Cats and dogs need passports to cross borders. Just like you and me and everybody else, there is no discrimination in this matter for travellers who walk on four legs. And just like with any other travellers’ visas, the requirements, documents and procedures needed to get pet passports vary from country to country and give you a long a headache. Still, animals deserve to travel with their human friends, and there are ways to bring them legally across borders, by car, train bus or plane. Our cat companion, Burma, got her passport in India and came all the way to Europe across 8 borders. Here we explain the documents that a cat or dog needs to travel, focusing on pets coming into the European Union (EU), but with hints to help you find your way to anywhere in the world.
The information below refers specifically to cats and dogs. If your friend is a bird, fish, reptile, amphibia, rodent or any other sort of mammal some requirements might be lifted (i.e. Rabbies vaccinae) but additional ones may apply. Please research further if that is your case. And specially if you travel with a parrot or a turtle, do make sure that is not from a species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES). You will need to apply for extra permits if this is the case.
If you are not travelling together with your pet, or if you are bringing animals for commercial purposes, regulations and documents will probably differ.
What is a pet passport
A pet passport is a collection of documents, vaccination records and stamps. Some of the veterinary records might be included in a passport-looking little book, and others will be prints, and signed copies of certificates and permits, needed for your pet friend to cross each border.
Different documents for different countries
Each and every country has specific regulations for travelling animals. Even if you are only going to visit for a few days you will probably need to gather some documents. We usually check in this website for pet travel requirements around the world. It is complete and up to date and has greatly helped us getting an idea of what pet passports are about.
EU pet passport within member states
If your pet lives in the EU and only plan to travel within the borders of the union, congratulations! EU Member states have unified regulations about pet travels. Your cat or dog can easily get an EU blue passport from the local vet to travel within member states. It is pretty straightforward. You can find all the info here.
EU pet passport from a third country
To bring a pet into the EU from anywhere in the world things get a bit more difficult. The rules are very strict and specific.
The requirements are listed by the EU and can also be found summarized in the page of WHO. But to be honest, when we started to gather all the documents needed to bring our cat from India to Europe we were really confused about what they meant and how things should even look like. In India, not even most veterinarians knew what we were asking for.So we just want to shed some light on the items that most countries require, to make your search easier.
The following guide illustrates the process we followed to bring a cat from India to the EU. Since we did most of the way overland, we will also share some tips for those who are not going straight by plane.
Most websites would recommend you to hire a professional relocating agency, which can be a bit expensive, specially if you plan to travel overland and cross more than a single border. It’s true that an expert will save you loads of troubles, because in the end the rule applies: what you don´t pay with money, you pay it with time. But if you have plenty of time and little cash, it is still possible to travel with your pet friend, just like us.
When researching, make sure you are looking into the requirements for “non commercial movement”, rather than “importing”. If you want to sell dogs or cats, different regulations will apply.
1. Implanting a microchip
For many countries, including all EU members, your pet will need an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15 digit pet microchip It is a little capsule implanted by a veterinarian in the back or neck of the animal. It’s your pet’s ID number, so to say, and it can be checked with a bar-code reader by customs and quarantine officers at border crossings.
When travelling to the EU (or any other country where a microchip is needed) it is very required to implant the chip before vaccinating the pet against rabies. Along with the microchip, make sure you receive a microchip certificate, where the details of the pet, of the “owner”, and of the microchip are specified. The date of implant is very important. Also, ask for the bar-coded stickers that should come with it.
The microchip is also known as “electronic identification system” or “transponder”.
When we first visited a State Veterinary Hospital in Bhopal (India) we were asked with surprise “A microchip? Like… for cows?”. It took us a long while and many phone calls to find a vet who knew what we needed. If you are going through the same nightmare, just make sure you look for veterinarians with pet export experience or for pet stores or pedigree clubs in the posh areas of town. It’s more common for “owners” of pedigree species to microchip their cats and dogs.
2. Rabies vaccine
A rabbies vacine is the most common pet passport requirement. Actually, it is needed and advisable for all cats and dogs, even more those living in countries which are not rabies-free.
