How did you get your dog to France?
Updated: Feb 17
This is a question I am often asked when people find out our dog, Winston, came with us to France from the U.S. It is possible to travel internationally with your furry friends! However, it does take some time, preparation, and costs in order to do so.
We first traveled to France with Winston in November of 2020. We were fortunate at this time because the U.S. airlines were still recognizing ESA's (emotional support animal) as a service animal and they could be on the plane not in a carrier. Winston did well, especially for being a french bulldog, on the long haul flight and was happy to trot about the airports.
Let's break down how we were able to first fly internationally with Winston:
1) Check the country entry requirements. Each country has different policies about what you need to do in order to travel with your pet. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel There is a drop down menu where you choose which country you are traveling to and the requirements.
2) Read and review the requirements. Then read and review tham again! There are many time sensitive requirements. We ended up having to delay our trip by two days as we missed one of the steps.
3) Make sure your pet has all the required vaccinations, especially rabies. In order for the rabies vaccination to be valid, it must have been delivered 30 days prior to boarding. Note: France does not require a titre test.
4) Your pet must also be microchipped. You will not be able to travel without the chip.
5) The international travel form must be filled out by your vet within 10 days of your travel. Be advised that this form is extensive and will set you back a couple hundred dollars. There may also be a couple items in a foreign language so allow your vet time to fill it out correctly.
6) Now the fun begins! Once you have the form filled out and your pet has been deemed healthy by your vet, it is time to get the USDA's approval. That's right, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must then stamp and approve the vet form, this does require a check or other form of payment. This is possible in one of two ways; mail the form to your local office with a return express envelope and hope you receive it back in time, or go to the office yourself and drop off the form with the check and wait for the office to process the form. We chose to go to the office as it was about two hours from where we were living because this is the part we missed and wanted to ensure we actually got the form in order to travel on our rescheduled flight. And yes, this must all be done within 10 days of your travel.
7) Gather your records and travel form and check in at the airport. Prepare a few extra minutes for check in because the airline has to double check that you have all the correct paperwork!
8) Board the plane.
9) Upon arrival, customs will check your forms and then you are good to go!
Once we were in France, we were able to get Winston his EU Pet Passport. Yes! He has his own passport with vaccination dates and information about what he is; size, weight, breed, color, etc. This EU Pet Passport is amazing! It costs 65 euros and allows you to travel with your pet throughout many of the EU countries without having to get another document from the vet. Since we first arrived, we have flown with Winston to and from the U.S. and it was so much easier with the pet passport.
Keep in mind long haul travel is rough on the pets and they are a bit more sensitive to the toll it takes on them, but it is possible to take your pet with you when you move to another country or if you are planning on an extended stay somewhere. Unfortunately with the updated guidelines on airlines for service animals, Winston has to travel inside a carrier now. He's alright with it, but traveling with a carrier under the seat in front of you makes it a tight space for you and your pet. The way that airlines have made "space" for your legs and feet is, well..... small. Our carrier is really nice and allows you to remove the wheels underneath so the bag can fit, but it is difficult to move your legs and feet (and I'm a small person).
So, is it a bit of work to travel with your pet? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Like I mentioned, read and review the guidelines to ensure you are completing all the necessary and appropriate steps in a timely fashion for your trip. Be prepared and be prepared again!
Winston loves being in France and loves being in the city, so many smells and people!