Traveling with pets can be difficult, owing to laws that vary widely from country to country. This article details legal restrictions on pets (guarantees, pet passports, vaccination); pet restrictions/prices on transport and pet safety (potential diseases like rabies or canine distemper, approach of locals, etc.).
A PETS passport should be obtained from your vet before travel. This document with vaccination information is matched to the electronic tag embedded in the pets neck.
Some animals are not allowed at all in some countries. Having more than a couple of pets may be regarded as commercial import, requiring much more bureaucracy than "personal" pets.
Pet passport, chip, travel documents and vaccination
In Europe, the owner must have the proper pet passport, ownership license and document from Veterinary Physician to show proof the pet is in good health to travel. And importantly the rabies vaccination has been administered. The Rabies Vaccination must be administered minimum 30 days or more before the journey. In some cases a test for rabies antibodies must be carried out in an approved laboratory after the vaccination and a further wait period observed. This may apply also when taking a vaccinated pet for a brief visit to a high-risk country.
Some of these are very tight on timing. For example, the UK requires evidence of tapeworm treatment by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours before crossing the border into the UK.
The pet passport means your pet has a chip generally implanted under the fur on their neck. This chip can be scanned and details of the animal and its history can be viewed. This should be updated every time your pet visits the Vet.
Without the pet passport along with the Veterinary Physician's medical clearance certificate your pets will have to go into quarantine when they arrive in the destination country in Europe – or they may be denied entry altogether if quarantine facilities are unavailable.
There is quite a few documents to accompany your pet. Pet passport, copies of ownership licence, veterinary physician medical certificate plus the airline and freight tickets. If the pet is going in the cargo hold of the airline, the freight service company handling your pet will put everything into an envelope and tape these to the cage your pet is traveling in.
Regardless of specifics, travelling will be much more easy if your pet is used to being handled by you and strangers, and used to new places. For some pets, travelling just for the sake of it may be cruel, but e.g. dogs may have no problems with it, if trained in time. Loud or stressful environments should probably still be avoided. For pets that shouldn't be taken on trips unnecessarily, making them used to handling and to using their crate may still be advantageous.
By pet shipping service
As you'll quickly see, trying to navigate the multitude of options, learn and apply all the restrictions, and book and carry out a plan can be a huge hassle, one that you might not have time for if you are moving or trying to make a long and complicated trip. There are many companies that will handle some or all of this work for you, even going as far as offering door-to-door service.
On ships there is plenty of room for your pet, but check whether it is allowed on board and where you can have it. Pets are not allowed in all cabins and not in all areas. Often the pets must be mentioned when booking the voyage.
There are pet toilets on some ships. Train your pet in advance to use the type on board, if possible. Otherwise you may have to train your pet to use facilities that you provide yourself.
On short and medium haul ferries, such as France-UK Channel crossing, pets may have to stay in your vehicle for the trip.
On some trains you need a separate ticket for your pet, especially if it is large enough not to be had in a cage in your knee. You may have to travel in a separate compartment. The cage may be mandatory for some pets. In other places pets that are not service animals are not allowed on trains
Often pets don't fit and are therefore not allowed. Sometimes they may transported if you pay extra. In some countries taking them on the bus is no problem.
In some countries it is required for all dogs to wear a muzzle.
Options for sending pets by plane vary by airline and by country:
- A few airlines don't accept pets at all.
- Some airlines only accept pets in the baggage compartments at the bottom of the plane. Depending on the airline, pets can either be checked (your pets fly on the same plane as you, checked and generally priced similarly to an oversize piece of checked luggage) or cargo (your pet is handled and sent through the airline's cargo service). Cargo can be advantageous because the pets can fly by themselves without a person, and you can authorize someone other than yourself to drop them off or pick them up.
- Some airlines allow pets in the cabin for a fee, but they must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, which effectively limits this to only cats and small dogs. Generally, the pet must remain in its carrier the entire time. No airlines today allow you to bring larger pets in the cabin.