For your pet passport, you will need the vaccine to be included in the “vaccination record”, which is typically one page of a little booklet. The vet should paste onto this page a vaccine sticker (which specifies the brand and batch number) and add the date of injection, the validity and his signature and stamp.
In countries that require a microchip, you should vaccinate your pet after the chip has been implanted. Nothing gets registered in the microchip, but authorities will check the dates written on paper. If you did the vaccine earlier, just do it again.
- Most countries, and of course the EU, specify that a rabies vaccine must have been given at least 21 days prior to the travel and up to one year. It is wise to keep the vaccination record of your travelling pet up to date.
- Regarding the order of microchipping and vaccination, if you do it on the same day you can ask the vet to indicate the times of implant and vaccination in the certificates as an ultimate proof that it was done after the chip (we had it done the same day without any indication of the order, and have not had any problems, but we crossed overland to Bulgaria, and not by Germany or the UK by plane, so be careful with countries that are picky with regulations).
- For EU countries, the pet must be 12 weeks old before vaccination. We have read some countries may accept kittens or puppies below 3 months of age, but have no experience with this matter (if you do, please leave a comment below)
3. Rabies titer test
All EU countries, and many others around the world, require that pet passports include a document proving they have a number of rabies antibodies that declare them free from the disease.
This document is obtained by administering an rabies antibody titration test (extracting blood) that must be processed at an approved laboratory. The test should be done at least 30 days after the rabies vaccine was given. And one can usually cross the border of countries that require titer test, only 90 days after the date the blood was drawn (although in our case the date given in the certificate is the day the blood was received by the laboratory in Europe, not when it was drawn by the Indian vet).
There are few approved laboratories, and most of the in European countries (see this list of approved laboratories), so if you are bringing your pet from anywhere else, you will need to send the blood by courier in a refrigerated way. The best thing is to do is finding in the country where you are a veterinary that has experience with pet export, they usually have contacts with couriers and one of the laboratories, so they take care of extracting and sending the blood, and the process is greatly simplified (and it may even cost you less).
- This procedure is a little nightmare in the pet-passport process, but in fact is quite a humane way to avoid pets staying in quarantine for months upon arrival (in a way is like pre-quarantining them in advance), as well as preventing rabies from spreading in countries which are free of it. So, in the end, it’s for everyone’s own good.
- The EU accepts pet from a few countries exempt of this test (check in in Annex II to Regulation (EU) No 577/2013 if you are in the lucky list).
- We do not know what happens if one tries to enter an EU country without titer test. Is your pet deported back to when it came from? Does the pet stay in quarantine? If so, for how long?. If you have experience and can shed some light, please leave a comment.
- We also have not managed to find out if countries, like Russia, that require pets to come from rabies-free countries would accept a titer test and 3 months waiting as proof of being a rabies-free pet. If you know anything, please comment
4. Other vaccines / deworm / tests
In addition to the rabbies vaccine, cats and dogs are required to be free from other diseases. It is common to administer a “combo vaccine” for the most typical illnesses, before, after or on the same day the rabbies shot is given. De-worming treatment can also be given then. Ssometimes the vet will give you a pill or drops and indicate the dosage, which you administer at home, but ask him to include the deworming record in the pet passport.
Dogs travelling to Finland, Ireland, Malta or the United Kingdom, or Norway, must be treated against the parasite Echinococcus multilocularis. If you are not sure of where you are landing into the EU, it might be wise to treat the dog anyway. This does not seem to be compulsory for cats.
Even if you are not thinking of travelling yet, it is useful to make sure that any vaccines and de-worming given to your pet are reflected in the vaccination and health record (sticker / brand name, dates, signature), they will be useful for the pet passport if you decide to travel later on.
If you travel overland, beware that not only the EU has strict requirements. For example, to travel to Russia and other countries of the Eurasian Economic Union a test is needed to prove that the pet is free from Dermatophitosis (ring worm). Like the rabies titer test, samples should be processed in approved laboratories and it seems to take some time.
5. Veterinary certificates
All pet travel sites explain that each country requires a specific veterinary certificate, but before we started all the pet passport process we were really confused (and so were the veterinaries we visited). How should these documents look? Which information do they need to contain? In which language?
