Oscar and Charlie’s first international trip was a big one! We were permanently moving from New York to London, with a 4-night stop in Paris in between. We studied the entire procedure of traveling internationally with dogs for 3 months, to make sure everything would be done correctly. Big shout out to our dear friends @grrlgenius_, @lululenny_the_french_bulldogs and @wtfrenchie who helped us with very valuable tips.
So here are some important information if you’re planning on traveling internationally with your pups:
Study the entire process. And then study a bit more. It’s important to double check all the details to avoid serious mistakes.
Choose a pet-friendly airline. Avoid United! Please, they’ve been through some serious issues transporting dogs! We consulted American Airlines and Delta. After speaking to their pet scheme team, I felt more comfortable with American. If your dog is an ESA (Emotional Support Animal), make sure to request all the documentation required by the airline. Some airlines also transport non-ESA pets in the cabin, as long as they meet certain size/weight requirement, paying a fee. I wouldn’t ever recommend bringing your dog in the cargo compartment, Oscar and Charlie traveled next to our feet and they did great, I wouldn’t feel comfortable being distant from them, not knowing how they’re handling the stress of the trip.
If you’re traveling to Europe, there is a pet scheme that you have to go through. Here are some important facts:
Microchip: You must get your pet microchipped before, or at the same time as, their rabies vaccination. If you don’t, they’ll need to be vaccinated again. You need an ISO-compliant microchip, with 15 digits, valid internationally.
Rabies: You must get your pets vaccinated against rabies before they can travel. The vaccine must be an inactivated vaccine or recombinant vaccine that’s approved in the country of use. You must wait 21 days after the vaccination (or the last of the primary course of vaccinations) before bringing your pet to Europe. If your dog isn’t microchipped, he/she MUST get another rabies shot at the SAME TIME or AFTER the microchip is implanted, or it won’t be accepted.
Health Certificate: The health certificate must be done with a USDA certified vet, within 10 days before your trip. Your vet will register the rabies and microchip information. It must be signed in BLUE INK. The date has to be in EUROPEAN format: DD/MM/YYYY. Then, you’re going to mail it overnight to your local USDA office, with a pre-paid overnight envelope included, so they can approve, stamp and sign it, and mail it back to you in time. This is a very important step, since it has to be done within 10 days. Try to schedule an appointment with your vet closer to the 10th day before the trip, and overnight the papers to the USDA office same day, so you have enough time in case something goes wrong. If your dog is an ESA, make sure the Health Certificate has only the name of the owner who possesses the letter from a doctor.
Official info: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/eu/eu-echinococcus/pet-travel-echinococcus-treatments
If you’re traveling straight from the US to the UK: Your dog needs a tapeworm treatment. It must be done by a vet. It’s a chew easily to be administered, but it has to be done within 1-5 days of your travel. Also, there’s an extra step if you’re flying directly to the U.K. Heathrow Airport only accept ESA dogs landing in the cabin. And they charge you a pricey fee: £376. Also, once all your paperwork is complete, you must scan and e-mail HARC (Heathrow Animal Reception Centre) in order for them to issue an approval letter.
See instructions here:
Most of the other European countries don’t require this last step, neither the fee.
Now let me talk about our experience step by step:
First, I draft a calendar with all the important timelines. You have to be meticulously attentive to it. I took the pups to a USDA certified vet about a month prior to the trip, to discuss the entire process. Charlie wasn’t microchipped so we got it implanted that day. Even though he had received a rabies booster a couple of months prior to it, we had to give him another booster, since it’s only considered valid the booster administered after being microchipped. I also asked the veterinarian to scan and make sure Oscar’s microchip was still working properly.
Nine days before traveling, another trip to the vet to prepare their Health Certificate. If you have two or more dogs, you only need one certificate for both. Your vet is going to register all the information about their rabies shots and microchip. The rabies info must include producer/brand, date of administration, lot and expiration date. I’ve mailed all the paperwork overnight to the USDA office in Albany, NY, with another overnight labeled envelope inside. You also have to pay a fee ($38 in our case) in form of a check or money order. They were very quick and mailed the signed and stamped certificate back to us the following day.