- However, there are generally legally-required exceptions for service animals (ones which are trained to perform a specific task to assist their owner) and emotional support animals (ones which don't have specific training, but simply assist those with mental health issues). In both cases, proper documentation is required. Typically the animal must still be able to fit at your feet or in your lap; for larger dogs, you may need to purchase a particular seat (such as one in the first row with a bulkhead in front of it) so that there will be enough room.
- Travelling on a private plane generally has no legal restrictions: you can bring any animal you like, as long as it fits on the plane and is allowed at the destination, and it doesn't have to be in a carrier at all. Charter flights, depending on the operator, often don't impose many or any restrictions, either; that freedom is part of their draw over traditional airlines.
- Cargo airlines may be an option, but usually not for dogs and cats. UPS accepts all amphibians, lizards, turtles, and many aquatic animals, but not mammals, birds, or snakes. DHL only ships animals in the U.S. and only accepts frogs, insects, lizards, turtles, sea life, and worms.
Sending your pet through freight services can be quite expensive in comparison to buying your seat on the plane. As cargo, prices are calculated based on the dimensions of the kennel and the weight. A medium-size dog might cost around $500, whereas for the same price you might be able to get an economy seat for yourself and bring your dog as checked baggage.
For storing under your seat, soft kennels are the best option, as they're flexible enough to fit under a seat easily. For pets in the baggage compartments, they must be in a hard container that meets requirements from IATA and your airline. Most requirements are not surprising — for example, the container must be ventilated on at least three sides, and must have "LIVE ANIMAL" and "THIS WAY UP" stickers — but there are some that are less obvious:
- The container must be large enough that the animal can stand, turn around, and lie down. Airlines may interpret this as "without touching the top of the container (even the ears or tail)", which may necessitate a much larger kennel than you would otherwise expect.
- Very large kennels may not fit on small aircraft, which would then force you to find a different flight (perhaps to or from a larger city, or connecting through a different hub airport).
- Plastic containers are fine, but if they are two-piece containers that disassemble into a separate top and bottom, they must be attached with threaded nuts and bolts, not merely plastic clips. Doors must not have locks, but will likely be ziptied by airline staff to prevent accidental opening and tampering.
- There must be food and water containers attached inside the container, but able to be filled from the outside without opening the kennel.
- The bottom must be lined with absorbent bedding, such as an absorbent kennel pad or shredded paper. Straw, hay, and similar materials are often prohibited, especially on international flights.
When pets will be travelling in the baggage compartment, give lots of consideration to the weather. They will likely have to wait in a warehouse or near the aircraft for 2 hours or more before being loaded onto the plane, and may have a similarly long wait when arriving. If the weather is too cold or too hot, airlines will refuse to accept pets; if you already gave your pets to the airline but the weather changes, you would have to return and pick up your pets to try again another day. This means, for instance, that during summer, you should book the earliest flight possible to maximize the chance that your pets will make it onto their flight before the temperature rises too far.
Give similar consideration to your pets' comfort. Help reduce the scariness of the journey by purchasing the kennel well in advance, and leaving it open in the house for them to become accustomed to; putting a toy or treats inside can help them to spend time near it and even venture inside. Including a favorite blanket, unwashed, will make your pet's journey much more pleasant. You can also expect that, no matter how careful airline staff are, water and food will get spilled inside the kennel; pack it with ample absorbent material.
Particularly for dogs traveling in the cabin, plan ahead for how to deal with your pet needing to relieve itself. Have poop bags as well as alcohol wipes on hand in case your pet relieves itself in a public area. Find out if there are indoor pet relief areas at your origin or destination, and let your pet use these just before the flight and as soon afterwards as possible.
The following is a brief summary of the policies of major airlines. To avoid getting bogged down in details, prices given are for that airline's domestic or typical international flights, and many restrictions such as valid countries are not listed.