EU Animal Health Certificate
The EU animal health certificate for pets is a 10 pages document containing the pet details and all vaccines and medical certifications needed to enter the EU, as well as signatures by veterinarian authorities. It also contains a disclaimer from you (the “owner”) that you are not going to sell the pet. It must be printed and signed in a bilingual duplicate – one copy English and one in the official language of the country that will be your point of entry into the EU (imagine the face of the Indian vet when you bring them a document in Bulgarian!). The good news is that the EU animal health certificate has a model, and you can (and must) download the forms here.
- The foremost important thing is that it must carry the stamp of an official veterinary OR be filled in and stamped by an authorized veterinarian AND then get endorsed by the competent authority of the country your pet os coming from. We never understood the difference between official and authorized, and none of the vets we visited could help us out, so we got it stamped and then endorsed. If in doubt, extra stamps do not harm.
- The document has to be filled in very specific ways (for some reason in has a lot of blank spaces!), but if you go through it slowly with your vet, you will get it right. It must show the number of your pet’s microchip and all the details of vaccination against rabies, the details of the blood sampling, and if requested, the details of the treatment against Echinococcus multilocularis (for dogs). You may want to ask your vet to add a stamp and signature next to each vaccination details (advice from a relocation expert).
- The document is valid for 10 days from the date of issue by the official veterinarian. If the journey us by sea, the ten days are extended by the duration of travel by sea. There is no mention of additional time when travelling by land (and nobody could help us clarify that, we suppose it is hard to prove the duration of a hitchhiking travel, anyway).
- And, oh, not to forget, officially pets must cross into the EU through one of the designated travellers’ points of entry.
For all the details and specifications check the EU page on movement of cats, dogs and ferrets –> Here
Further movement within the EU
If you plan to travel around Europe (to other Member States) the certificate is valid from the date it was stamped at the border for a total of four months or until the date of expiry of the anti-rabies vaccination (or if you pet friend is a baby, until the conditions relating to animals less than 16 weeks old cease to apply).
Once it expires (or earlier if you prefer to carry one document instead of 20 papers), you will need to obtain a blue EU pet passport, which is pretty nice and simple, and makes us wish the world had no borders for pets (or humans, let’s wish big). To get this new cute passport head to the vet of your choice in whichever country you are, with all the documents you gathered to come into the country and they will fill it and sign it for you. Afterwards, you will only need to keep the vaccines and deworms up to date.
Extra: vet certificates for any other countries
Apart from EU members, which have very specific requirements, we can so far divide all other countries into two groups: Easy OR Hard, when it comes to getting veterinary certificates for your pet.
Easy pet countries are those into which your pet can come with a rabies vaccine and any sort of simple health certificate, signed by any neighbourhood veterinarian (official, of course), without many complications. This document is usually a paper that states the details of the pet and owner, registers the inoculation record and certifies the pet’s good health. We got one in India that read “Travel and vaccine certificate”, and we simply carried it together with her Indian vaccines records, microchip certificate and Indian Export document (See below). It had the very same information but put all together in one page – border authorities like things to be listed together, so they only need to make one photocopy. But remember to carry all the papers you have, the more documents and signatures you collect the more professional you will look when crossing into countries where regulations are loose. This simple vet certificate should usually be “endorsed” (see below)
Difficult pet countries: we have heard of destinations where, just like with the EU, the animal health certificate must be specifically formatted – sometimes bilingual or containing details of extra tests or treatments (like Russia), sometimes expedited within a short period (like for China). Check the regulations carefully beforehand, make some research, ask other travellers, and let us know if you have some details that might be of interest for anybody else.
- Veterinary forms for each country can be bought online (although we have never tried)
- A relocation agent told us in India that for most countries a simple certificate is enough, but beware of destinations with strict regulations (EU, UAE, Russia, US, China etc…).
- The vet we visited in Delhi issued a general travel/ vaccines certificate in English. We were travelling from India to Kyrgyzstan, and got it endorsed. It was good enough.
6. Endorsement and other export / import documents.
Getting endorsement and exit documents at the Quarantine Office.
