How to Travel to Europe with your Dog

How to travel to Europe with your Dog: International Pet Transport

Are you looking to bring your dog to Europe? There is a lot of paperwork and regulations for international dog travel but it’s worth it. We travel from San Francisco to Paris frequently so we’ve put together some resources to get you started on international dog travel. This post is just a starting point – laws vary by country and so it is pertinent to research the country you plan to enter with your dog.  The USDA APHIS website will be your source of truth so make sure to meet all those requirements for customs and border control.

Can You Travel Internationally with a Dog? International & Customs Laws for Dogs

  • Service Dog and ESA laws are NOT covered in the same way as they are in the USA so you will need to research the laws before travel – you will not be covered by the same laws and working dogs are not as common in countries outside of the United States. Even if the laws do cover working dogs in international countries, you unfortunately can’t expect that access will always be granted.
  • Some countries only recognize “ADI Accredited” Service Dogs for entry into the country via in-cabin plane travel. This means that “Owner Trained” Service Dogs are not able to enter via plane (UK is one example but there are more). Sometimes there are ways around this by flying into a different EU country and then driving into the UK through the Channel Tunnel.
  • Hawaii/Caribbean Islands: Although these are not Europe, they have unique requirements for entering with service dogs to avoid quarantine.
  • Dog food is often restricted at customs. Have a pet store ready at your destination or pre-order. Your favorite brands may not be available overseas so look for a food with similar grain profile and protein levels.

Bringing a Service Dog to Europe? Can all dogs travel in Cabin?

Every airline has different regulations regarding whether they allow SDs and ESAs in cabin. Low budget carrier tend to be the most restrictive especially within Europe. Delta, United, Air France, and Lufthansa are great airlines to check out if traveling with your dog. Most budget airlines appear to allow service dogs but we have only ever used Air France/Delta based on flight availability from California. Samson is a working Service Dog so he always is able to fly in cabin. Being a service dog does not exempt the dogs from all the required import paperwork.
  • Some airlines have rules that limit the aircraft to 1 total animal (regardless of status) on board – First to check in gets to board with their animal and the next person is out of luck.
  • Some airlines do not recognize assistance dogs at all
  • Some airlines require ALL dogs over 10kg to fly in the cargo hold
  • Generally, pets under 10kg can travel with their handler with appropriate documentation.
  • Smaller airlines for stop over travel (I.e small airlines that fly between EU countries) are least likely to be accommodating and allow the pet on board
  • Some countries and airlines ONLY recognize internationally accredited program trained service dogs (ADI) and guide dogs to fly in cabin.

Traveling to France with our Dog

We have traveled to France a few times on flights booked by Delta (operated by Air France). The flights were each around 12 hours long and we didn’t have any issues while on board. For Air France flights, We recommend purchasing tickets that allow you to choose seats before check in as you’ll find Air France customer service to not be as accommodating with seat selections as US airlines. Each time we travel to Paris, we are told over the phone that there are seats reserved for passengers with disabilities but once we get to the airport we are told the opposite. We will be sure to pay a premium to choose our seats next time.

We brought our international paperwork, training documentation (we always keep CGC, CGCU, and CGCA titles with us when we travel), and doctor’s notes which were all checked in San Francisco at check in. Even if you are traveling with a Service Dog, doctor documentation is important to have once you leave the United States.

Once we get off the long flight, there’s no pet relief station so I set up a potty pad for in the human bathroom and the dog decides if they want to use it. I use the command “go potty” and I find that the dog will only relieve themselves if it’s an emergency.

At Paris customs, border police checks the paperwork but hasn’t ever asked any questions. They are most interested in the EU France Health Certificate – they check for the required signatures and stamps and then we are on our way. We always have the same experience on the way back into the United States.

Overall we’ve had no issues – Our biggest tip is to be over prepared for international travel to minimize stress.