- Air Canada allows small pets in the cabin for $50-60 (Canada and U.S.) or $100-118 (international), checked pets for $105-121 (Canada and U.S.) or $270-319 (international), and ships pets via Air Canada Cargo.
- Air France allows small pets in the cabin for €30-125, checked pets for €75-200, and ships many types of animals via Air France KLM Martinair Cargo.
- American allows small pets in the cabin for $125/kennel, checked pets for $200/kennel, and ships pets via American Airlines Cargo.
- Delta allows small pets in the cabin, and can ship almost any animal via Delta Cargo.
- Lufthansa is widely known for exceptional care of pets through their cargo freight service.
Cars and other transport often get very hot, especially when left parked. Have enough water, never leave the pet alone in your car even for a short shop trip without making sure the temperature will stay manageable, and think of ways to handle the problem (wet towels?).
Birds find travel stressful. Plan for proper hours of light and dark, and a steady supply of food and water. Airlines may not accept large birds, but if they accept pets, they will probably accept small birds in a suitable cage.
Cats can be good travelers, especially when you give them many (many many many) opportunities to have brief, positive, pleasant experiences in your car beforehand. Train your cat to use a crate, and give the cat time to visit your car and explore the crate being in the car, before trying to turn the engine on. After the cat is accustomed to being inside the car, turn the engine on. After practicing this new experience for a few days, try an extremely short trip – perhaps just to the end of the driveway and back. Build up slowly until the cat associates the car with treats and happiness. Bring familiar bedding, blankets, or other comforting items for use at your destination. If you are going without your car, try a similar approach to whatever kind of vehicle you will be using, perhaps starting with the crate and being carried around in it.
Dogs are usually good travelers. If home is where the heart is, then your dog's heart is with you. If your dog doesn't like getting in the car, then repeated exposure to positive experiences is likely the best solution. Invite the dog into your car every day, and offer a reward of praise, attention, or food each time, until it becomes normal. Take brief trips to positive places, such as a dog park or an empty field to run around and sniff for exciting discoveries in, before trying to make a longer trip. As with cats, if you are not going by car, use other vehicles. Taking the dog on the bus may be easy (depending on where you live), first on off hours for one stop only, or even just on and off, if that's possible.
Rabbits are poor travelers. Given the opportunity, most would rather stay home while you go on the trip. If you need to bring a rabbit with you, let it get used to a crate first, and then watch for signs of stress on the road.
Reptiles and amphibians
Reptiles are indifferent travelers at best: either they don't care, or they hate it. All the humans involved, however, will probably hate traveling with them. In addition to the common prejudice against reptiles – a prejudice that results in no-snake rules at nearly all hotels and many other accommodations and transportation systems – you will need to deal with problems such as maintaining correct body temperature and hydration without your normal setup. Whenever possible, reptiles and amphibians should be left at home.
It is possible to travel with mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, and other rodents, but it is not necessarily easy. Check your itinerary at every step to make sure your pet is welcome. Hotels may refuse guests with such pets, for fear that an escaped pet rat will turn into an expensive rodent infestation. Airlines may accept gerbils or guinea pigs carried as hand luggage in the cabin, but mice and rats normally have to be shipped as cargo.
Ferrets, hedgehogs, and some other unusual pets are banned from some destinations. Some of these bans apply even within the same country, e.g., both California and Queensland ban the importation of ferrets from anywhere, including from neighboring states.
Dangerous, rare or endangered species
- See also: animal ethics
There can be strict laws about animals that may or may not be transported, or restrictions on which animals may be owned and kept as pets. These vary between jurisdictions (for instance, Ontario banned pitbull dogs in 2005, as did Maryland in 2012).
Where a dog has to be leashed and where it is allowed to be free varies between countries. Even a well-behaved dog can cause irritation or worse if it is not leashed where it is expected to be. In some countries, there are "dog parks" where a dog can be let free and play with other dogs (given it understands the rules, is not in rut, etc.).
In some countries, it is customary or required for some or all dogs to wear a muzzle, at least on buses or in congested areas.
