Shipping a Pet Overseas from the United States
The Overseas Briefing Center provides country-specific pet information for the foreign affairs community assigned to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. We encourage pet owners to review carefully their travel plans for upcoming international moves.
Whether moving overseas or returning to the United States on official U.S. government orders, pet owners need to determine an airline carrier’s pet policies on live animals as excess baggage, cargo, and in-cabin before booking your pet. It is also important for pet owners to determine which carrier has the contract for their travel route and what the expenses will be.
GSA Waiver for Airline Pet Travel: If the airline (contract carrier) cannot guarantee the shipment of the pet to the point of destination as accompanied/excess baggage, then members of the Foreign Service community, traveling on official orders, are authorized to use another carrier with some caveats (i.e., if in Europe must use an EU airline) and they may have to cost construct the difference between the contract passenger fare and the other airline passenger fare.
International Pet Travel on American Carriers
The information below pertains to cats and dogs. Airline policies regarding other pets may vary. Contact the airlines directly for additional information. The travel policies of U.S. airlines with regard to shipping animals are subject to change at any time. These policies are much more restrictive than in past years. If your pet must be shipped as cargo using a commercial shipper, it is important to contact one early in the moving process, using . The information below provides only general guidelines. It is crucial that you review all considerations with the airline and, if necessary, the pet shipper you plan to use. OBC recommends that you request written confirmation of reservations you make for the shipment of your pet.
There are three ways you can ship your pet via the airlines:
- Your pet can travel on the plane with you (either in-cabin, as accompanied baggage, or as cargo). Your pet will be charged accordingly. Some airlines no longer offer this option and some countries do not allow pets to enter the country in-cabin.
- You can book your pet on a separate flight. In this case, you will be charged the cargo rate, which is considerably more than excess baggage. However, most airlines no longer allow pet owners to book their pets directly with the airline as cargo.
- You can have your pet shipped through a licensed commercial shipper. You will be charged the cargo rate plus the pet shipper’s fee. Many airlines now require this method unless your pet is small enough to fit in the cabin.
As a rule, animals 100 lbs. or larger (including the weight of the cage) will be charged as cargo even if they travel on the same plane as you. It is important to check with the airline if your pet is close to that weight and to determine if the airline policy may vary from this general 100 lb. rule.
Traveling with a Service Animal
For information regarding the regulations of service animals/service dogs in air transportation, check the following updated website as of Dec. 2, 2020: U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals. The rule indicates only trained service animals that assist owners with either physical or psychiatric disabilities will be allowed to travel in the cabin free of charge. Emotional support animals will no longer be a category that receives the same entitlement. Please check out the for more details. Airlines may also require additional forms.
Worldwide Import and Quarantine Restrictions
- For U.S. Government employees and family members ONLY
- Visit or e-mail the Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) to inquire about pet entry requirements for your post assignment.
- Notify the post once you have your assignment that you will be bringing a pet(s) and what kind.
- For the general public traveling outside the United States with pets
- Review the , provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS).
- Check the requirements to see how close to departure the required veterinarian examination, inoculations, and tests must be scheduled.
- Call the in Washington, DC to confirm the entry requirements for the country you are moving to. Some embassies will provide forms printed in English and in the host language for your veterinarian to complete. Some countries do not permit importation or have long quarantine requirements.
- Arrange with your veterinarian for required shots and certificates within the specified time period.
U.S. Airline Pet Policies
Typically, airlines require pet health certificates that are no older than 10 days, even if the receiving country accepts an older one. Some countries, however, require a health certificate to be even less than 10 days. This is an important point to check directly with the airline. U.S. Government employees or family members may contact the Overseas Briefing Center for information on airline restrictions.
The ISO Microchip
If assigned to an EU or non-EU country that requires an ISO microchip, it is important to determine if your veterinary clinic carries ISO-compliant microchips known as ISO microchip standards 11784 and 11785. EU transponders do NOT read non-ISO microchips. Microchips should always be implanted prior to administering the required rabies booster.
If your veterinary clinic does not carry ISO microchips, you may purchase one from the and bring it to your vet for insertion. Check with your local pet store or any online retailer that offers specifically ISO standard 11784 and 11785-compliant microchips.
Pet owners should first visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) website to review country requirements for pet arrival. Pet certification requirements vary from country to country. A few countries simply require the veterinarian who examines your pet to be licensed in the state of origin, and no USDA endorsement of the veterinarian’s examination statement is required. However, most countries require that your pet be checked by a federally-accredited veterinarian and that a United States Interstate and International Certificate for Health Examination for Small Animals (7001 USDA-APHIS Form) be issued by that veterinarian and endorsed by the USDA. Check the airline you will be using for your pet. There have been cases where a country does not require a certification, but a particular airline does. There is a USDA endorsement fee per certificate for cats and dogs.
NOTE: More than one dog or cat may be on a certificate. For other types of pets, check the USDA site below or email CustomerServiceCallCenter@aphis.usda.gov.