What do I Need to Take my Dog to Europe? Pet Travel Regulations for France (country requirements vary)

  • 16 character microchip Implanted BEFORE original rabies vaccine.
    • The microchip is read at customs so make sure you know where it is located – you can generally feel the rice shaped chip around the shoulder blades.The microchip reader can only read microchips in the 16 character format
  • Rabies Vaccine for International Travel
    • 1 or 3 year rabies vaccine? France recognizes the 3 year rabies vaccine, some countries only recognize the 1 year vaccine.
    • If this is your dog’s FIRST rabies vaccine ever or if a previous vaccine has expired, you cannot travel into France until 21 days after the shot. Calvin was up to date with his rabies shot so this did not apply to us.
  • Country Specific Health Certificate (complete at your vet’s office)
    • Completed by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian no more than 10 DAYS before travel (thats a mouthful)
    • Most countries in the EU have country specific health certificates. If the country does not have a specific health certificate, there is a general one that can be completed. We got both completed just in case.
    • IMPORTANT:
      • The health certificate MUST be completed by a Veterinarian that is accredited by the USDA (This is not common so make sure your vet has this title)
      • The health certificate must be completed less than 10 days before entry at the destination. We completed ours the day before travel.
  • Endorse the health certificate (complete at a USDA office)
    • The official EU/French health certificate is not valid until it has been stamped and embossed by the USDA Office
    • See here for locations near you
    • Make an appointment in advance as this has to be done within 10 days of your travel date and not all offices accept walk ins (think DMV style experience)
    • Double check that every page of your health certificate is properly filled out and signed in appropriate places
  • Recommended: Carry a rabies certificate, full vaccine history, spay/neuter certificate, extra copy of health certificate, doctor’s note (even if your dog is an SD), proof of training (CGC, PAT, board and train, ect), written confirmation from the airline that your animal is allowed to travel in cabin, printed airline policies.
  • Submit any required paperwork to the airline at least 48 hours before travel.
  • Bon Voyage! 

Additional Requirements for International Pet Travel

Check the pet import requirements for the country you will be traveling to here. Some countries require quarantine, additional testing, deworming, ect.
  • The UK & Iceland have additional rules and make it difficult to enter with an animal
  • We found that most EU countries have less stringent requirements for pet travel compared to the UK. 

How to Prepare Your Dog for the Airplane

Master domestic flights with your dog
  • Calvin had been on about 75 domestic flights before we attempted a >10 hour flight (in total we were traveling for almost 18 hours). Samson had been on multiple flights as well and had no issues. If your dog is able to settle down and relax, they won’t mind the longer international flight.
Limit food & water when traveling with your dog
  • For a flight over 10 hours, limit food at least 12 hours before travel. Limit water for 6 hours before travel and then allow your dog to have ice cubes/sips of water throughout the flight.
Stay organized
  • Get a binder for all your paperwork. Make sure all your appointments (Vet + USDA appointments) are booked in advance
  • Call airlines before hand and get confirmation that they know you are traveling with an animal
Overnight flight if possible
  • If the flight is overnight, your dog will be used to sleeping and will hopefully settle quickly and sleep through the night. Additionally, the airplane will be dark so they’ll have a better idea that it is time to sleep.
Our packing essentials when traveling with our dog
  • Portable bowl
  • Food & Treats for the flight (will have to be thrown out before customs)
  • Familiar mat to sleep on
  • Blanket

What paperwork do I need to travel with my dog? Resources & Paperwork for Bringing Your Dog Internationally

Dog Travel Checklist

[]Spay & Neuter certificate
[]History of all vaccines
[]History of rabies vaccine
[]Rabies tag & SF dog tag
[]EU Health Certificate for USDA Vet
[]Completed Health Certificate for APHIS pet import office
[]Doctor’s note (including trained tasks if applicable)
[]Training documentation
[]Call airline and get confirmation that pet is flying in cabin
[]Call airline to confirm seats
[]Submit airline specific paperwork
[]Organize all paperwork in binder
[]Research whether treats will be allowed into the country. Find pet store at destination if not.
[]Microchip number & proof of microchip

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