Will it be easy bringing your BFF overseas? NOPE. But that doesn't mean you can't do it. I am here to give you step by step instructions on how to take your fluffy companion from the USA to Europe. Please bare in mind, this process will be different for other parts of the world. Also, please note, that though this was our experience, there is almost 100% certainty, it will not be your experience. Seems that though rules are in place, they are not necessarily followed, depending on the day of the week or the weather or if the person in front of you is cranky or not.
STEP ONE: Long before you even think about getting your flight reservations sorted, take your dog to your local Vetrinarian. Tell them your plan, and if they are not already up to date on international dog travel, have that conversation. The EU has a link to forms and information you will need, depending on the country you are landing in. Sadly, I have found that each country you potentially would be arriving into, will have a different set of rules. Your pup needs to be micro-chipped to EU standards, which in many cases is not what you had done in the USA. This needs to be done prior to being vaccinated for Rabies and it needs to be signed in BLUE ink. The Rabies certificate MUST have the microchip number listed as well. Your Vet must be a USDA accredited Veterinarian. Each state is going to have their own rules as well, see attached information from Washington State ( the USDA office here also covers Alaska and Oregon). We were on our way to Spain, stopping into Germany first. A simple Google search will help you narrow down to the documents you will need to have filled out. If you happen to be in Washington State, anywhere in the greater Seattle region, I cannot recommend enough, for you to go to Family Pet, located right off i-5, in Arlington. The entire team went above and beyond for getting us sorted for our trip. They made the chaos and stress much more manageable. I cannot thank them enough.
**With that all said, my originally micro-chipping was not compatible to the EU and was not signed in BLUE ink. If you need to re- microchip, this means you also have to re- vaccinate for rabies, which also means you need to wait an additional 21 days before you can travel. You also need to have your dog's health checked within 10 days of landing into Europe, by said USDA accredited Vet. I suggest calendaring and organizing yourself as much as you can, as early as you can, to accomplish these items. Additionally, you need to take your dogs health certifications and all the other documents for EU entry, vaccinations, and micro-chipping, to your local USDA office. Yes, it is possible to overnight them for approval, but I do NOT recommend this....as I have found that almost 100% of the people who make an appointment, have something wrong with some aspect of their paperwork. If you are standing there in person, they are much more likely to jump through whatever hoops to get you approved.
STEP TWO: Research the best airline for your specific needs. We were flying to Málaga Spain, in which there are zero direct flights. Seattle did have direct flights to Amsterdam, London*, and to Frankfurt. Now to narrow down which of those airlines would accept dogs and the price points associated ....as well as travel time and ease of logistics. I found that Frankfurt had a number of non- stop options to Spain, so ended up booking a flight on Condor. Travel is hard on humans, even more for dogs, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for JeliBën. Travel to Germany, hang out for a few days, detox and get over jet lag, then head out for a short flight south. * LONDON...heading into the UK requires even more tests which need to happen within a specific time allotment. Based on my research, it is much easier to get into England, if you already have a pet passport for your pooch, from an accredited EU Vetrinarian. Keep this in mind while traveling.
STEP THREE: If your dog is not already crated, it's time to learn. I suggest a few months of getting used to enjoying their "space". Most airlines which allow dogs, will let you bring yours, if less than 15 pounds, into the cabin with you, as long as they are in a container with good air flow and it can fit under the seat in front of you. Unless you have a service dog, this is the only way you can bring fido on board. They must stay in this carrier for the entire flight. My dog is closer to 25 pounds, so needed to go into the hold. Yes, there are some horror stories out there, but they are few and far between. Folks who show dogs have been transporting via airlines for decades, and most airlines are happy to charge you to fly with your best friend. If you have never crated your dog, this is another great time to do a google search on best practices. Never force your dog to do anything, you will regret it in the long run. Put a bed and food and water inside your IATA approved crate, give your pup love every time they go inside. Remember that each airline may also have specific crate requirements, so know yours, before you purchase.
