Moving Overseas with your Pet

Regulations change frequently, so the following are just some basics that I did with my pet.  DO go to your vet and look online for additional information.  A quick Google search will bring you a lot of information.  Check dates as you need the most current information. 

When moving with your pet:

PLAN AHEAD.  Some of these things need to be done in advance.  Make sure that you are prepared and can work the required items into your travel/PCS plans.

To GK and other Germany Bases:

1.  Your pet (cat or dog) will need a microchip.  Make sure that it’s readable by a standard scanner so that they can check it.  This can be done in advance.

2.  Full Vaccinations are required.  This needs to be done at least 4 weeks in advance.
     Dogs:  Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, Leptospirosis, (DHLPP) and Rabies within the last 12 months or a minimum of 4 weeks before arrival.
     Cats:  Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (FVRCP), and Rabies within the last 12 months or a minimum of 4 weeks before arrival.

That last line is important.  Your pet MUST have a current rabies vaccine and it MUST be current within that time frame of 12 months to 4 weeks BEFORE arrival.  This means it can’t be given within 4 weeks of arrival.  If you give your dog a rabies shot 5 days before you show up in GK, your dog will NOT be showing up with you.

3.   A Health Certificate.  This is a standard Health Certificate that your veterinarian can fill out for you.  It is only valid for 10 days from the date of issue to the point of entry, so if you have travel plans in conjunction with your PSC, plan ahead.  This must be done at the last minute. 

KEEP all your pet documentation with your pet (Microchip paperwork, Vaccination list and rabies paperwork, and health certificate).  You must have originals on hand.  If you have all of your paperwork together, then getting your pet through airports/customs is a relatively simple process.

Some websites mention a USDA endorsement and International Health Certificate.  Those essentially copy all of the above requirements and I did not need those to move my cat to Germany; however, it never hurts to ask just in case something changes.  Ask a lot of questions and it’s always better to have more information than less.

More information: 

To the USA:

Traveling back “home” to the USA requires the same three items above that are required for Germany.  I recently PCSed to Maryland with a dog and cat and got through flights/customs quickly with these things:
                                   1.  A Microchip certificate
                                   2.  A Rabies vaccination certificate (form DD2209 if Space A)
                                   3.  A Veterinary Health certificate (form DD2208 if Space A)

I also had the Pet Passport/Vaccination booklets for each of my animals with their pictures inside, though it wasn’t a requirement.

Flying is stressful.  Talk to your vet about how you can help alleviate stress.  Do be a good fellow passenger and take the steps needed to ease your carry-on pets stress.  Meowing happens, but do what you can to try to prevent hours of stressed out meow/barking.  Be aware of meals/bowel movements pre-flight as well as it’s not pleasant for anyone to smell that on the plane.  There are nutritional pastes that you can give cats that will “feed” them without making them potty.

1.  Check the requirements of whichever air travel option you choose (specific airlines as well as it can vary).
2.  Make a reservation for your pet and keep that paperwork with you (it’s just as important as your plane ticket).
3.  Keep all of your health certificates handy as well (consider them your pet’s passport).

 Flying Commercial:

Check your airline’s website for important up-to-date requirements for traveling with pets.

Commercial flights DO limit the number of pets on each flight, so it is EXTREMELY important when making reservations that the airline knows how many pets and the size so that they can plan accordingly.  If your flights are being made for you, check the reservations to ensure that your pet is listed.  If you show up at the airport without a reservation for your pet and the plane already has met it’s pet quota, then your pet will not be on that flight.

Many airlines will not fly pets as cargo (large pets that cannot fit under the seat in front of you) during hot summer months not because of the flight itself (it’s cold above the clouds), but because of the dangers of sitting out on the tarmac waiting before and between flights.  It’s dangerous and not what you want for your pet. 

Flying Space A: 

When PCSing from Spain to Maryland in August 2011, I stressed and fretted about the cost and stress of trying to move my pets with an airline during the hottest time of year, so I avoided it all together and flew Space A.

It was a relatively easy process for us.  I had all of my paperwork with us including my Pet Reservation Requests, my microchip forms, and my forms DD2208 and DD2209 for each pet.

Like airlines, Space A flights DO LIMIT the number of pets on each flight.  You must make a reservation ahead of time to ensure that you AND your pets have space on the flight.

Pets do not fly for free on Space A, but the cost is much more reasonable and is according to weight.

The COST of AMC flights:  

$110 for Pet plus Kennel under 70 lbs
$220 for Pet plus Kennel weighing 71-140 lbs
$330 for Pet plus Kennel weighing between 141 and 150 lbs.  (Pets over 150lbs with kennel are not permitted on these flights)

The Terminal will require that pets remain in their kennels at all times while in the terminal, but owners can walk them outside.  We waited outside with our large dog until it was time to board her.


Space A flights will allow pets during the summer because the pets are loaded just before taking off and do not sit out during long lay overs.  Our flight was direct, so we were able to bring out dog in her kennel to the plane.  She was waiting for us in baggage claim when we arrived and she had no long/hot wait outside.  It’s safer for the animals.

    3 Responses to “Moving Overseas with your Pet”

    1. Jessica July 18, 2012 8:03 pm #

      I had to have a USDA seal on my health certificates for the Netherlands. At least, that’s what the regulations said. I know the agents at the check-in desk asked me for my paperwork when I was departing the US. No one asked me for anything when I arrived. But that doesn’t mean they won’t.

      Also, you should get to the airport MUCH earlier than you normally would. Checking in pets takes a lot more time. I had to take apart my crates because the bolts were facing up instead of down (or the other way around, I can’t remember). I never saw anything about that written in any rules anywhere but they made me do it. Also, I sedated one of my dogs just before going into the airport and then had to take her out of the crate so they could xray it and she was already feeling the effects of the medicine so if you’re going to do that I’d recommend waiting until you know the airport people are done what they have to do and you can settle your pet comfortably into the container. You have to have bowls in the container even if they’re empty. And make sure you have the right size and type container (wire cage-type crates are not allowed). If the airline personnel think your pet can’t stand up and turn around they won’t allow your pet to fly.

      Not all airlines will allow you to reserve space for your pet. SATO travel was not at all helpful and booked me on flights that could not accommodate my dogs. I had to call the airlines myself and then tell SATO which flights to book me on so that I was sure the dogs were coming with me. I also had friends drive me to another city so that I could fly direct and not have the dogs stuck in their crates with a layover.

      Most airlines will not allow more than one pet per container. However, some airlines require you to put your pets in one container (my old boss flew from Belgium to Japan (via one of the Scandinavian countries) and had to have his dogs in separate crates for the first leg and then he had to retrieve them and put them in a single crate for the 2nd leg).

      Bottom line is, start doing your research and planning as soon as you know you’re PCSing. The logistics for moving a pet can be a lot more involved than for moving a human!!

      • Brian September 11, 2012 1:02 am #

        Couple of questions? How did you get SATO to help you with your pets regarding getting them to put you on the flights you knew your dogs could make it on? My SATO has been zero help and has informed me that I have to fly into Dusseldorf or Brussels and will not let me fly Space A to Ramstein.. Starting to get very frustrated and looking more and more like I will be flying my Wife and two dogs in on our own bank account!

    2. moving companies Lincoln NE July 11, 2012 7:00 am #

      These are great information for moving abroad with pets. Those who have one and considering to relocate will surely fond these as helpful. Thanks for sharing.

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