As we mentioned above, unless your EU Animal Health Certificate is signed by an official veterinary (?), the veterinary certificate needs to be “endorsed” by the veterinary authority of the country the pet is coming from. This simply means that somebody from the quarantine office at the veterinary department of the Ministry of Agriculture, will look over your cat documents, and either add a stamp to the veterinary certificate indicating they consider the pet fit to exit the country, or issue an additional document with more and beautiful stamps for your collection.
Additionally, some countries like India request an exit certificate from their side. In India this means that 3 days before leaving with a pet you bring to the Quarantine Office a simple veterinary certificate (plus any other documents requested by the country you are heading to) and get them endorsed. In return they give you an export certificate, which is valid to get out of the country. We had to show it at the airport, and they seem to be pretty tough with it.
— In India the endorsement (and export certificate) is issued only in main cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai – see addresses below) and is required in order to leave the country, but can be obtained just up to 7 days before exit, so beware if you are intending to exit through other ports or land borders. You may need to rush from the city to the border. The good news is that it is free.
— In Kyrgyzstan an international veterinary document is usually issued by the quarantine office. They gave us a certificate valid for the Eurasian Customs Union (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Armenia). The regulations for this group of territories are usually quite strict, but Kyrgyzstan had just joined and the quarantine office was probably in the process of adapting to all the regulations… or they simply did realize the origin of the pet.
— In Georgia we had to visit the quarantine office to get Burma’s EU certificate endorsed (10 days before entering the EU). The authorities did not charge us anything for the million stamps and signatures in the EU pet passport, but insisted on issuing a Georgian export document, at a rate of 25 USD, even if we were just going transit through the country. Nobody cared about the cat or checked the document at the land border with Turkey (Batumi), but be careful if you travel by plane, airport controls are usually tighter than land ones.
Other pet import documents (not needed for the EU)
This does not apply to pets travelling directly to the EU (with the documents listed above you are ready to go!). But for those who are crossing borders on their way, be informed that some countries require their own quarantine office to issue an import document, which complicates the matter. We have always tried to avoid such places- It is the case with UAE, China and India, for example, but do not worry about this point, unless it’s specified in the country regulations!
When coming into India, only pets that originate from the country, or travelling with humans relocating with a work visa, can officially obtain an import permit and enter the country. The permit can be obtained from the Quarantine Office, via email. If your pet was born in India and you want to bring her back you will need the original quarantine certificate they issued when leaving the country (the one we show above) + an endorsed vet certificate from the country where you are now coming from. They send it back to you by email. As far as we have been told, this restriction is strictly implemented at airport customs, but we know of of people crossing into India by land without anybody noticing or asking about a pet (cat, dog) travelling with them… – if you have any experiences, please leave a comment.
It is important to choose well the airline you are travelling with. Some companies allow pets in the cabin, some others only as cargo, and there are airlines which do not let you travel with animals at all. For pets travelling in the cabin or as cargo the airlines usually charge a fee. In one occasion we have simply been asked to show proof of payment at the boarding gate, but at Delhi the airport security was quite strict about this receipt (we did not have it and had to make somebody come all the way from the check in desk to proof we were admitted into the flight).
If it was not enough with everything you have gathered so far, we have read that some airlines request even one more paper, especially for pets travelling as manifest cargo. We have not yet been requested such a thing, but in any case if you travel by plane you will need to inform the airline in advance, so check up with them.
Regarding pets travelling in airlines, regulations should comply with the requirements of IATA.
7. Contacting the quarantine office
To find the address and contact details of the quarantine offices in every country requires a bit of google search, a bit of translating, and if one is not lucky, a few times being shifted from one ministry building to the next. In case it helps, here are the offices we have visited so far:
Quarantine and Certification Office in Delhi (India)
Phone: +91 11 25063272
Email: [email protected]
Address: Animal Quarantine and Certification Service Station, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries. 275 Old Delhi Gurgaon Rd, Kapashera (Crossing), New Delhi – 110 001.
How to reach: It is far away, like an hour drive out of town, beyond I.G.I. Airport. Pets need to be brought for inspection, but cannot travel by Delhi metro, so the only way to reach is by car, auto-rickshaw or cab. A rickshaw costed us 400 rupees from the center to there and back. MAP
For oher Quarantine Offices India (Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore), see contacts here.