The day of the trip:
We arrived at JFK and went straight to the American Airlines check-in area. The attendant asked to see the Oscar and Charlie’s paperwork but didn’t know much about their pet policy. She had to ask a colleague to come to help her find the information in their system so they could check our paperwork. After 20 frustrating minutes, they finally were able to check us in and let us go through security and wait for our flight.
We took the pups to the pet relief area (inside the terminal) but they didn’t really understand it was a bathroom. So no business.
We boarded the airplane and voila! 6 and half hours later, we were landing in Paris, our flight landed 1 hour prior to expected, due to winds being in our favor, great for the pups. So exciting! Our first time in Paris!!! They traveled well for most of the flight. In the middle of it, they got a bit anxious (maybe boredom, maybe needed to use the bathroom), so we gave them half a pill of puppy “Xanax” the vet prescribed us, so they were calm and sleepy for the rest of the flight.
Now we’re landed and we go through immigration and customs in Charles de Gaulle and surprise! The officer didn’t even ask for the dogs' paperwork. I guess they’re very easy going in France.
After 4 absolutely amazing nights in Paris, time to head north to London! First of all, we had to go to a vet in Paris to get pet passports for Oscar and Charlie, and also to get them the tapeworm pill that the U.K. requires dogs to take within 1-5 days of entering their country. It’s a simple chew, but it has to be registered in their passport by the vet.
So, we booked an appointment with a vet in Paris to get their tapeworm pills and their pet passports. With a pet passport, your dog is allowed to travel between European countries without need of any additional documentation. It basically documents all the vaccinations your dog has received.
Heading to England:
So, flying from Paris to London with the dogs wouldn’t be an option, since Heathrow Airport doesn’t allow dogs landing in the cabin coming from countries other than U.S. The solution was traveling by train. But there’s another issue. The Eurostar train doesn’t allow pets crossing the Channel Tunnel inside their trains. Except if they’re inside a car. So, we took a local train in Paris to Callais, right at the northern border of France. You can book your tickets here: www.loco2.com or www.trainline.eu. The trip takes around 1 hour. Remember you have to buy a pet ticket as well, it’s £5 for small dogs.
Then, we got off the train and took a car service, which we had booked in advance: www.folkestonetaxi.com/Pet+travel+abroad. It’s pricey! We spent £175 just for this 30 min trip crossing the tunnel, including the pets and tunnel fees. First, still in France, we met our driver at the station, who took us to the Pet Scheme office at the border. It takes about 15 minutes for them to check and approve your paperwork. Important note: our French vet made a small mistake while writing Oscar’s pet passport and scratched off one of his rabies shot dates, and wrote again on top. It’s not acceptable by the officers. Luckily we had Oscar’s vet certificate from the U.S. so they let us pass. But make sure your pet passports are impeccable!
After getting the approvals for the dogs, we headed to the U.K. immigration booth, still in France. Usual procedure. After that, we headed to the line of cars waiting to take the tunnel. The cars go on a train, it’s a bit claustrophobic. But 30 minutes later, voila! We are in U.K. soil, on the opposite side of the road. The driver dropped us off at another train station, in Folkestone, where we took a local train to London. It was a very cold day and the station is open (in the middle of nowhere) so the dogs were getting cold. Luckily, the train arrived 15 minutes later. 50 minutes later, here we are in London! You can book tickets for this train here: www.nationalrail.co.uk and dogs can travel free.
We arrived at St. Pancras International Station, in the heart of London, and took an Uber home. It was such a relief. Traveling with 2 dogs, and lots of suitcases is no easy job. Especially when there’s so much paperwork involved as well. But as long as you’re well prepared, everything should be smooth and it’s actually quite fun traveling with your little ones! :)