How to Travel Overseas With Your Dog

There's a reason pet owners have a tendency to call their dogs and cats their "furbabies"— it's because our pets are so important to us, they really do feel like members of the family. And, when it comes to planning a swank vacation, it's natural to want to bring your nearest and dearest along for the adventure.

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But, what if that dream vacay you're planning involves a passport and crossing a boarder (or even an ocean)? Well, in that case, traveling with your furbaby gets a little more complicated. Here's what you to need to know about traveling overseas with your dog.

What are the laws about traveling overseas with your dog?

The short answers, unfortunately (but predictably) is: it depends on a whole host of factors. According to the United States State Department, most countries have very strict "health, quarantine, agriculture, wildlife, and customs requirements or prohibitions for pets."

If traveling abroad with a pet, the State Department recommends checking with the embassies of the countries you will be visiting to learn about any specific requirements they may have.

What happens if there's an emergency while traveling overseas with your dog?

While we're on the subject of the U.S. State Department, it's worth noting that the official policy of the U.S. is to warn travelers that pets are in danger in the event of a crisis. Per the State Department:

"In the event of a crisis involving a U.S. government coordinated evacuation, we are generally not able to provide transportation assistance for your pets. U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad with pets should make alternate plans for their care if you have to leave them behind or commercial transport if a crisis occurs abroad. In rare situations when pet transport is available, we will let you know and include the basic requirements/restrictions to facilitate pet travel on a specific flight. We usually do not know the requirements/restrictions in advance of scheduling individual transports."

In other words: travel with furbabies at your own (and their own) risk. An exception to this rule is service animals, who are not designated as pets and who the U.S. government will at least try to evacuate with you in the event of a crisis.

Does your dog need a passport to travel overseas?

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While some countries have pet passports, they aren't necessarily required. The European Union, in particular, has an EU Pet Passport that simplifies pet travel in EU member countries, but it can't be obtained in the United States (which means that, if you're an American dead set on obtaining one for your pet, you'd have to set up some vet visits while in the EU on vacation). The United States Department of Agriculture has a handy guide to EU Pet Passport, if you're interested.

Does your dog need certain vaccines to travel overseas?

This is another one that is usually a yes. Most countries do require that pets traveling in be up to date on certain vaccines. According to the CDC, many also require blood tests and microchips. Luckily, the Department of Agriculture has a website that helps travelers research the requirements in specific countries (check it out here).

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"Your destination country may have specific health requirements that must be met before your pet can enter the country," the USDA explains on its website. "Since export requirements are determined by each country and can change frequently, every time you plan pet travel you will need to verify the export requirements. Please note that airlines may have separate and additional requirements. Check with your airline to determine what requirements they may have, if any."

What rules do airlines have about traveling overseas with dogs?

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The USDA is right to point out the importance of checking with your airline about travel requirements, which can be different from the requirements for the country you're traveling to. It' probably goes without saying, but it's also very important to check the requirements on your return flight airline, if it's different from the airline you travel out on.

Will my dog be quarantined if it travels overseas?

Some countries do require that dogs (including service dogs in some cases) undergo quarantine periods upon entering the country, but quarantine policies vary by country—both of destination and origin.

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Why do some countries quarantine pets?

Animal quarantines are a measure to protect the health of the native animals and they are particularly common for island nations, where the local wildlife haven't been naturally exposed to outside illnesses and could be devastated (or even wiped out) by an outbreak. As frustrating as the process might be for the owner of the quarantined animal, these policies are important for the safety of literally every other animal in the country in question.

What does rabies have to do with pet quarantines?

One of the top conditions considered when it comes to quarantine policies is rabies and your country of origin's classification when it comes to rabies can impact what kind of quarantine your pet will face while traveling internationally. The short version is that the countries of the world have been divided into three rabies-related groups: rabies-free countries, rabies-controlled countries and high-rabies countries.

Many countries have different rules for entry based on the rabies classification of the country the pet is coming from (and countries in which the pet has spent two or more hours on layover or in which it clears customs) and many have a complete ban on pets from high-rabies countries (the United States is considered a "rabies-controlled" country by most other nations, according to PetTravel.com)

Which countries require pet quarantines?

You'll need to check the current rules for any country you're thinking of visiting with your dog, but some countries with known quarantine policies of some kind include:

  • Australia
  • Fiji
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan

What are the rules for traveling overseas with a small dog?

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Like traveling within the United States, traveling internationally can be a little easier with a small dog than with a larger one. You'll need to contact your airline the specific rules and fees associated with pet travel. And note that the rules and fees for traveling internationally with a dog can be different than when traveling domestically, so check, even if you're flying with an airline you and your under-seat-carrier-sized furbaby have traveled with before.

You'll also want to reach out to your hotel (or Airbnb, etc.) before traveling to ensure that your furry friend will be welcome. Many hotels and other accommodations that are pet-friendly will have strict size and breed requirements, which smaller dogs are more likely to satisfy.

What are the rules for traveling overseas with a large dog?

It pains me to say it, but large dogs will have a harder time traveling with you overseas, as a general rule. For one, most airlines will require that the dog travel in cargo or be shipped through a licensed commercial shipper. This can be costly for you and downright dangerous for your pet and you should think seriously and do your research before you ever let a dog (or any other living, breathing thing) travel in cargo. If you've used an Emotional Support Animal letter to skirt this rule on domestic flights, you'll need to check with your airline to see if that piece of paper covers your dog during international travel—and if your dog will face any issues deboarding at your destination if he or she travels as an ESA and ESAs aren't recognized in the place you're visiting.

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What's more, large breeds are disproportionately affected by Banned Breed laws, which some countries have in place to stop the entry of "aggressive" breeds. If you're traveling with any dog—but especially if you are traveling with a commonly restricted breed, like a Pit Bull or Pit Bull-mix— it's essential that you research breed restrictions in every country you plan to visit—including any country you have a scheduled layover in. While some countries will simply deny entry and force you to immediately send your pup home at your own expense (whether you decide to continue the trip or not), some maybe have policies in place to euthanize the dog.

The most commonly banned breeds are Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Dogo Argentinos, Japanese Tosa Inus, Fila Brasilieros, and Neapolitan Mastiffs, but again, it's vital to research breed restrictions in any country you visit and to contact the country's embassy with questions if you're unsure about breed-related travel laws.

What are the rules for traveling overseas with a service dog?

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Traveling internationally with a service dog is a tricky task. It's not as simple as it is in the United States, where the ADA protections for working dogs are clear. Here are some things to keep in mind if you're traveling internationally with an assistance animal:

  • Know the law: Not all countries have laws protecting or recognizing service animals and those that do may not recognize dogs trained for specific tasks (some, for example, only recognized guide dogs who assist the blind and not dogs trained to help people with other disabilities). As unfair as this may seem, having a service dog in the U.S. doesn't guarantee your right to travel or go out in public with your dog in foreign countries. Your dog might also not be legally allowed to stay with you in hotels that have no pet policies, so it's important to do your research and know your rights when you travel abroad with a service animal.
  • Pet rules will still apply to you: Even if the country you're visiting does recognize service animals, your dog will still be subject to any quarantine or vaccination requirements in the country. Being a working dog won't exempt your partner from these rules.
  • International airlines might not recognize your dog's status: You'll need to check with your airline about their rules regarding service animals on international flights. Even though your dog's right to accompany you in cabin is protected on domestic flights in the U.S., this may not be the case on international flights and the rules vary from airline to airline.