourselves with five pets and a dozen suitcases stuck in customs because one of our EU documents doesn’t have the correct date format or has the wrong check box ticked or… well you just name it and we’ve imagined it.
I mean if it were just the two of us, we’d manage, but traveling with our pets – we just don’t want anything to go astray. Which is my way of justifying our obsession with figuring out every little step of the paper chase.
So here’s my best shot at understanding the five steps to bringing your pets to Spain from the United States.
STEP 1: Review the Requirements for Your Destination Country
The easiest and really only logical place to find the current requirements for bringing pets into a foreign country is to check the information on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website. This website provides the most recent entry requirements.
Requirements May ChangeBe careful: The requirements for individual countries can change without notice. This information was current on September 11, 2017.
It’s a very good idea to check out the situation close to the time you’ll be travelling
Because we’ll be bringing our five family pets into Spain, we reviewed the APHIS Pet Travel from the U.S. to Spain webpage to learn that, like most of the EU,
Spain does not allow you to bring in dogs, cats, (or ferrets) that have not been vaccinated for rabies.
Spain will not grant exemptions to this requirement.
The other requirements we’ll need to be ready for in order to bring our pets to Spain include:
- Our dog and cats must be individually identified by an ISO (11784 and 11785) compliant microchip.
- They all need a rabies vaccination which must occur AFTER the microchip implantation.
- There’s a 21-day waiting period after the primary rabies vaccination.
- We’ll need a EU Health Certificate completed and signed by an accredited veterinarian.
- Our EU Health Certificate must be endorsed at our “local” APHIS office.
Now that we know what needs to be done we can continue through the necessary steps to get our pets ready for their big move.
Ricco is ready for adventure
STEP 2: An Appropriate Microchip for Each Pet
The EU regulations require our dog, Lizzie, and the four cats to be individually identified by with an international ISO compliant (11784 and 11785) microchip compatible with 134.2 kHz readers. International microchips have 15 digits.
You can read more about international microchips on this AVMA webpage.
Our pets are currently chipped with older microchips that have only nine digits and operate on 125 kHz. We can travel with those chips if we take our own microchip reader. But since we don’t have a microchip reader that’s not going to happen. We can implant an ISO-compatible microchip in addition to the non-ISO one our pets currently have.
Because the old chips can’t be removed the number and implant dates of both microchips must be documented on the EU Health Certificate.
Remember: The number and implantation dates of readable microchips must be documented on the EU Health Certificate and at least one of these microchips must have been implanted before your pet’s most recent rabies vaccine.
Lizzie is headed to Valencia
STEP 3: Get the Rabies Vaccines in Ample Time
The rabies vaccination must not expire before entering the European Union.
Our pets are current with all their immunizations but because the cats are indoor only, they’ve never gotten rabies vaccinations. So they’ll each need “primary” rabies vaccines.
Rabies Vaccination Must Happen AFTER Microchip Implantation
Your veterinarian may administer rabies vaccinations on the same day your pet gets an international microchip implanted. But a rabies vaccination given before a microchip is implanted is invalid.
Vaccinations valid for 1, 2 or 3 years are acceptable as long as the vaccination is current and has been administered according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Our Lizzie dog, has a non-ISO compatible microchip that’s been in place since before her most recent rabies vaccination. She may not have to be re-vaccinated even though she’ll be re-microchipped. We will be checking with our vet about this.
I’ve read that rabies vaccination certificates are required by the USDA APHIS at the time of health certificate endorsement (see step five, below).
“Primary” Rabies Vaccinations
A rabies vaccination is considered a primary vaccination when:
- It is the first vaccination given at the same time or after microchip implantation, or
- It is given after the previous rabies vaccination has expired.
A 21-Day Waiting Period
Pets must wait 21 days after a primary vaccination before they are eligible to enter the European Union.
A rabies antibody titer is essentially an estimation of an immune response against rabies virus (either through exposure or vaccination).
Fortunately, we can avoid this step because the US is not a high rabies country. But if you are traveling from (or through) a high rabies country, a blood titer test must be done after your pet is vaccinated and 3 months prior to travel.
STEP 4: An Accredited Veterinarian Completes the EU Health Certificate
By the time we get to the point we need to have our veterinarian issue the EU Health Certificate for our five pets, we expect to be a little stressed for time. That’s because it’s valid for only 10 days from the date of issue (completed and signed by our veterinarian). It’ll be one of the last things we will do, along with all the other “last things” that will need to be done.
The European Union Pet Heath Certificate Form
There are several different Pet Health Certificate forms available from the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service the you might need depending on whether your pets are traveling with you, how old they are, etc. If you travel on the same plane with your adult pet(s), you will need: this Spanish language EU Pet Health Certification Form to bring up to five pets (cats, dogs, and/or ferrets), who are over sixteen weeks old, with you on the same plane into Spain.
