Entering the European Union with a Small Pet
It seems I have been remiss, Dear Reader. Although I have often spoken about entering the European Union (EU), I have not written a basic “101” on what paperwork Canadians and Americans need to enter with their pet. It’s funny because those are the countries my readers ask about the most! Specifically the United Kingdom (UK), France, Italy, and Germany: all EU members! I also get questions about travelling to Turkey, Ukraine, Norway and Switzerland but they are not part of the EU. I will cover those European countries in a separate post.
Entering the European Union from North America with a small pet is by far the easiest international travel we have done so far. The beauty of the EU is that the forms are now standardized. In fact, every pet entry form for the EU countries is identical but for the language (other than English) used on the form.
Before the Forms, Get Ready to Travel
Before I get into the paperwork, I would like to take a moment to tell you about having your pet ready for travel. There are some things about with-pet travel that do not change—at least not in all the years we have been at this—and apply across the board, no matter the destination. These are the requirements you should meet before you even look into the paperwork. I don’t mind them. They’re are just a part of having (and being) a pet so far as we’re concerned.
- Rabies Vaccination. Always a requirement. The most important part? The vaccine lot number. The sticker from the vial of vaccine is a key to hassle-free border crossing. Even a simple crossing between the Canadian and U.S. border requires it. So make sure you note that information and keep in in a safe place. We always get a “proof of all vaccines” form (vaccine certificate) from our vet and she just adds the lot number to the form, often next to the rabies line. In addition we save the information in our travel files, next to the bipeds’ passports. You will need this information to re-enter Canada or the United States when you return home. So do not leave home without it!
- Microchip. I have written about this on the blog. Many countries now require microchipping. No more getting around it. It is super-duper important to make sure you have the 15-digit microchip. The 9-digit chip is more common in Canada and the United States, but it’s no good if you plan on leaving the North American continent.
- Titre Test. This is new’ish. Over the last three years, more and more countries have required a titre test to prove vaccine levels are adequate in the blood stream. My understanding is that this is, in part, because some nations are skeptical about the standard three-year rabies vaccine we have in Canada and the United States. The downside is that although titre tests are easy to come by, the only lab that is internationally recognized is in the United States. Your vet will know which one. But this means you need time to send the blood work, have the analysis done, and the results returned to you. This can take up to 10 weeks. (And for Canadians, it’s not cheap.) What we do, now that we know, is include the titre as part of our yearly check-up. We always ask for a titre test in any event to avoid over-vaccination. So when the time comes, we get our vet to use that special U.S. lab and ask that the test include measuring the rabies titre, regardless of whether we are in year 1, 2, or 3 of the 3-year rabies vaccine cycle. It costs more but this way, we are always ready. Countries accept the titre results for up to a year.
Why does this matter? Well, just recently we were in Croatia. We wanted to go into Montenegro for a day trip. The problem? Croatia required the titre test to re-enter Croatia from Montenegro (Montenegro not being an EU member). We are lucky someone mentioned it to us because the titre test had not been needed for re-entry to Canada or entry into other EU countries. Had we had the test done and the paperwork with us, it would have been a done deal. Instead, we had to change our plans.
Now the Paperwork
Now, back to our EU paperwork. You will need the EU form for the first EU country you plan to enter. Remember I said the form is the same for each EU country except for the language of the form. Be sure you’ve got the right form in the right language for the right country!
If you travel within the EU after your first country of entry, you’ll not need any other EU forms. But, do watch out! If you are on a tour of Europe and leave the EU then need to re-enter the EU, you will need the EU form in the language for the country of re-entry. For example, if you are landing in Munich, Germany, then travelling to Denmark, and from there to the Netherlands, you’ll need an EU form for Germany and an EU form for the Netherlands (yep! Denmark is NOT part of the EU). So keep that in mind!
Another potential glitch: the EU forms are only good if dated nine days or less prior to entry. So, if you are on a 3-month trip, exit the EU after a couple of weeks, and then need to re-enter the EU, you may need to find a vet on location to fill out the form for re-entry AND find the appropriate government regulatory agency in that country to have the form validated. Yup, you can understand why we avoid this in our plans!
So let me walk you through the process. It all sounds very official and full of red tape, but it’s really simple.