The timetable for examination statements and certifications can be very tight. Plan well in advance to be sure all paperwork is complete in time for your shipping date.
What does a green banner mean? If the country has a green VEHCS banner on the PTW, that means your USDA Accredited Veterinarian can go into VEHCS and complete the health certificate electronically after they have examined your animal. They are able to type in all of the pertinent information and then sign the health certificate, either within VEHCS or using Adobe Acrobat for PDF files. Then your USDA Accredited Veterinarian can electronically submit the certificate directly to APHIS through VEHCS. They do not need to print anything at this step. Then APHIS Veterinarians go into VEHCS, review your pet’s certificate, and are able to digitally endorse the document within VEHCS. Once the endorsement is completed, your USDA Accredited Veterinarian goes back into VEHCS and can print off the APHIS-endorsed health certificate. Your veterinarian gets the certificate to you, and you’re set to travel.
NOTE: A hard copy of the APHIS-endorsed veterinary export health certificate must travel with the animal during the export process.
What does an orange banner mean? Much like a green banner, your USDA Accredited Veterinarian goes into VEHCS and completes the health certificate electronically after they have examined your animal. They are able to electronically sign the health certificate using Adobe Acrobat or similar program. Then your USDA Accredited Veterinarian can electronically submit the certificate directly to APHIS through VEHCS. They do not need to print anything at this step. Then APHIS Veterinarians go into VEHCS, review your pet’s certificate, but for orange countries, APHIS then prints the certificate to create a hardcopy. They apply their original pen-and-ink signature, and then crimp the form with the raised embossed USDA seal. This original document must travel back to you before your pet can travel, so be sure your USDA Accredited Veterinarian includes a return overnight express shipping label when they submit your pet’s health certificate in VEHCS.
NOTE: A hard copy of the APHIS-endorsed veterinary export health certificate must travel with the animal during the export process.
Does my veterinarian know about this? On April 29, 2020, the APHIS National Veterinary Accreditation Program (NVAP) sent out an alert to all USDA Accredited Veterinarians informing them that electronic submission of veterinary health certificates is now acceptable for all live animals to all countries. Veterinarians are able to create an account within VEHCS for free.
Improved Processing Times. Besides not having to make an appointment, then drive and wait in an APHIS office, you also are not spending time shipping documents to an APHIS office. The transmission of the health certificate from your USDA Accredited Veterinarian’s computer to APHIS through VEHCS is instantaneous. APHIS is able to review your pet’s certificate within 24-48 hours of receiving it, and then either endorse within VEHCS (green countries) or print, sign, seal and return to you via overnight express (orange countries). Now the entire process can take only hours (for green countries) or approximately 1-2 days (for orange countries).
By removing the requirement of an original signature of the USDA Accredited Veterinarian to be submitted via hard copy to our endorsement offices, and replacing it with a secured digital submission of electronic documents, APHIS removes the need to physically deliver or mail certificates to our endorsement offices, thereby reducing health certificate processing times and the costs associated with overnight express shipping.
Authentication of the USDA Certificate
Authentication of the USDA certificate forms may be required by the country to which you will be traveling with your pet. Check with the embassy before arrival.
The certificates are authenticated by the Department of State’s Office of Authentications
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: 202-485-8000 or 1-800-333-4636 and then press 5
Fax: (202) 663-3636
Note: The office suspended in-person counter service during the COVID-19 pandemic and is only offering mail-in service at this time. You should expect delays processing your request for authentication services. It may take 2-3 months to process your request from the date it was received. Please consider waiting to mail your request until normal operations are resumed.
You may view more information about form requirements on the website at and whether forms need to be authenticated. The most common form that will need authentication is (Certification of Health for Small Animals).
European Union Pet Regulations
- For a detailed explanation of the European Union (EU) Pet Regulations, check the .
- For the United Kingdom, check the website.
- If your pet is shipped as cargo over 5 days after your arrival in the EU, a commercial will be required. The form must be signed by your private veterinarian and endorsed by a USDA-APHIS veterinarian within 48 hrs. prior to the pet’s arrival in the EU. This form is attached to the pet’s paperwork during travel. If your pet is only transiting the EU, this regulation will not apply.
- Rabies Titer Tests – A rabies titer blood test (rabies antibody titration test) may be required for entry into certain EU countries (depending on the country from which the pet originates). Those shipping a pet to the EU from outside the United States can expect to have to pay for the cost of the blood test in addition to the shipment cost. Check the European Union website for a list of “ ” countries from which the rabies titer test is not required.
Emergency Planning for Your Pet
Pet owners should also consider the possibility of emergency situations while overseas that could require rapid departure or shipping of a pet. Take time to think about the resources your pet(s) might need and consider options for sheltering them in-country as well as making plans for departure on short notice. The Overseas Briefing Center offers U.S. Government foreign affairs personnel helpful information in the case of evacuation from an embassy or consulate. Email the OBC.
Note: This is not an endorsement but for informational purposes only. The U.S. government can provide no guarantees and accepts no responsibility thereof for any action taken on the visitor’s part based on the information provided.