I wrote this article, first of all, to help other dog owners with information regarding traveling or moving to a European country with their dog(s). The whole process might seem complicated, but it really isn’t. Second of all, I’m writing this to share my experience with relocating our Corgi, Toby, from Chicago to Europe. I will start with the beginning:
Last year, me and my boyfriend decided to move back to our home country in March of 2012. Since leaving Toby behind wasn’t an option, my duty was to find out exactly what we needed for the trip and to put together all his paperwork. I started with the research pretty early, because all this was new for me, and I wanted to make sure that on the day of the flight I wasn’t missing anything.
When traveling with your dog to Europe the first thing that your dog will need is a microchip. The microchip required by the European Union is a 15-digit microchip that meets ISO standards 11784/11785 and operates at 134.2 kHz.
If your dog already has a 9 or 10 digit microchip (in U.S. pets are usually microchipped with these), then your dog will need a new 15 digit microchip, OR you can carry your own microchip scanner, since at the airports and in the E.U. they have scanners only for the 15 digit microchips.
We ordered our 15 digit microchip online and paid about $50 for it. It came with free registration in a pet database, and our vet implanted it free of charge.
After the microchip implantation, your dog will need to be vaccinated against rabies. The vaccine should be given at least 21 days before the travel date. If the rabies vaccine was given before the microchip was inserted, it won’t be recognized, which means that you’ll need to re-vaccinate your pet. We microchipped our Corgi on June 24th 2011, and on June 26th 2011 we vaccinated him, and this way we avoided any complications.
When you receive the rabies vaccination certificate from your veterinarian, make sure that your dog’s microchip number is listed on the certificate!
Documents needed to travel with your pet
Now that you got the microchipping and vaccination covered, it’s time to start worrying about the paperwork. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated! The most important document that you will need is the EU 998 health certificate. You should go to: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/nocomm_third_en.htm to print it out (the downloadable forms, in different linguistic renditions are found at the bottom of the page).
You will need to print out the EU 998 form in the language of the European country of entry and it will need to be completed either in English or the language of the European country of entry. For example, we came to Romania, but entered the European Union through Germany, so we needed the German version of the form, which my vet completed in English. The EU 998 certificate must be filled out by a USDA accredited veterinarian (ask your vet if he/she is accredited), with block letters using blue ink.
Make sure that all the information on the certificate is correct (I triple checked everything, especially the microchip number). Also, make sure that all the dates in the EU 998 form are written in the European format (dd/mm/yyyy).
After the EU 998 form is completed, signed and stamped by the vet, you must send it to your USDA area office for endorsement. To find the USDA office in your area, visit: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/area_offices/ and select your state. You will need to send the EU 998 form together with the rabies vaccine certificate (signed by the vet) and a check for $37 payable to USDA APHIS. The USDA area office will return the endorsed EU 998 certificate to you, via regular mail.
You may be lucky and find an USDA office close to you, in which case you won’t need to mail the EU 998 certificate, since you can drive over there and get it endorsed. You will need an appointment, though, and they don’t accept cash.
Another document that you may need is the APHIS 7001 International health certificate. This is usually required by the airline, but not all airlines require a health certificate for traveling pets. I advise you to acquire it, just in case. Your vet should be able to provide you the APHIS 7001 certificate (you can see it here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/library/forms/pdf/APHIS7001.pdf). The info on this form is filled out on the computer, and your vet will have to sign it after printing it out. Since the vet is the one providing you with this form, he will charge you for it. I think I paid $45 for it.
The APHIS 7001 certificate should be issued no more than 10 days prior to the pet’s departure, and will need the USDA endorsement as well. This can seem tricky if you need to send it by mail to the USDA office, since there’s such a short time frame, but here is what you must do: when sending the APHIS 7001 form to the USDA, include a pre-paid self-addressed overnight envelope (UPS, FedEx, USPS etc.), and this way you should receive the endorsed form just in time for your flight date.
Endorsement for the APHIS 7001 International health certificate will cost you another $37, unless it is sent to the USDA office together with the EU 998 certificate, in which case you will pay $37 for both certificates.
Usually, airlines don’t require any additional documents, but I recommend calling them and finding out.
Now you’re done with the paperwork, too. It’s easy and you can do it all yourself, there’s no need to pay any pet relocation services.
There’s one last thing you’ll need to do before your departure, and that is: buying a cage (for dogs traveling in the cargo hold), or a pet carrier (for dogs traveling in the cabin with you), and getting your dog accustomed with it. Dogs are normally allowed to travel in the cabin if the dog’s weight (including the carrier) is no more than 18 lbs. For carrier/cage dimensions and prices for transport, please contact the airline you will be flying with.
As I mentioned before, putting everything together is easy, but it was very stressful for me, because I wasn’t able to find all the information that I needed in one place, and I always felt like I was running out of time.
I finished with Toby’s paperwork one week before our departure. Actually, the EU 998 form was already completed, but I wanted to endorse it together with the other one, the APHIS 7001, so I made the appointment with the USDA one week before the flight date. I was lucky and I didn’t have to send the documents in the mail since we had an USDA office 15 minutes away from where we lived. I just drove there and in 5 minutes I had both certificates endorsed.
The thing that made me more nervous and stressed was the fact that Toby would be in a cage for so many hours. When possible, book a non-stop flight. That’s what I did. I booked a flight from Chicago to Munich, we then stayed in Germany for a couple of days at some relatives, and then we drove to Romania. Even if the drive to our home country was 12 hours long, I preferred to have Toby with me in the car, where I could see him at all times.
I must say a little bit about what happened at the airports, in Chicago and in Munich. When we arrived at the Chicago airport we first went to the check-in counter where we paid for Toby’s trip. After that, they (Lufthansa airlines) checked to see if the cage was big enough for Toby, and they also took a glance at the EU 998 certificate. Then, we had to take him to a place where they took my Corgi out of the cage to inspect the inside of it. After this, we had to drop him off with a man who took him on the plane. By that time I was literally crying because I was so worried, and I could see on Toby’s face that he didn’t understand what was happening.
When we arrived in Germany, after a stressful flight, we went to look for our baby. We found him smiling and well at the excess baggage claim. Since I was told by a USDA worker that a vet needs to see Toby, check his paperwork and scan his microchip once we arrive in Germany, I took him and went to “Customs”. There, I tried explaining what I wanted to a few German speaking persons, and finally I spoke with a vet over the phone, who told me that I ‘m free to go, and that he doesn’t need to see my dog. Go figure, after all the stress that I went through with everything, they didn’t even look at my paperwork!
Even though nobody checked Toby, I always had all his paperwork on me, including the EU 998 and APHIS 7001 forms, rabies vaccination certificate, microchip implantation certificate, and a record of all his vaccinations and tests. When traveling with your dog, I suggest you carry these documents with you, too. You never know who might want to take a look at them.
I hope I didn’t leave out any important info regarding traveling with your pet to Europe. If I did, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Also, if you have any other question, and I can help, I will happily do it.
In the end, our experience with moving with Toby to Europe was a pleasant one. He loves it here because he has a big backyard, and he also has a girlfriend that he likes to chase.