Rules on taking care of the litter vary.
Dogs often chase deer or other wildlife if given the opportunity. A dog running loose will scare nesting birds and other animals, dig in sensitive habitats, and otherwise cause significant damage without even being aggressive.
In general, China is not a dog- or pet-friendly country. For importation of dogs, you will need a proof of rabies vaccination, a recent vet-approved health certification, and export documentation. A mandatory quarantine of 7 to 30 days is also required.
Most major cities have a list of forbidden dog breeds, which may include breeds deemed to be tame, while in other places, forbidden dogs are based on their size. Any violation will result in immediate confiscation or killing. In most extreme cases, enforcement personnel can break into your residence in order to confiscate your dog.
Most public transportation forbid pets, including dogs, and in some cases, even service dogs are forbidden. Major cities will require a dog license, and may regulate the time period for dog walking. In rural China, dogs traditionally roam free; however, dog poisoning or intentional harming of free-roaming dogs are common, due to fear of violent dogs. Additionally, there are also cases in which illegal vendors catch free roaming dogs and sell them for meat.
Public perceptions on dogs are polarized. Although there is a considerable voice for dogs and animal rights, by virtue of the bad behavior of some dog owners and aggressive dogs, there is also strong anti-dog sentiment that calls for the strict regulation or even total ban of pet dogs.
Lastly, as rabies and other animal diseases are prevalent in China, you may encounter difficulty in bringing your pet back to your home country. For short-term visits, consider leaving your pet in the temporary care of others.
Most import regulations are coordinated through EU. Present terms can be checked through Evira.
Approved treatment against rabies and Echinococcus multilocularis (tapeworm; except when coming directly from Norway, UK, Ireland or Malta) beforehand is required for dogs and some other animals. Check the details. Microship and passport are required, with some exceptions for older dogs.
You should arrive together with your pet (possibly with the pet in the hold of the same plane). Coming with more than five pets is regarded as commercial import.
From outside EU/EEA you must come via one of a specific set of border control points (which includes those normally relevant, but check before booking) and declare the pet at customs.
Dogs must be on leash (or immediately catchable) all the time with few exceptions (fenced yards, working dogs, in season with permission of hunting rights owner etc.). There are havens where dogs can play without leash in most bigger towns. Many dog owners let their dogs run free also when not allowed, in areas they feel are secure. Be careful if following their example, especially not to let the dog disturb wildlife (the dog not chasing wildlife is not enough).
Take care of the litter in areas where it might disturb somebody (i.e., except off path in the wilderness).
Pets are usually not allowed in restaurants, shops and the like, except dog guides. They are allowed in some hotels (check in advance).
Pets are allowed in buses and on trains. On trains, there is often a separate compartment for travellers with pets, with some seats for those with large dogs, having plenty of legroom. Pets other than dogs must be in their cage.
Dog owners are responsible for any damage caused by their pets, regardless of intention or carefulness (carelessness may in addition be a criminal offence).
Dog friendly country. No issues taking a well behaved dog into a restaurant; you can often see them lying under tables. Many, but not all, hotels will allow pets (check when booking) but expect to pay an extra €15 cleaning fee.
Animals must be vaccinated at least one month before entering Germany, see BMELV [dead link]. Resident dogs need to be registered with the local council and licence tags worn. Occasional spot checks are made and fines given, so, if you are not resident in Germany, make sure you have some identification handy.
Although there are plenty of places to let your dog have a run, be sensible. Dogs must be on a leash in nature protection areas (marked by a green bordered triangular white sign with a picture of an eagle on it). Hunters have the right to shoot dogs that are off the lead if they (rather than you) feel you are not controlling your dog adequately.
Lufthansa will allow small dogs and cats in a travel cage as carry on luggage but larger dogs must go in the hold.
Deutsche Bahn offers a child-rate fare for all dogs that are too big to be stored in a cage as "luggage".
Strict rules apply in Iceland. Animals need to undergo 1 month in quarantine regardless of their health.
