We recently took a six-week trip to the Costa del Sol in Spain, accompanied by our yorkshire terrier, Winston. He has travelled with us on several road trips in western Canada and the US, but we have never taken a pet on a transatlantic flight. The experience turned out to be a great one for us as well as Winston.
Please note: the following reflects our experience bringing our dog from Canada to Europe. The procedure for pet travel from the United States to Europe is almost the same. Contact the USDA for more information and forms. Check with your veterinarian, preferred airline, and destination authority for travel and pet import requirements specific to your situation. The following information is essentially the same for cats and ferrets.
Why we decided to take Winston on this trip:
- Our stay was long enough to make the effort and expense worthwhile.
- Winston is small enough to fly in the cabin with us.
- We were planning to stay at one location, rather than moving a lot from place to place as we have on other trips.
- There is no quarantine period for pets entering the EU from Canada (or the United States).
If we were taking a shorter trip or one with multiple stops, we wouldn’t bring Winston, as it wouldn’t be worth the expense, red tape, or the stress on our pet.
At a glance
- Our cost: about $600 including airline fees, certification fee, and veterinarian fees.
- Airline requirements: A pet reservation must be made in advance, and a limited number of pets are allowed in the cabin. Some airlines or specific flights don’t allow pets. Check airline pet policies before booking your flight.
- Visit veterinarian at least one month prior to travel to check pet’s health, rabies vaccine and microchip. Second visit to veterinarian 7 to 10 days before travel to complete Veterinary Certificate.
- Cross-border requirements: Completed Veterinary Certificate, endorsed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
- Check the rules for bringing your pet into your choice of destination. Our dog was traveling from Canada to Spain, and there are different procedures depending on both the country of origin and the destination.
- Certain dog breeds may be restricted from entering certain countries, so check with your destination country and airline.
- We chose to avoid connecting through the UK, as they have their own process that would have meant additional paperwork and restrictions. There are also specific country requirements for Finland, Malta, and the Republic of Ireland.
- Check with your airline for their pet policies, and to make a reservation on your specific flight.
- Check the location of your nearest Canadian Food Inspection Agency office. If there is not one in your city you will need to allow time to have the Veterinary Certificate endorsed.
One month or more before travel
- Obtain Veterinary Certificate form from a local Canadian Food Inspection Agency office or download the Veterinary Certificate. If convenient I would recommend picking up the form as the CFIA agent can explain how to fill it out.
- It is recommended that the certificate be printed double-sided on letter-size paper in English and the language of the Member State of entry, and that it be completed in block letters. The reference number of the certificate must appear at the top of each page. The pages should be numbered (page # of total # of pages) so as to make each sheet part of an integrated whole. The signature and stamp must be in a different colour to that of the text of the certificate.
- The certificate must be completed in English and the official language of the first point of entry into the EU. (This really means the questions on the form are bilingual, not that your answers need to be.)
- First visit to your veterinarian (This is not mandatory but recommended to be sure your pets identification and vacinations are in order)
- Bring Veterinary Certificate. Even though it’s too early to fill out, it may be helpful to your veterinarian to see the form in advance, and know what the requirements are.
- Pet Identification: make sure your pet’s identification either has a microchip compliant with ISO standard 11784, or a clearly readable tattoo applied before July 3, 2011. If the microchip isn’t compliant you may need to bring your own reader so the border agent can read the microchip.
- Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. The microchip or tattoo number must appear on the rabies vaccination certificate in order for it to be considered valid. There is a 21-day wait period if this is a primary rabies vaccination or if the booster vaccinations were not kept up-to-date.
One week to 10 days before travel
- Second visit to the veterinarian for completion of the Veterinary Certificate
- Note: The certificate is valid for 10 days from the date of issue by the licensed veterinarian until the date of the checks at the EU travellers’ point of entry, with the exception of dogs to Finland, Malta, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, where the echinococcus treatment will be the time-limiting factor for length of validity for entry into the EU (i.e. treatment must occur between 120 and 24 hours of entry into the EU). For the purpose of further movements within the Union, the certificate is valid for a total of four months from the date of issue or until the date of expiry of the anti-rabies vaccination, whichever date is earlier.
