Do Dogs Need Passports?

If you are planning to travel abroad with a dog or other animal, then you may need to obtain a pet passport before they can board transportation and avoid strict quarantine requirements on arrival at your destination.

Below you can find out about the necessary documents to obtain a pet passport. If you’d like  to export or import an animal, you will also learn about the additional documentation needed.

What Is a Pet Passport?

A pet passport is a document, or several documents, that certifies that your pet is healthy and fully vaccinated. It proves that the animal has had all the vaccines required to bring it into a foreign country.

Nevertheless, not all species qualify for a pet passport. European pet passports, for instance, are only issued for dogs, cats, and ferrets. Other animals must apply for an import permit or whichever documentation is required by each particular country.

What Do You Need to Get a Pet Passport?

Pet passport requirements vary depending on your destination as well as the airline you are traveling with.

Usually, you need a health certificate issued by a vet. In many cases, you also must have an endorsement from your country’s animal regulatory agency. For instance, in the USA, you will need an endorsement from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take a pet resident outside the country.

You can usually check the pet passport requirements for your destination online. Many governments publish them on their websites.

If you’re still unsure if your pet will be admitted to your destination, you should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the relevant country for clarification.

It is also important to check the individual pet travel requirements for your airline or shipping company. For example, while most airlines require a pet health certificate to have been issued at most 10 days before departure, some carriers are even stricter with the timeframe.

How to Get a Pet Passport?

Depending on your home country, destination, and airline, you will need to follow one or more steps.

1. Pet Passport Application: Set Up a Vet Appointment

Once you have researched the requirements to travel with a pet from your home country, you will need to make an appointment with a vet to get the mandatory health checks and vaccinations necessary.

It may take several visits to a vet to get a pet fully prepared for travel. Depending on the type of animal and the restrictions for your destination, your animal may need the following: 

  • Rabies vaccine and blood tests to show the vaccination has been effective
  • Removal of fleas, ticks, or parasites
  • Microchipping or tattoos for identification purposes
  • Screwworm inspection
  • Tapeworm treatment (usually dogs only)

Inform the vet where you are heading to with your pet when booking the appointment. That way they can prepare any extra treatments or vaccinations if necessary.

After your pet has received the necessary treatments, the vet will complete and sign a veterinary certificate. This certificate contains the name of the animal, and all the relevant vaccine information relating to your pet.

2. Pet Passport Application: Government’s Endorsement

Depending on your destination and home country, you may then need to get the veterinary certificate endorsed by the corresponding animal regulatory agency. In most cases, that is the Department of Agriculture or such an equivalent.

To do so, you usually need to make an appointment with them. Oftentimes, the endorsement is received in person, but that will depend on each particular country.

Do I Need Any Other Travel Documents for my Pet?

Aside from a pet passport, some countries do require additional documentation.

Depending on your destination, the type of pet you are traveling with, and the number of animals you are importing, you may also need to obtain an animal import permit.

For example, an import permit is necessary to bring the following categories of pets into the United States:

  • Live animals including birds entering Alaska from Canada via a land border checkpoint
  • Certain species of fish, including  koi carp, goldfish, tench, and sheatfish
  • Dogs being imported to the US for commercial resale or adoption. They also must be at least 6 months old and fully vaccinated against rabies and distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus.

If you are planning to visit a foreign country with a pet other than a dog, cat, or ferret, you should check that the animal is not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

If the species is included on the CITES list, you may need to obtain an additional permit, particularly if your pet is a parrot or a turtle.

Pet Passport Rules to Return to Your Home Country

When planning a trip abroad with a pet, it is not only important to consider what’s necessary in order to travel from your home country, but also the requirements to meet when returning home.

For example, if you are re-importing a pet to the US after a stay of over 30 days abroad, you will need to get a new pet health certificate issued by a vet in the country you have been visiting. Some other countries might require quarantines or proof that the pet has not contracted rabies while abroad.

And remember, just like human passports, pet passports also do expire. They’re usually valid for only a few months and/or until vaccinations run out.