Does my dog actually need a passport?
It is not required. If you are traveling with your dog internationally for the first time (from the US), you don’t need a passport but you must have international health certificates completed by a USDA-accredited vet. These forms will allow you to get your dog into your designated international country.
The forms vary by country but for most countries in the E.U., it’s a seven-page document you can find on the USDA website. You don’t need to fill out anything on this form yourself—this is all done by your vet.
- Make sure all vaccinations are up to date, including rabies. If your dog gets revaccinated with rabies, 21 days must pass before travel.
- Bring your filled out forms, rabies certificate and vaccination records to your local USDA office within 10 days of entering the E.U. (or other country).
- The USDA office will officially stamp all the paperwork ($38) and you’re all set!
- This stamped paperwork is valid for 4 months.
Everything You Need To Know About Getting A Passport For Your Pet
If you foresee going out of the country with your dog again, definitely get a passport! This allows you to bypass all the previous paperwork and visits to the USDA office.
Passports are only issued in the international country. You cannot get a pet passport issued in the US. Pet passports are valid for as long as the rabies vaccination is up to date (usually 1, 2, 3 years from administration). Once the rabies expires, the passport is expired and you’ll need to get a new one (which means doing the paperwork and a trip to the USDA office again).
Most vets (in the E.U.—or whatever country you are traveling to) can issue a passport for your pet. Call to check and make an appointment. They usually cost $75+ including their examination fee.
If you live in the E.U…
You can get a passport issued in your home country and it is valid anywhere in the E.U.,including the U.K.)—lucky!
Inside A Pet Passport
Bring all your paperwork and the vet will fill out everything! The passport has your information, optional photo of your pet, rabies vaccination and shot records. If you’re going to countries in the United Kingdom (i.e.: islands), your dog will also need a tape worm treatment 1-5 days before travel which will be recorded in the passport.
Once you have your shiny new passport, there is no need for your previous paperwork! Ahh. It makes traveling around Europe so much easier and stress-free.
Now, I did say stress-free but of course, things can happen…
When you are traveling and crossing borders, the border patrol is VERY strict—just like with us humans. If there are any holes or mistakes, they will send you back quick. I even heard of somebody getting turned away recently because the date of their tapeworm treatment was recorded as “6/11/2018” (the American way) instead of “11/6/2018.”
At the border getting into England from France, there’s even a cash-only vet very close to the Eurotunnel who specializes in circumstances like this and can fix you up a new pet passport. If you’re traveling off-hours then you’ll need to spend the night at a nearby hotel, of course.
I traveled to Paris with Fira for the first time last October, so I was able to get her a passport made when we were in Paris. We went to the same vet for this trip for Weston’s passport. Now they both have one but I still bring all the paperwork with me just incase. You just never know. I’ve noticed it can be very inconsistent who checks your documents. At the Heathrow airport recently, they didn’t know how to read it and had to call someone else over—she checked it for just the rabies vaccination and let us through. At our second time through the Eurotunnel Pet Immigration center, in spite of how strict they can be, they only checked Fira’s passport but didn’t even look at Weston’s.
Yes, it’s your vet’s job to fill out the forms and/or passport but always triple-check the dates, info and numbers yourself. Fira’s microchip on her health certificate was one number off (the last number) but nobody noticed—WHEW. We got very lucky.
Just make sure you know exactly what information is on your paperwork and keep it close to you. As long as you’re well-prepared with your documents and travel, it’s a straight-forward process and there shouldn’t be any surprises. If you are going to travel with your pet internationally, a pet passport will definitely make the process smoother and faster for the next trip. Bon voyage!