STEP FOUR: Assuming you have sorted out and are properly micro chipped and vaccinated, make an appointment to have your dog health certified with your USDA accredited Vet. Once you know this date, then make your appointment with your local USDA office, to take your paperwork, and have it authorized and given a stamp of approval. When arriving at your local office, though you have an appointment, be prepared to wait. They did not like my paperwork, and though they called my vet and got the problems fixed, I was there for close to 3 hours. Be prepared to lose a day in travel and wait time. Remember, you need to complete both of these steps within 10 days of landing into Europe. If you haven't already guessed, all of the above come with a price. Whatever you have budgeted know it will end up being more. I suggest doing everything in duplicate and also scanning all documents onto your smart phone, prior to travel. Yay! You've managed this whole process, now it's time to fly! Your dog crate should have a well loved bed, absorbent material to lay underneath everything, and both food and water bowls. I used small tupperware containers, which had lids, and also included a toy and something to chew on. Additionally, I wrote her name and my contact info on a card and included with copies of all our paperwork, and placed in a ziplock back taped to the top of the crate. BRING zip ties! More on this below.
** Our trip did not go quite as smoothly as one would hope, in that because we had to get re micro-chipped and re - vaccinated, I had to change all of our flight and hotel plans. When re-booking, the lovely lady at Condor, forgot to mention this would no longer be a direct flight. She also forgot to carry over the whole "dog traveling with me", including fees, I had already paid. Please be sure to check all of your travel plans before heading to the airport so you are not surprised at the gate. In our case, we were now heading to Las Vegas on Alaska Air, and had to pay an additional dog crate fee, as well as had a 9 hour layover, before our next flight to Germany. I also learned in this adventure, that US airports are doing away with baggage holding areas, so we would be unable to leave the airport for our length of stay.
FLIGHT ONE | Alaska Air: Two hours was not nearly enough time to get us checked in. I am going to suggest that if you are departing from a busy airport, especially if during the holidays, you give yourself another full hour for getting yourselves ticketed and sorted. Keep all of your dog's recently certified paperwork with you, just like you keep your passport. You never know when they will be asked for. Alaska Air had a separate dog check in area, which was clearly signed. Once the lady at the counter got me ticketed, she told me where to take my dog and crate, to get them sorted. She never asked to see any of my paperwork, but did place several documents on the crate, including tear off vouchers, which she informed me, I would be given to confirm that JeliBën was onboard. We then found the next phase, which included being taken into a room where a man removed everything from the crate and then inspected it with some sort of reader, before telling me to put everything back into the crate, along with my dog. He then told me to zip tie the doors closed, assuming I had the ties with me, without any real direction, and rather gruff and unpleasant. Without another word, he dismissed me and motioned for the next person to come into the space. On that note, be sure to have your dog well run, fed and watered, before arriving at the airport, as you may not have a chance again. Off I went to get through security and find my gate. Arriving after most folks had already boarded. I had to ask if JeliBën had made it, as none of the airplane staff acknowledged it in any way; so much for the idea of a tear off voucher. Arriving into Las Vegas, I knew I had to retrieve my bags, but had no idea about my dog. Once in baggage claim, there was an Alaska Air office, and the young lady told me that someone would bring my dog to that door sometime soon. About 15 minutes later, sure enough, JeliBën was being wheeled my way. Once again, nobody asked for any paperwork or even requested me to prove my dog and crate belonged to me. I of course did not have scissors to cut the zip ties, so I asked the counter. They were happy to provide, but gave me the impression, it was an odd request. Because you cannot store your luggage anywhere, my hands were quite full as we then attempted to find the suggested dog walking area, I was told, just outside the doors. Learning quickly, that Nevada's idea of a dog walking enclosure, is not my idea of a dog walking enclosure. We survived our long layover, and before you knew it, time it was to check in for the next journey.
