Important Health Certificates for Dogs While Traveling

In years past, health certificates for pets were only required for crated pets that traveled back in the cargo/baggage section of the plane. Other than Hawaiian Airlines, no U.S. airline required a health certificate for pets small enough to travel in-cabin. As of November 2016, Alaska Airlines are now among those who require a health certificate for in-cabin pets. As the landscape is ever-changing in regard to health certificates at this point, travelers for pets (both those flying in the cargo area as well as those flying in-cabin) might want to consider seeking a health certificate just in case.

Interstate Health Certificate

Dog in travel, on planeAn owner can obtain a health certificate by visiting the pet’s veterinarian. The form will vary in appearance from state to state, but each covers the same information. The process to obtain the Health Certificate requires a physical examination of the pet and an inventory of the vaccination records to assure that all shots are up to date. The cost of getting the exam and certificate is typically around $50. The health certificate is only valid for 30 days and most airlines require that it be signed no more than ten days prior to the travel date.

Vaccination Certificate

While this document will often be labeled “vaccine certificate” it may also be labeled a “shot record” or numerous other titles. It is nothing more than a list of the pet’s vaccinations and their current status. As with the health certificate, the document may take many different forms and varies from state to state. In this case, there is no cost to obtain it. The front desk staff at any veterinarian office will be happy to print one for a pet owner upon request. It should be noted; the vaccination record IS NOT a suitable substitute for an interstate health certificate. These two documents are not interchangeable and do not meet the same objectives. In reverse, the health certificate DOES NOT suffice as documentation to get a pet into daycare facility or kennel.

International Health Certificate

Any pet owner intending to travel outside of the country with a pet is required to assemble a packet of documents for the country that is being visited. The documents contained in the packet will be very similar in all of the European Union (E.U.) countries, but will vary outside of the E.U. For quick reference on finding the correct and current forms for the country of destination, visit the internet. Also, take care to pay attention to the expiration dates on the paperwork. It may be necessary to contact the veterinarian and have a more current signed and dated document(s)if your trip goes beyond the allotted time limit. When it comes to international travel with a pet, it is the wisest choice to “have more”. Do all you can to follow each country-specific requirement for documentation; but when in doubt, take more than you think you might need …not less.

What About Pet Passports?

Pet Passports can add an element of confusion to this topic, but officially they’re only relevant for residents of the E.U. There have been reports of some U.S. pet owners using an E.U. pet passport while traveling to France and other European countries, but it is still advised that a pet owner have the traditional international paperwork in hand in case using a E.U. pet passport doesn’t “pass mustard” for one reason or another. When it comes to international pet documentation, the old saying holds true – better to have it and not need it than the other way around!