Step 1. Get the latest EU pet form.
If I have learned anything in the years of crossing borders, it’s that humans really like to change their paperwork. It changes all the time. Sometimes twice in one year! Really, humans, there’s so much to be said for routine. Anyway, the first thing we always do once our plans are settled is visit the website for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)—it would be the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for U.S. readers—and track down and print the EU form we need. The CFIA has an awesome page on this topic. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where the vet certificates are listed for each country.
What form do you need? Only the form for the first EU country you are entering. What do I mean by that? Well, for example, if I am going to Greece but I have a connection in Munich, I need the form for Germany (printed in German and English). Once you are in the EU, you no longer need paperwork for your dog to travel between countries within the EU. You’re in. It’s like flying internally between provinces in Canada or states in the United States. Just don’t forget my caution: if exiting and re-entering the EU is part of your plans, you will also need the form for the EU country where you will be re-entering.
While on the website, I also call CFIA to book my appointment to have the form reviewed and validated by them. CFIA used to offer a walk-in service but now you need to book your spot. When booking your appointment, allow time for your vet to complete the form and for you to go and pick it up.
Step 2. Complete the EU pet form.
You must not do this yourself. EVER. No exceptions. It’s actually illegal. Your dog’s vet must fill out the form. And no, you can’t fill out the form and have your vet sign it. I repeat, it is illegal to do this. Also, your vet must fill out the form in blue ink. That’s important, dear Reader. It’s how the officials can distinguish between an original and a copy. So please mention in it to your vet. Blue ink!
My vet at the Carling Animal Clinic, Dr. Clement, is now a pro at completing these forms. She totally knows the routine. I email the form to her and she calls me back when it’s ready for pick-up. It shouldn’t cost much. At pick-up, I mention when I have my CFIA validation appointment and make sure she is available at that time should there be an error and I suddenly need her to re-do a new form. It happened once, and now we know it can happen. CFIA found a small error on a page that my vet signs. So we had to rush back to the vet to have that page re-done. Before leaving the CFIA, we re-booked our return appointment for later that afternoon.
It can all be a little hairy, but it always works out if you give yourself the time. Don’t wait to the last minute to get the form filled out and validated, but remember that the form has to be completed within nine days of entering the country! Whew. Remember my point about routine? We’ve figured out that if we routinely take care of validating the form 72 hours before we depart, we have enough time to run about if we need to, and we also preserve the form’s 9-day life cycle as much as possible.
Step 3. Validate the EU pet form.
I touched on this above, but it’s important, so I’m going to repeat it: Once your vet has filled out the form, you must have the form validated by the CFIA or USDA (or whatever agency does the job in your country). They’ll add a nice official stamp to the completed and reviewed form. No stars for healthy performance or tricks though. There is a small charge for this service so make sure you ask when you call to book your appointment.
If your vet is a novice at completing these forms or your vet doesn’t fill them out very often, let your vet know that he or she can call the CFIA/USDA for help in completing the form. Also, the CFIA website has a fabulous step-by-step guide for vets. Before my vet became a pro at this, she did not hesitate to call the CFIA and have the vet on staff there help her out. It meant peace of mind for us when we went to get the paperwork stamped.
And don’t forget to have your vet on standby should there be an issue. And if there is, re-book with the CFIA/USDA for the next morning. They will always accommodate you in that kind of situation. Again, keep in mind that 9-day validity for your form. I always have my vet sign and date the form for the same day of my CFIA appointment, even if she filled out the technical details a week before.
And then …? THAT IS IT! Once you have your validated form, you are good to go! We take photos of the form with our phones so we have a backup. We also make a photocopy and put that in a different bag. Again, just to be safe.
Remember these forms are your pet’s passport! Of course in Europe, that is what they have: an actual pet passport. This concept came from the United Kingdom. It’s a little navy blue passport, complete with mug shot photo! All the information requested on the EU forms are found in the passport. This approach makes it a lot less of a hassle for Europeans. Maybe one day, Canada, as a member of the Commonwealth, will adopt the same pet passport program. It would be nice. But until then, we are stuck with all these pages. But at least now you know how to go about it!
Still have a question? Did I forget something? Let me know in the comments below. And happy travels!