If you aren’t clearing customs in Spain, you should use the certificate that matches the language of the European Union country where you will be clearing customs.
Is It Okay to List Dogs & Cats on the Same EU Form?
We found it a little difficult to decide if we could use the same form for our mixed lot of cats and a dog (there are five spaces for individual pets on the form). After checking with our local APHIS office it turns out that yes indeed you can mix cats and dogs (and ferrets) on the same form.
! RememberThe EU Health Certificate is only valid for 10 days from the date it’s signed by your veterinarian.
How to Fill Out the EU Heath Certificate Form
Even though you will not be filling out the EU Health Certificate for your pets I think it’s a good idea to be familiar with the form and how it should be filled out. It will help you gather the information you’ll need to share with your veterinarian and when it come to paper work, sometimes two heads are better than one.
- Corrections on the health certificate cannot be made with white-out. Where necessary, corrections can be made by crossing out and initialing the change. If at all possible, it is preferable to re-print the document and fill it anew.
- The document must be printed on letter sized paper (8.5 x 11 in).
- The certificate must be signed in blue ink.
- Some sections will require strike-outs which are performed by tracing a single straight line (the use of a ruler is highly recommended) through the applicable text.
- Each strike-out must be initialed by the person who performed it.
- It is important that strike-outs only be made in sections that permit them, otherwise, the certificate may be rendered invalid.
- The strike-out must be made in a manner that still allows the underlying text to be read.
- The date format indicated in the certificate (mm-dd-yyyy) must be followed.
Remember you’re likely to be pressed for time when it comes around to getting the EU Health Certificate issued by your veterinarian. It might be easier on everyone if you use the downloadable pdf we put together to gather the information you’ll need to complete the EU Health Certificate ahead of time.
Take a working pen with blue ink with you on your visit to the vet… just in case.
You might also want to share this pdf from APHIS with Detailed Instructions for how to complete the EU non-commercial Health Certificate.
Teej contemplates his upcoming visit to the vet
STEP 5: APHIS Endorses the EU Health Certificate
Once your accredited veterinarian completes and signs the EU Health Certificate the clock is running. You only have 10 days to get you and your pets through customs in the EU. And just to make it fun you’re not finished with the paper chase. The certificate still needs to be endorsed by your local Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office.
You can find your “local” APHIS Veterinary Services office on thier website.
Depending on where you live, local isn’t synonymous with nearby. For example for Oregon residents the “local APHIS Veterinary Services office” is located at:
USDA-APHIS-National Import Export Services
1550 Irving Street, SW
Ste. 100, Tumwater, WA 98512
Fortunately, we won’t have to make a quick three-plus hour trip to our “local” office. We can send the certificate along with a $38.00 money order and a return envelope by FedEx.
The Fee for a
EU Health Certificate Endorsement
Currently, the minimum fee associated with the USDA’s review and endorsement of all pet international health certificates is $38.00 per certificate.
There are additional fees if your endorsement requires rabies titer testing.
So those are the five steps of the paper chase we’ll need to manage in order to bring our pets with us when we move to Spain.
I hope you find this information helpful. Please let me know if you uncover any new information that might improve this post.
Here are a few more considerations that we uncovered during our investigation…
For Air Travel
Airlines may have separate and additional requirements. Check with your airline to determine what requirements they may have.
If You Are Visiting Several EU Countries
As long as the rabies vaccine documented on the EU Health Certificate does not expire, the certificate is valid for travel within the EU for up to 4 months from the date it is signed and issued by the accredited veterinarian in the U.S.
However, if you are traveling with a dog to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Malta, or Norway, your dog will need to be treated for tapeworms by an EU veterinarian within 1-5 days before entering any of those countries. The EU veterinarian will add the tapeworm treatment information to the health certificate issued in the U.S.
European Union Pet Passport
We’ll be traveling to different European Union countries long after the Health Certificate we get in the U.S. expires. Once we are settled in Spain, we can arrange for EU pet passports for easier travel to other EU nations.
Why not share this useful information
You might also like these articles
- Master the EU Pet Health Certificate Process Before Your Move to Spain
- The Microchips and Paperwork You Will Need to Bring Your Pets to Spain
- How We Chose the Airline and Flight for Moving Our Pets to Spain
- Will Your Pets Travel as Cargo, Carry-on or Checked Baggage?
- Selecting Your Pet’s Kennel for an International Flight
- Don’t Forget the Leashes
- What Happened the Day Lizzie and Her Cat Buddies Moved to Spain
- Our Spanish Journey: Together and Apart