The owner needs to have an health certificate from an vet, an import application, certificate of origin and results from an antibodies test. If the animal fails those tests or the papers are not submitted in time, then the animal will remain in quarantine for longer.
The animal itself needs to be transported in a cage that the animal can move around in and that is easy to clean and sterilize. Wooden cages are not allowed. Animals can only travel to Iceland through Keflavík International Airport. Budget airlines flying to Iceland tend not to allow animals aboard their planes.
The following antibodies tests are required:
- Dogs and cats: Rabies, leptospirosis, canine distemper, hcc and parvo. Rabies test needs to be carried out at an minimum 120 days from the travel date, while other tests need 30 days.
- Rodents: salmonella
- Sea creatures: infectious fish deceases
- Birds: salmonella and paramyxoviridae
Reptiles can not travel to Iceland. Reptiles in Iceland have frequently had salmonella infections and are banned because of that.
When the animal has arrived to the country, it needs to be marked. A microchip implant or a collar will do. Abuse and neglect, like not bringing the animal to the vet when it needs it, can result in an fine from 10,000 ISK.
Dogs are often expected to be on leash in towns and near rivers with angling rights, but they can roam free in the countryside. Restaurant commonly ban dogs, but exceptions do exist. Dog owners are often expected to pick up the litter from the animal. Pets are not allowed in buses. These rules differ by regions.
When travelling out of Iceland with an pet, export certificates are given. For travels to EU or Norway, the animal needs to have a microchip implant. Additionally Norway, UK, Ireland, Finland and Malta require treatment for tapeworms.
Dogs allowed in many hotels, usually with a small fee. Dogs are not allowed on some beaches, but away from the central resorts there are areas where they are allowed to run free.
Entry for pets into New Zealand is managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). New Zealand is free of many of the more serious diseases that pets may carry, such as rabies, heartworm and most ticks, and there are strict there are biosecurity restrictions to ensure that this remains the case. Importing cats and dogs is relatively straightforward, but for other pets it can be a bureaucratic nightmare. Use of a pet exporter is highly recommended. A guide to importation of pets can be accessed on the MPI Biosecurity website.
- Aero Pets, ☏ . 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday. Registered Pet Exporters who can arrange pet transport from New Zealand to another country
Dogs over 3 months old must be microchipped and must be registered with the local city or district council in which they usually reside. There is no microchipping or registration requirements for cats.
Akitas, Boerboes, Dogos Argentinos, Filas Brasileiros, Neapolitan Mastiffs, Pit Bulls (including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Bull Dog) and Tosas - together with crosses of all these breeds - are banned from Singapore.
- SKC website
Dogs are required by law to be leashed in public places.
Singapore is free from canine diseases, such as rabies, that can threaten humans, so all dogs must be implanted with a microchip matching their veterinary papers.
Unless the cat or dog is coming from Australia, Cayman Islands, Denmark, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, or the UK UK [dead link], it must be rabies quarantined at the importer's expense for at least 30 days after arrival and an import licence obtained at least two weeks before the date of import from the
- City Veterinary Centre, 25 Peck Seah St, ☏ , fax: . S$50 per animal.
Only one dog and no cats at all are allowed in a public Housing Development Board (HDB) flat. Up to three dogs and a technically unrestricted number of cats are allowed elsewhere.
Some restaurants with outdoor seating may be accommodating. Sentosa Beach requires dogs to be leashed but a pricey alternative is
- Tanjong Beach Club, 120 Tanjong Beach Walk, ☏ . Tu-Sa, 11:00-23:00; Su 11:00-23:59. day bed S$168.
- Bishan Dog Park, 1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave, ☏ . 2 large, fully fenced enclosures where dogs of all temperaments and sizes can run free - if the better staff are on duty they will ensure that the larger and more aggressive dogs are segregated from the tiddlers. Owners have to stay outside!
- US Doggie Bakery, 335 East Coast Rd (Caltex Station), ☏ .
