How To: Take Your Dog To Europe

Let’s all take a moment to talk about Johnny Depp. He took his dogs into Australia on his jet and didn’t declare them at customs. For an international movie star, not the brightest move. Apparently he posted about the pups on Instagram which alerted the Aussie authorities to the fact that he’d hadn’t declared them upon arrival. He got a hefty fine and had to get the pets out ASAP.

So what’s one to do if they don’t have Depp money to risk the fines, and you want to legally travel with your fur bestie? Here’s what I’ve learned about traveling to Europe with #LillyKloberdanz:

Lilly in France!
Lilly in France!

(Disclaimer: I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve done hella research, like so much that I was schooling the vet. Check specific country regulations to see if anything has changed.)

1. First things first, have your pet microchipped. Honestly, you should do this anyway, regardless of whether you’re traveling or not because don’t you love your doggie? Make sure the chip is ISO compatible (15 digits), if it’s not, you’ll have to bring your own scanner which sounds like a real pain.

2. Second, a rabies shot, again something your pet should get no matter what. For the EU, the shot should be given prior to 21 days before your entry, but not more than the manufacturer’s expiration date. In plain English, less than a year (or 3 years, if your pet gets that shot) but more than 21 days prior.

3. You’ll need an International Health Certificate that corresponds to the country you’ll be flying into. Continental Europe tends to be easier than the UK or Scandinavia. Make sure you find out if the country you’re flying to has a list of approved airports or airlines for pet travel. Google is your friend on this one.

4. Once you’re in Europe, it may be helpful to get your angel a pet passport if you plan on staying awhile or going between EU member countries.

So those are all the things that you’ll legally need to travel to Europe with your cat or dog. Here’s our personal experience:

I was VERY nervous about getting Lilly into Europe, so I started working on her paperwork/shots/etc. about 6 months prior to us leaving. The microchip was our first issue, as she got one when she was a puppy and it would not scan. The vet speculated that it had fallen out right after it was put in and since she’s never been lost, we didn’t know. We put in another chip, and two months later when we scanned her again, that one had disappeared too. The vet and the chip manufacturer had never seen anything like this before, so we put one more in, her third. I made the poor vet scan her every day for 3 weeks to make sure it was still in there.

Another hurdle we had was getting Lil to Europe in the first place. I wasn’t putting her in the cargo hold, so I needed an airline that would take her across the Atlantic in the cabin, which is surprisingly NOT easy to find. I checked all the major airlines and ran into issues with each one. Finally, we had to fly from Charlotte to New York, then New York to Paris on XL Airways France, which I’d never heard of and have since gathered that it’s a budget airline, similar to Frontier or WOW.

The flight over was easy as pie. The Charlotte to New York leg, they didn’t even know we had a pet on board. They didn’t make us pay for her (normally $125), even though I’d called and told them we’d be bringing her. Neither the gate agents nor the flight attendants realized we had her. Even my seat mate had no idea until after the flight when I told him. On the New York to Paris leg, I’d pre-paid for her ($70) on XL and I carried her in my arm or on a leash through the airport. I’d heard you weren’t allowed to have them out in the airport, but no one said a word to me. You have to take them out of the carrier to go through security anyway, so I just left her out the entire time, and only put her in her Sherpa carrier right before we boarded. If you want, you can board early with the other people that need more time.

Now, the paperwork aspect. The French are notoriously laid back, so much so that I had to track them down to declare Lilly. I had an international health certificate, a microchip certificate, and an inoculation record (all paperwork from here). I went through passport control (where they didn’t even look at my face, typical French), and was even asked by a staffer “chat ou un chien?!” but not a single person seemed to care that I was bringing an American dog into France.

I’d gotten all the way through baggage claim, and nearly out the door, when I said to Jer, “Maybe we should declare her in case someone asks for the paperwork later.” So we backtracked, found the TINY Customs office and went in. Their microchip scanner didn’t work, and one of our papers had the wrong microchip number on it (see debacle above), but they didn’t care. They stamped our papers, said she was cute (“très mignon”), and we left. When we got settled in France, we went to the vet and ordered her the updated EU Pet Passport.

Not leaving you at home.
Not leaving you at home.

A Few More Things:

  1. Your vet needs to sign the paperwork in a different color than they fill it out in (i.e. the forms are done in black ink, they should sign in blue.) Also, when the vet lines out items that don’t apply to you, they must initial next to it.
  2. Once you’ve completed the forms, send them to the USDA with a check for $38 and a return envelope. Get the tracking numbers. If you’re lucky enough to live close to the office (usually in your state’s capital city), you can make an appointment and take it there in person.
  3. The vet paperwork and the USDA authorization must be filled out and signed within 10 days of the day you land in Europe. This had me majorly on edge, but after emailing back and forth with the USDA office, I was assured they were more than familiar with working within this time frame and I had my paperwork back in my hands in 2 business days.
  4. Once you get into the EU, you can get a vet to give you a passport using the same paperwork. We found our vet through a referral by some friends, but just Google vets in your area.
  5. The bathroom situation. Both Charlotte and New York had pet relief areas outside the arrivals area that we used, and I’m sure Paris has one, but I just took her outside the rental car area. I did bring piddle pads, and tried to get her to use them before we boarded and on the plane in the bathroom, but she wasn’t interested. I fed her small amounts several hours before boarding, and let her have as much water as she wanted. She had no messes and literally slept the entire flight.

There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful we decided to bring Lilly to Europe with us. She’s our child and all the worry and hassle was more than worth it to see my girl every day.

Like I said, I’ve done extensive research, so if you have very specific questions, email me!

She's loving life in her new home,
She’s loving life in her new home,

xx katie

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