Monday, July 25, 2011

Moving a Pet for Overseas PCS

It is quite stressful planning a move for our dog and we just barely started the planning for it.  I have been doing a lot of research and thought I would compile the things that I have learned into one post to assist others that might be having some difficulties of their own. 

"Dangerous" Breeds-Before doing all the legwork of planning a move for a pet, there are a couple of things you should think about.  First, check to make sure your dog breed is not banned from the country that you are entering.  Some countries will have a list of "dangerous" or "aggressive" breeds in which you may own one of these breeds but must be certified or show proof of lack of aggression.  Some common breeds that are banned include pit bulls, rottweilers, and various mastiffs.

Quarantine- Another thing to consider is if the country you are entering requires a quarantine upon admittance.  Some places have quarantines as short as 10 days but some are as long as 3 months, it varies greatly.  Consider if it would be better to take the pet or leave him/her with a family member or friend in the states.  If flying into Europe, if at all possible avoid layovers in the UK, because of their extensive quarantine policies.

Housing Overseas-Additionally, some places like the older housings on army posts within Germany (not sure about other countries) are stairwell houses.  This means that you will be living in an apartment style building that is designed much like a hotel.  This being said means that frequent trips down the stairwells and outdoors for restroom breaks are essential.  Most posts are in the process of developing townhouses and larger homes that have yards but there are a very limited number available so don't assume that you'll get a yard.  So if your dog is not used to being an inside dog then it could be quite an adjustment, for you and the pet.

Okay so onto some of the checklist items:

Vaccinations-At least 30 days prior to your flight out of the states, your furry little friend should be up to date on all vaccinations.  Including but no limited to rabies and bordetella.  Some countries require specific vaccinations for pets so do a little digging on the country that you are moving to.  If you go to a military vet, they will help you figure out which vaccinations are needed. 

90 Day Health Certificate- This certificate serves as a pass for your pet once they have arrived in the new country.  It can be taken care of a few weeks prior to leaving or you can do it at the same time as the 10 day health certificate.  Both certificates are required for Germany and will be requested when picking up your pet at the airport.

Microchip-While taking care of the vaccinations, be sure that your dog is microchiped.  Some places require it, some don't, if living on-post, almost all on-post housing requires it.  Even if where you are going doesn't require it, it's always best to do so (especially for such a big move).  For Germany, the microchip must meet ISO standards 11784/11785

10 Day Health Certificate-While still on the medical front of this issue, most airlines require a 10 day health certificate which must be obtained 10 days prior to travel.  The 10 Day Health Certificate serves as a pass to get the pet on the airplane and through the initial red tape of leaving the country.This certificate must be signed off by the USDA and has to go through a couple of different people's hands so be sure to go to a military vet.  Military vets have had a lot of practice with this certification and will be able to take care of it with little to no hassle.

Airlines-Start researching airlines or possibly pet transport services immediately to hone in on the airline you wish to use, their costs, and their specific regulations.  The military WILL NOT pay for the transportation of your pet so it is essential that you do your homework on different airlines.  I have heard that United does a fantastic job with pets and is much more reasonably priced than some including Delta which tends to charge a freight fee if the pet is beyond a specific weight cap.  We used Lufthansa and although the service was great and they are known for specializing in transport of pets, it was pretty dang expensive.  It cost us a grand total of $400 for a one-way flight with our pet.

While transporting your pet via airlines, consider if you are wanting the pet to be on the same flight as you.  Some carriers do not have air conditioned luggage areas and will not transport during specific parts of the year and sometimes specific times of day.  If this occurs, it may not be possible to send the pet at the same time that you are flying which may complicate the situation.

You might not have the luxury of choosing your airline, for the PCS due to current contracts that the Army has with certain carriers.  If this happens, be sure to inform the person making the reservations that you have a pet that needs to be transported as well.  If your pet is small and can be placed under your seat as a carry-on, you most likely wont encounter any problems.  If you have a pet that has to be in the cargo hold like ours, then the departing airport or even carrier might change.  Our base was in a smaller town in Georgia and the local airport could not support pets traveling in the cargo hold, therefore had to fly through another carrier out of Atlanta.  

Layovers/Direct Flights-When booking your own flight, try to make a direct flight or as few stops as possible.  The more stops that occur increase the chance of your loved one getting lost, hurt, or in the case of a layover, hungry and thirsty.  If taking multiple carriers on your way to Europe be sure that your layover time is long enough for you to check out your pet from one carrier and check him/her into the next carrier.  When transferring carriers, most do not automatically transfer a pet along.  Something to consider when opting for this option is the additional cost of having to pay for a "checked bag" or "freight fee" for your pet through each carrier.

