Are You Sure You Want To Take Your Pet to Europe?
If you are considering taking your pet to Europe, we suggest you reconsider. The following testimonial is from my friend Frank, who brings his dog with him every time he visits his Italian vacation house from his home in New York. (Neither Frank nor I are qualified professionals in the pet transport industry. Keep that in mind when you read the following story--but read it, if only for the good humor in it.)
Frank Takes His Dog to Italy
First take a deep breath and something to lower the blood pressure, this is not the fun part of travel.
First you must have your dog certified to be healthy and up to date on vaccinations by a veterinarian that is certified by the US Dept of Agriculture. Check with your own vet first and if he/she does not have this credential, they should direct you to someone who does. You must have this done within ten days before you arrive, not sooner ( i.e. they are looking for very current evidence of dog's bona-fides or bona-fidos).
Here comes the fun part; the form must be sent to USDA for stamp & signatures. That means you really need to get checkup from vet exactly ten days before since you need to mail the forms (supplied by vet) and have it returned to you before you leave (we Fedex and include a prepaid return fedex envelope.)
Another EU requirement is the dog must be microchipped and you need to bring a scanner to read that particular type of chip, as there are different brands and the customs people don't necessarily have the right one. This cost a few hundred dollars several years ago.
The other details include reserving a space for your dog in cargo when you book your flight (check with airline if you can bring small dog in cabin with you--it goes by weight--used to be 25 pounds but last I heard 18 was the limit for the cabin.) The dog must be in a proper airline approved travel crate - I have recently heard about someone who showed up with an approved crate that the airline felt was too small and they would not board the dog. The fare is usually around $400.00 round trip. Many airlines will not accept dogs for cargo in the summer months as this part of the plane prior to takeoff is not air-conditioned and they have had dogs expire from the heat. When you hand the dog over to ground crew make certain crate is securely closed so you don't see your dog being chased around the tarmac by airline folks as you look on helplessly from the gate. This happened to us at Cote D'Azur (Nice) but the dog was surrounded and gave herself up and was safely boarded.
After you have jumped through all these hoops here is what to expect when arriving in Europe: a long wait for the dog to be unloaded and then a dog who has lowered his opinion of you. Chances are good that no one asks to see the paperwork that you have gone to some trouble to have in good order. Not even a glance.
The dog will need to drink/pee immediately after you clear customs, so bring something they can drink from. Our experience shows it best not to give them a big meal right away but wait until they settle down.
On the return trip we have usually had the USA customs scrutinizing the paperwork like you have Osama Bin Laden with you. We had one customs inspector who looked very carefully at us then the dog and then the paperwork; but Michele noted that he had the all-important documents upside down. As they say, you can't make this stuff up.
We have been doing this since 2002 and we think it is a headache for all concerned including the dog but there is no choice. As you have probably gathered by now taking your dog to Italy requires long range planning and is not for folks with a spontaneous approach to life. Do it wrong and you may not be allowed to enter the country and you probably have to do an intercontinental u-turn. I would also advise folks to check that this information is current as I am not an international lawyer and as we both know I recently just missed doing hard time for abandoning a pizza receipt.
More on Taking Your Pet to Europe
Evidently, since Frank's last experience, the US has been declared one of the Countries with Low Incidence of Rabies, so the ten day prior exam may no longer be necessary. Please check with your vet or the USDA before you go. Regulations change frequently. Italy Travel has some further information on Travel to Italy With Your Pet.
Animal Export Advice from the USDA
A good source of information, including necessary animal export forms in word doc format, can be found at the USDA's International Regulations pages. Just select a country which will be your port of entry and check the regulations.