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The dachshund Dante with his new pet passport in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The dachshund Dante with his new pet passport in Hellerup, Denmark.

Photograph by Kim Nielsen, AP Photo

Jennifer S. Holland

for National Geographic

Published June 13, 2013

You'll be relieved to hear that transporting your sled dog team to Europe just got a little easier.

Previously, according to EU regulations, no one could take more than five animals across the borders of EU member countries. Now, if you can prove you are headed to a competition, exhibition, or recreational/sporting event, you can be exempt from the five-max law.

Of course, most of us aren't looking to bring a pack of dogs or a clowder of cats (yes, that's the term!) abroad. And for the animals' sakes, it's always better to avoid such jaunts anyway, if at all possible. They're stressful ... and sometimes dangerous.

Regarding air travel, Kirsten Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States, says, "It's an extraordinary risk. The cargo hold of an airplane is not a cabin one level down: It's dark, it's noisy, and it's not as strictly temperature and pressure regulated as the passenger cabin. Your animal spends a long time out of any human contact. There's just so much opportunity for something to go wrong."

(The Department of Transportation is required to collect data on and report animal injuries, losses, and deaths each month.)

But sometimes they have to go with you. And even trips with sweet Peaches sitting in an onboard carrier can go sour on arrival if you don't know the rules, which can vary widely. Each country has its own regulations regarding live imports, aimed at keeping out diseases and invasive species, and officials are not above "destroying" an animal whose owner didn't follow protocol.

Unless you are attempting to import exotic animals (like primates , big cats, or certain reptiles), which not surprisingly means more regulatory obstacles, you may not need a special permit. But all countries require basic vaccinations and official proof of your animal's good health before letting it in. And more and more often, you'll need to microchip your pet, too, to ensure its identity. Some countries even ask that "pet passports" be used to organize key documents (the EU requires these). But here and there are some quirky or strict rules that you might not expect. We've picked a random handful to highlight. Unless specified, the rules apply to your basic pets—dogs and cats

European Union Member Countries: We just mentioned the new way to get more than five animals across European borders. But what I like best about the EU regulations is that they specify that pet dogs, cats, and ferrets must be in compliance. (Emphasis mine.)

Apparently these musky rodent-like mammals are quite popular across the Pond. Also interesting: Your vet must give your mammalian pet its rabies vaccination after a microchip is placed, not before. If your pet is vaccinated beforehand, it doesn't count and must be redone. (This has to do with the need to confirm the animal's identity when it is vaccinated, but who knew?)

United Kingdom: Since 1897, dogs entering the UK have been subject to a six-month quarantine—at the owner's expense, of course—to reduce the risk of rabies coming in. (Cats and, of course, ferrets were added to the law later.) But recently, because of  much-improved testing, that rule was relaxed to match those in the rest of the EU. Now your pet just needs the rabies vaccination and, three months before traveling, a blood test proving no sign of the disease, which is much better than six months of lockup.

Costa Rica: Pets are family, right? Who thinks of them in dollar amounts, except when racking up bills at the vet? So here's an odd tidbit: When you enter Costa Rica, you'll need to carry (in addition to health and rabies certificates) a personal letter stating your pet's market value or an invoice showing its purchase price. And you'll also want to know that Costa Rica accepts striped skunks from the United States, if they've had the proper vaccinations. (Not sure why the skunk—of all creatures—gets its own special mention, but it does.) Finally, when it comes to pet birds, what enters Costa Rica stays in Costa Rica. As in, once you've crossed into CR with your parakeets, they can never leave even if you do.

American Samoa: Okay, it isn't really a country, but if you go to this U.S. island territory in the South Pacific, leave your parrot at home—only domestic dogs and cats are allowed, and they'll have to have at least two rabies vaccinations before travel. (The territory is rabies-free and proud of it.) Show up with a snake, rodent, or bird and it will be ... well ... sent to live on a big farm in the sky. Right then and there.

This last rule may seem harsh, but islands are particularly vulnerable to invasive species damaging the native ecology. A powerful example is the brown tree snake's devastating effects on Guam beginning shortly after World War II—a problem that's never been solved.

Egypt: Even though you'll have already proved that your pet is in good health on arrival, you'll need to keep Fido "in your custody" for the first three months in country. Meanwhile, no pet birds are allowed "except live chicks" that meet certain health requirements. So I guess if you want to have fresh eggs during your year in Cairo, you are welcome to bring your own coop.

Korea: The rules mirror those of many other countries, but one little detail is good to know. The official health certificate, to be issued by the official country veterinarian before you depart, must be written in Korean or English. No other languages are acceptable. Take that, China.

United States: African rodents and civets are not allowed into the U.S., nor are "potentially infectious products" made from these animals. You can bring your turtles, but no more than six if their shells are longer than four inches apiece. Smaller than that? No problem. Bring the whole bale. (Yup, that's another of those great "group of animals" terms.) Meanwhile, leave behind any goatskin souvenirs (like drums) from Haiti, as they have been associated with anthrax. (Great info on importing animals into the U.S. is here.)

New Zealand: Permits, permits, permits! New Zealand likes 'em, even just for dogs and cats. Unless you are coming in from Australia, you'll need an import permit (plan ahead!) and your animal will be quarantined for a minimum of ten days. Importantly, certain dog breeds are no-nos: your American pit bull terrier, Dogo Argentino, Japanese Tosa, and Brazilian Fila (all described here) will be refused entry. And don't even think about importing a snake into this country. (Just look at the consequences if you do...) New Zealand is snake-free (there are no native species, and pet snakes are prohibited), and the government is trying to keep it that way.

Vanuatu: In what may be the most restrictive of all the restrictions, pets can enter this archipelago country only from Australia, New Zealand, or the UK. So, no pets can deplane from the United States? Nope. France? Non. Russia? Nyet. Leave them home or pick a new destination. I hear American Samoa is lovely this time of year.

6 comments
Mike Sillman
Mike Sillman

One of the biggest challenges I faced when trying to take their animals on a flight is finding the space to fit all of the supplies. Dishes, toys, food etc...That is why I got this awesome collapsible pet bowl set for travelers on www.YourPetHaven.com


http://www.yourpethaven.com/product.php?id=169

Everything folds flat to fit perfectly in my luggage.

Maggie Cooper
Maggie Cooper

Great tips about the different rules on traveling with your pet. Also good to know that some countries its easy to bring your pet there, but you could have problems coming back to your home country due to your country's restrictions.

jerry mishler
jerry mishler

@Beverly Lloyd-Roberts  It is ALWAYS a good idea to at least check with a good pet travel shipping service such as ACTION PET EXPRESS   UK requirements are same as the rest of EU.  That is: microchip FIRST, then, rabies vac, then a wait of only 21 days before travel.  NO blood test required from USA and most other countries of the world.  Then, international health cert issued within 10 days of travel, and also the EU Annex II cert.  For UK, dogs ONLY need the tapeworm pill...
BEWARE:  The EU pet passport is ONLY provided by European Veterinarians.  Can NOT be issued in USA.  There is a company in USA selling what they call Pet Passports.  This is totally FALSE, and a total ripoff....

Jerry

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