- Traveling by land with animals, within the mainland United States, can be unexpectedly tricky if you don't have a car. The United States is strongly geared up for car travel, and long distance coach/bus networks, such as Greyhound, do not generally allow non-service animals to travel. Outside urban bus networks, options may be very limited - perhaps only to air (expensive and only suitable for some kinds of travel), rail (if a rail link exists), or car hire (one way or round trip).
- Until the 1990s, the UK had the toughest animal import regulations in the world. Nowadays it's relaxed a lot and pet passports allow animals in from many popular countries without the prohibitive 6 months (yes, 6 months!) quarantine, but you need to jump some hoops to make sure they can come in:
- Before entering the UK, all pet dogs must be treated for tapeworm. The treatment must be administered by a vet not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1–5 days) before its scheduled arrival time in the UK. Proof of this and of rabies vaccination dates is required that matches the electronic tag. Check official Defra web site for exact rules as getting the complex set of actions and dates wrong is easy to do and will mean your pet will not be allowed into the country. Also worth checking if your dog is legal in the UK; a handful of breeds such as pitbulls may have issues under 'dangerous dog' legislation.
- By air - animals must be in the plane's hold when entering the UK, and in an official IATA crate. See above for transporting 'check-on' vs. 'cargo' (check-on is almost always preferable if you can). There's a big tip here: in the past the UK was unusual that dogs could only travel via UK airports as cargo. If that's still the law it can be worth it to travel by sea/rail to France, Holland or Ireland, and fly from there as checked baggage; you'll see more and under existing laws could save a lot of money. If you do this you'll have to time your tapeworm treatment carefully or get it in those countries - and remember the hour's time difference between the UK and mainland Europe!
- By sea - pets must stay unaccompanied below deck in the car, or in suitable cages/containers, for the duration. Although there are small caged/fenced areas at the harbours and tunnel terminal for dogs to do their business, it is best to stop for a walk before arriving as they are not pleasant places to be.
- Legally dogs must have some kind of tag with the owner's information. For other pets some kind of ID tag is also advisable. "Chipping" a pet is also advised.
- The owner (or person in control) of a pet or animal (such as a dog) is legally responsible for its actions and welfare. Perceived ill-treatment can elicit strong reactions.
- The UK's policy for dogs off the leash seems to broadly be common-sense based: if it's dangerous or the dog may do harm, don't; if it's an (often rural) open space, such as the countryside, woods, and fields, and many parks or (for exceedingly well behaved dogs) even streets, it's usually fine, provided there isn't livestock. However, some farmers and landowners can be understandably nervous (especially if they have livestock, sheep or horses out in fields), and reasonably request you keep a dog on-leash regardless, or ask you avoid certain areas. If in doubt, ask or seek local advice first.
- If your pet and especially a dog, is involved in an accident or serious incident with other road users, certain wildlife, livestock, sheep, or horses, you should report this to the authorities immediately, for legal reasons.
- There can be stiff penalties for litter and fouling, so bring bags and ensure you dog leaves no-trace! Some local authorities will provide disposal bins in parks and other locations, but there is no universal coverage or provision.
- Dogs are usually fine tied up in the street while eating (don't trip anyone over!), and some pubs and outdoor eateries are pet friendly, but dog theft can happen so keep an eye on them.
- Most public transport allows pets to travel free, although sometimes with limits on numbers - this includes virtually all trains, the tube and other metropolitan rail, and public buses. The main exception are certain coach networks such as National Express.
- An excellent holiday tip is to rent a canal narrow boat. There's always a tow path to run along!
- Hotels, B&B and restaurants, with a few exceptions, tend not to be as dog-friendly as in continental Europe. Bringing a dog and children can be a serious disability that is not protected by any laws.
It is all right to have a dog on the beach unless it makes a really big fuss, then someone, maybe a lifeguard, will come, then say to you that your dog isn't allowed. Otherwise dogs are allowed in hotels or restaurants if they aren't wet, or soaked.