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Considering a vacation or move abroad with your furry friend? You’ll need a passport for your trip, and your pet might, too. While required travel documentation for dogs, cats and other animals varies from destination to destination, following these steps will help ensure your pet has all the right papers to breeze through customs and avoid quarantines.


Pynchon, the Davis cat, prepares for take off.

1. Talk to your vet. As soon as you begin planning your trip, talk with your vet about what your pet will need to travel abroad. One of the first steps required by most countries is to make sure your pet has an international microchip and proof of an updated rabies vaccine. Typically these can be done up to a year before travel, but not sooner than 21 days, be sure to plan ahead. Some countries require that your pet be tested for rabies antibodies in addition to receiving the vaccine, to demonstrate that the vaccine has worked. Confirm with your vet and leave yourself plenty of time for the vaccination process.

2. Contact your local USDA branch. For countries that require it, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will approve your traveling health certificate for your pet. Give them a call to confirm what documents you’ll need to complete before traveling to your destination. You can also check the USDA website for a list of traveling requirements. These documents will need to be completed by your vet, typically within a week to 10 days of your departure date, and then certified by the USDA before you leave. Additionally some countries require you to submit an animal importation notice before you travel to let them know you’ll be traveling with your pet.

Plus: Check out these five great hotels where pets get VIP treatment.

3. Make your vet appointment. Within 7 to 10 days of travel, make an appointment for your pet’s care provider to confirm your pet is fit for travel, and then complete the appropriate paperwork. For dogs this visit may be required to include treatment against ticks and tapeworms as well. Confirm your vet has the forms you will need (as indicated by the USDA) and schedule this visit in advance to allow the office plenty of time to review the forms before your visit.

 4. File at the USDA. Play it safe by scheduling your visit to the USDA’s office at least a day ahead of your travel in case any questions come up. The USDA veterinarian will sign and stamp the paperwork to certify your pet’s health certificate. Make a copy of all your documents so you can carry a set with you. The originals will need to travel with your pet.

5. Congrats! Your pet is now set for travel. Bon voyage!

pet passport

Pynchon’s papers


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Tagged: Europe, Family time

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Julie Davis

Julie Davis

Julie is a writer, travel lover and Chicago transplant living in the UK. Find her online at
Julie Davis

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5 thoughts on “Does your pet need a passport?”

  1. I would like to travel from USA to Spain with my parrotlet. Nobody seems to have experience with traveling with pet bird in cabin overseas.
    Is there a company or somebody with experience that could help me?
    I would really appreciate it.

    1. I am in the process of getting paperwork and vet certification to travel from Canada to the U.S. with a conure. If you Google CITES and read what they say there, also there is a number you can call there where they can direct you. Also, check with your local customs agent/office and they can direct you to the website for what is required. It could vary depending if thus us for temporary travel purposes or emigration purposes.
      Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for such a trip as it may require vet certification and permits being authorized through various offices and agencies and could take several weeks to finalize. Also, depending on when you enquire, the requirements may have changed based on global conditions. This may apply more for livestock but doesn’t preclude your domestic pets in some cases. It also varies based on which border/customs office you intend to “make the transaction” through. East coast may be different from west for example.

  2. Maria, as the article stated, it does depend upon your destination. Also, the species of your bird. I have an Amazon parrot, which is a protected species under CITES – (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). CITES treats travel with pets of species on their list nearly the same as if you were in the business of importing and exporting them. Just going from the US to Canada as I do every summer, I have to deal with both the USDA and the USFW – (Fish & Wildlife) and their equivalent agencies in Canada in addition to CITES in both countries. USFW charges the same as if you were in business as well. Also, I have to stop on both sides of the border each time to cross and often deal with border agents who know little or nothing about the process. Also, the fees I have to pay to leave the US with him are high – $400 – plus the costs of permits etc. I think in total, the charges – vets, permits, fees, etc. were about $650 in total last year. It is many more times complicated than traveling with a pet dog or cat.

    If your bird is on this list, you’ll need to start the application processes at least 60 days, preferably 90 or more, before your departure. You’ll need to do lots of research on your own, as there seems to be no ‘one-stop shop’ to provide all of the requirements of the agencies between the two countries. I presume you’ll already cleared the travel with the cruise line.

    Certainly, the requirements for traveling with your bird will be different than mine – hopefully an easier process. Start the research on-line and call every agency you might need to deal with as you might get different information from them on the phone than you find on-line. The first year I did this, I did all the above and thought I was prepared, only to be denied entry with the bird and I ended boarding him on the US side and hundreds of miles away from home as I had no other option.

    Best of luck to you and hope you find an easy solution to travel with your pet.

  3. Do turtles need a passport, Im curious because I have a turtle and I want to get it to the county Im going to so Im looking at some websites but it doesn’t really say anything.

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