General shipping concerns:
There are three main ways to transport your dog internationally: as excess baggage, air cargo or via a third party shipper, the latter being the most costly. Many show dog owners and professional handlers ship dogs internationally themselves. The airline you choose will be a useful source of information for the process.
For example, you may need to register as a “known shipper” with the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to satisfy airline regulations and expedite the process. If your airline requires this, it can provide you with the form to register. A handler who transports dogs generally must register with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an intermediate handler.
A general certificate of health (also referred to as an “international health certificate”) is required by most major airlines, for dogs traveling internationally (or domestically). Airlines also regulate the type of crate you must use. Note that these regulations can change; for example, some airlines now require steel fasteners on crate doors as opposed to plastic. Airlines also regulate the information to be affixed to the crate, as well as such criteria as the maximum length of the trip permitted and the minimum and maximum temperatures for shipping dogs.
Importation of dogs is regulated by the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC). The federal regulations are found at 42 C.F.R. 71.51, accessible at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/. Generally, all dogs entering the US are subject to examination by a CDC veterinarian. A dog showing evidence of a communicable disease may be confined for treatment to determine its admissibility.
Also, even if your dog arrives in the US appearing healthy, if another animal traveling on the same carrier dies or shows evidence of a communicable disease, then your dog may be subject to testing to determine if it has been affected.
The CDC’s primary concern on vaccinations is rabies. No vaccine is required if the dog is imported from a country considered “rabies-free” by the World Health Organization, and was in that country for over 6 months. Otherwise, imported dogs must be accompanied by proof they were vaccinated over 30 days prior to the date of entry. If no such proof is provided, either because the dog is too young (under 3 months) or for other reasons, the dog must be vaccinated upon arrival, then confined until adequately vaccinated.
In addition to CDC regulations, the USDA requires that dogs entering the US from certain countries, including many in South America and Africa, must be accompanied by a veterinarian’s certification that the dog is free from screwworms. Herding dogs are subject to similar regulations regarding tapeworms. Hawaii and the territory of Guam both have additional quarantine requirements.
The United States has minimal requirements for exported dogs, set by the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS has Veterinary Service Offices throughout the US. Their website, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/vs/iregs/animals/ is a good place to start for information on exports; see also the regulations at 9 C.F.R. 91.
When exporting dogs, the regulations of most concern are those of the destination country. The US Department of State has useful information at http://www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/c10442.htm and also more general international travel information at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html. In addition, by calling the appropriate foreign embassy, you can obtain the most current information on that country’s requirements.
At a minimum, your dog will need an international health certificate endorsed by APHIS, though specific requirements vary greatly among countries. For example, the UK can require extended quarantine. Happily, the very strict UK regulations will change January 1, 2012: the new regulations bring the UK in line with other EU state, and are at http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/travel/.
Dogs travelling to Mexico or Canada need minimal certification, while those traveling to New Zealand and Japan may require a permit in advance of entry and quarantine following arrival. Due to regulations and/or airport facilities, dogs may only be able to fly as cargo (not excess baggage or in the cabin) to certain countries. Always check with both your airline and the appropriate embassy to learn the requirements.
If travelling with a service dog, you probably need to make special arrangements to avoid being separated from your dog during a flight or quarantine period. In addition to consulting your airline, review the information provided by International Association of Assistance Dog Partners on tips for travelling with a service dog, at http://www.iaadp.org/.
Lisa Curry, Esq. raises and shows West Highland White Terriers and Toy Fox Terriers. She practices law in New Jersey. www.lawfordogs.com