Fitosanitarian and Quarantine Office in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)
Address: Corner of Ul. Sherbakova with Ul. Orozdekova. (We promise this address was correct in December 2015)
Opening hours: we were told to go before lunch.
Note: If you search online, the veterinary department appears to be in Ul. Kiev 11, in the government building in front of the National History Museum. If you doubt our directions, you may want to head there first, and after a few trips up and down the stairs to different cabinets, if you are lucky and speak Russian somebody may be able to direct you to the actual place (see address above).
How to reach: It is a bit far from the center (around 5 km), but within walking distance for the sporty ones. You can walk Sovetskaya northwards, cross Chuy river and keep on walking till it crosses with Sherbakova, then turn left and walk till the crossing with Orozdekova. The office is in the basement of a house with a yard. We were in a rush and a return taxi from the center costed us 200 som. We don’t know how to reach with public transport. MAP
Veterinary Quarantine Office in Tbilisi (Georgia)
Address: Ministry of Agriculture, 6 Marshal Gelovani Str., Tbilisi, Georgia 0134
How to reach: By bus 7, 27, 104, 109. Marshrutkas going through Marshal Gelovani. Metro Didube (20 – 30 mins by walk, on the other side of the river). Or by taxi, for 5 lari from anywhere in the center. MAP
8. EU pet passport summarized
Let’s recap, for ulta-clarity, all the documents needed to bring your pet legally into the European Union:
- Rabbies vaccine (important to be after the microchip)
- Titer test. 30 days after the date of vaccine
- Administer any other vaccines / tests required
- Wait 90 days to cross border
- Veterinary certificate and endorsement. Max. 10 days prior to travel.
- Other import / export documents (if needed)
The full process takes at least 4 months, even if one is efficient and fast.)
9. How much does a pet passport cost???
A little fortune for a hitchhikers budget, but not so much that will prevent a loving friend from travelling with his/her pet. The prices may vary according to vet and country, but as a guideline this is what it costed us to bring a cat from India to Europe, across a few borders. Costs are indicated in the currency we paid, and the total calculated according to the exchange rates applicable during the time we travelled (September – December 2015).
Endorse / export
10. Is it worth it? Is it needed?
We travelled from India to Europe mostly overland. We took one flight from Delhi to Bishkek, and then crossed Central Asia, the Caucasus and Turkey by road, train and ferry. Nobody asked when we entered Kyrgyzstan (“dabai, dabai” – “go on, go on” – said the customs office when I explain why the carrier could not go through the x-rays). We were later on given a permit to travel freely to Kazakhstan. Nobody asked about the cat when entering Kazakhstan and when exiting to Azerbaijan they added a stamp to the Kyrgyz certificate with a smile. Crossing to Georgia they photocopied the vaccines register (without photocopying the details of the pet) and although the Georgian authorities were very strict about us paying $25 for an exit permit nobody asked for this proof when we exited the country in Batumi. Although EU requirements are supposedly applied to Turkey, the Turkish authorities simply greeted the cat with a smile at the overland border. Only the Indian authorities at the airport seemed to know how a pet passport should look and were extremely picky and strict.
Our personal conclusion is that is definitely worth keeping our cat friend safe from diseases and properly vaccinated and dewormed. And it is worth having a valid pet passport to avoid problems in strict borders, specially at airports. We would not have come to Europe without a proper passport and risk the border authorities keeping Burma under indefinite quarantine. Also, once you have gone through all this trouble you can travel out of the EU and back in, anytime, by keeping the vaccines record up to date. Although we know well that land border crossings are smugglers paradise, we also know of a couple and a dog that were not admitted into China and went through some troubles to continue their journey. But for other destinations with simple regulations, our rule is simply that the more certificates, papers and stamps, the best.
Disclaimer: we are not veterinarians, nor relocation experts or hold any authority over the certification process or transport of pets. We are simply two travellers that want to share with others the details we have gathered from experience about travelling with a pet. We do not have any more information or tips on passports, carriers or airline regulations that what we have just shared here. And will probably not have solutions to all your questions or details of countries where we have not travelled. Still, you can write us if you need someone to tell you that all will be fine, to share some more tips ot to wish us happy journeys!