FLIGHT TWO | Condor Air: Check in was a lovely experience. They treated both of us like rock stars. Though they did ask for the rabies certificate, which includes the micro chip number, it was only to make a copy to place with my ticket. They did not read it, nor acknowledge any of my paperwork in any way, even though I had completed everything in German, just in case. We were then escorted to a nice young man, who didn't do anything, other than check that the bar code placed on the crate, matched the bar code on my ticket. They then asked if I wanted her to go now, or if I needed to walk her or feed her...I opted to give her more water and then have them take her away. At this point, they zip closed the door of the crate and off both of us went on our separate ways. This was a very long flight, 10 hours. We ended up being delayed for another hour and had some weather to go around over the Atlantic, making our flight closer to 13 hours. With the check in time, this meant JeliBën would have been crated for close to 16 hours. Upon arrival into Frankfurt, I was barely even acknowledged by the immigration dude, and had to ask where to find my dog. Once again, nobody asked for any paperwork or if I was even the owner of the crate. Scissors were not to be found anywhere, though there were many other dogs being delivered. I ended up borrowing someone else's nail clippers and decided I too would use this idea on my next flight. Finally released from her enclosure, not soiled in any way, and generally happy to be with mom again. No sign of stress. We gathered our luggage, and ventured out to our pre booked taxi. No customs check. No paperwork check. Arriving at our dog friendly hotel and a city which was virtually closed for the holiday. We both had a bit of jet lag for a few days, but all in all, she recovered quickly and seemed delighted to be able to pick up the many sights and smells of a new country.
FLIGHT THREE | Lufthansa: Several days later, our final flight ensued. It happened to be New Years Day, so I had purchased some nice chocolates to give to the check in staff, as I assumed it would be a difficult day of work for them. Lufthansa too, had a special dog check- in counter. The young lady was non- plussed about the gift and her and her co -workers were clearly not happy to be shifted that morning. Regardless, she managed to check me in as well as physically measure our crate. All was going well, until she asked where my food and water dishes were. I explained that I had both, and pointed them out. She then asked how staff was supposed to give my dog water, and that it was flight regulation, that both were hanging. Hmmmm. I must have missed this tidbit. We ended up agreeing that I could hang one of my tupperware containers (thank goodness for having a plethora of zip ties!), and that she would approve me, but that it was a far cry from standard operating procedure. She asked that I place JeliBën into the crate, it was not inspected in any way, nor was any of my paperwork asked to be produced. This was a short flight of less than two hours and we would be in Spain soon enough. This time I was wise enough to carry nail clippers with me, and hoped I could get through security with no problems. Off we both went. Security did not seem to notice my clippers and our flight took off on time. Landing into Málaga, I was given a curious look when asking where to find my dog. It turns out that at this airport, your dog just comes through on the revolving belt, like all other luggage does. Ready to cut loose her crate door, we were out in the sunshine within 30 minutes of landing. Her water bowl was empty, just like when she boarded, such is the life of rules. Once again, our pre hired ride was ready and waiting....we were off heading into Mijas Pueblo long before sunset. Happy our trip was complete.
NEXT: Now that we are settled, the next step is officially getting your EU Pet Passport. I found a lovely Vetrinarian a short distance from our flat and just happened to walk in within a few days of landing. The entire staff is fabulous, even speaking a fair amount of English. They quickly found JeliBën's microchip number and went online to update her records for Spain. We were informed that there were a few vaccines for this area of the Costa del Sol which are recommended and after answering a few questions, her official Pet Passport was completed, all in the same day. Now she can officially travel anywhere in Europe, without any issues or additional paperwork. As mentioned before, if she does go to the UK, she will need to have a tape worm test prior to arrival, and it is suggested to arrive via an official pet transport company, rather than flying. With everything here so close, I am not overly worried. Looking for our forever home, we may end up in Spain, or perhaps another one of the many gorgeous countries within the region.....who knows. She is healthy and happy and has adjusted quite well to ample sunshine and warm ocean breezes.
WOW....well there you have it. Questions? I'm sure you have a plethora.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for any help for the logistics listed above.
Stay patient, the process can be frustrating. Most importantly, remember to have fun!