- Present certificate to local CFIA office for endorsement
- Fee is $20
- When the certificate is presented for CFIA endorsement, it must be accompanied by supporting documentation, or a certified copy of it, including vaccination certificate and official microchip certification. The documentation must bear the identification details of the animal concerned.
- It is also highly recommended to bring this supporting documentation for presentation at the port of entry in the EU , should it be requested. It is better to overwhelm them with paperwork at the border. Our experience was that it was barely glanced at in Spain, but better to be prepared.
Airline rules and fees
Check with your airline, and find out what their fees and requirements are for accompanying pets. Some allow pets within their weight restriction to fly in the cabin with the owner, and some don’t. There may also be a limit on the number of pets allowed in the cabin, so reservations are a must. Know your pet – if you think your dog will be barking for the whole trip, let him travel in the baggage hold for the consideration of your fellow passengers.
The following info is from KLM, but always check with your specific airline.
Pets in the cabin
- In a suitable kennel or pet travel bag no higher than 20 cm (7.9 in). Your pet must be able to stand up and lay down comfortably.
- Total weight of pet + travel bag or kennel may be max. 6 kg (13 lbs).
- The kennel must fit under the seat in front of you for take off and landing.
Pets as check-in baggage in a ventilated part of the aircraft:
- In a rigid plastic kennel that complies with IATA rules – for example those of the ‘Sky’ and ‘Vari’ brands. You can purchase such a kennel at larger pet shops or specialist shipping agents. Read more about kennels on www.iata.org.
- Total weight of your pet and kennel combined may be max. 75 kg (165 lbs).
- Instead, they are kept in a dark, heated, pressurized hold, which encourages them to sleep for the duration of travel.
- Please note that airlines may not take pets as check-in baggage on specific flights during certain times of the year, due to risk of heat or cold.
- We purchased Winston’s travel bag a couple weeks before the flight. We used it for car rides and he began to associate being in the travel bag as a positive experience, as it meant he was coming along with us. The bag itself is a lightweight duffle bag specifically for pet travel, with ventilation on both ends as well as the side. This is essential so your pet gets enough air while down at your feet. During takeoff and landing the carrier has to slide under the seat in front of you, but at other times they can be between your feet or on your lap (but never out of the carrier).
- Winston basically slept through most of the flight and didn’t seem too stressed or excited on the plane.
- At the airport, let airline personnel know you have your pet with you in case there are any unexpected procedures. We had to have our pet reservation approved at the airline ticket counter before we could check in.
- At the advice of the airline, we did not let Winston eat or drink four hours before departure. At our connection we allowed him a tiny bit of water.
- It is not recommended to tranquilize your pet, as altitude can affect medications.
- You can’t bring pet food with you, but in Spain it was easy to find in pet stores, as well as larger grocery stores.
- We unfortunately had two connections, in Amsterdam and in Paris. In both airports there are no areas within security to take your pet outside to relieve themself. In Amsterdam we didn’t have a long enough layover to go through border control and security, and were told just to let Winston go on the floor, and it would be cleaned up. We actually saw another passenger with a dog lay out papers on the floor for their pet to go. Winston isn’t used to this and wouldn’t go indoors so he actually didn’t pee until our next connection in Paris, where we had time to exit security and take him outside for a bit. (on a side note, in Paris nobody asked us for Winston’s papers when we went through border control.)
- This is stating the obvious, but make sure your accommodations allow pets. We chose to stay in an apartment that included a yard which was a great home base. Our apartment was in Nerja, which is a pet-friendly smaller town, with a lot of areas to go for walks.
- Pets can be a great conversation starter! Winston enjoyed meeting other dogs and we enjoyed talking to other locals and vacationers.