Again, you might not have the luxury of choosing your own flight so be sure to inform the person booking the tickets that you have a pet and ask for a direct flight if possible.

Reserve Space for Pet-After approving and purchasing your ticket be sure to call the airline and reserve a space for your pet.  While booking, you should have a place to notify the airline that you will be bringing a pet but it is best to double check the information after booking.  Within 24 hours of your flight, be sure to call and confirm with the airline that you will be checking a pet.  Airlines can only transport a limited number of pets per flight and unless properly reserved, are based on first come, first serve bases.  Be sure that you don't get stuck leaving your pet behind or missing your flight.

Kennel Acclimation-Unless your pet is of microscopic size and can be considered a carry-on, he or she will be stuck in a crate in the luggage compartment of the plane.  If you have a dog like mine, that will not go near a crate, this could be a problem.  Well in advance begin crate training your pet.  Some few tips that I have come across regarding this issue include:

*Start crate training by having only the bottom part of the crate open and inside the house with some of the pets favorite toys inside it.  This step is to get the pet familiar with seeing the crate.
*After your dog is familiar with the crate and shows no fear of it, add the top part of the crate, without the door.  Do not force your dog into the crate but rather let him or her investigate it on their own time and become comfortable with it.
*Given time, add the door and placing the pet in the carrier for small amounts of time.  If ever the dog resists entering the crate, do not force him or her because he or she will just begin to fear the crate.
*At the time of flight, place an article or two within the crate that smells like you to give your furry friend some comfort.  I have heard of people sleeping on towels for a week and placing them in the crate with their pet to add comfort.

Here are links to posts on our own crate training experience:
Day 1 in Kennel Training
Part 2- Kennel Training

Crate Requirements-Also with crates, be sure to check not only the airlines requirements but the country's requirements.  I believe I read somewhere that the Italian requirements were far stricter than others so it is always best to double check.  You can find information on kennel requirements on the airline's website.

Some specifications include:
1. Proper size kennel for pet, construction of kennel is made of rigid plastic, wood, or metal with a solid roof (no all wire, collapsible, or cardboard kennels)
2. Door must close securely but not lock
3. Have labels with the words "Live Animal" in letters at least 1" tall on top and 1 side of kennel (Some airlines provide this sticker but not all.  We applied them just in case but received 4 more upon registering her.  I'd rather have too many and be safe, rather than too few.)
4. Have upright arrow labels indicating kennels' correct position
5. Absorptive bedding for "accidents" (Check with the airline if bedding is allowed.  I would have preferred to slip a comforter or dog bed into the bottom of the kennel but forgot to ask the airline prior to our flight.  Your dog will be much more comfortable if he or she has their familiar bed to sleep on.)
6. Contain 2 dishes (water and food) attached to inside of kennel door (Some airlines require there to be water in the dish while others require the dish to be empty, please check.  If it requires water, either freeze water in the dish or obtain a type of bottle to FIRMLY attach to the door)
7. Door must be made of metal, all hardware must be secure and in good repair (a nut and bolt must be secured in each hole provided on kennels, no plastic side latches or spinners)
8. Spacer bar or rim must protrude at least 3/4 in on all sides with ventilation openings
9. Ventilation openings must be present on all 4 sides including the door.

Back-up Plan-Finally, always have a back-up plan.  If something falls through and you cannot take your pet for whatever reason, have it arranged for someone to look after him or her at least for the time being.  Do not become one of those families that abandons their pet because they don't know what to do.  It is absolutely cruel to just leave behind a pet on the streets because you were not prepared and did not have a back-up plan.  It's best to have another person go with you to the airport just in case so your pet at least has temporary care until other arrangements can be made.

Supplemental Information-
On keeping pets in Germany:   Check Here!
On pet travel and incident reports per airline, list of emergency vets near airports, etc:  Check Here!
On kennel information and pet airline safety: Check Here!


  1. Thanks for this information. We just got notice that we'll be moving from Arizona to Germany within several months. We have a kitten and a 7yr old dog and oh my goodness I am so overwhelmed with all of this! This is helpful. Are you still in Germany? Do you know if any of this information has changed within the past 3 years? Thanks :)

    1. We are no longer in Germany, we PCS'ed in November of 2013. As far as I know, all of the information is still correct. When we moved in November, I followed almost the exact same steps while returning and we didn't hit any speed bumps along the way.

      Just take a few deep breaths! I know how overwhelming it is, you will get through it!


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