Traveling (Legally) with Your Dog

Do you enjoy traveling with your dog?  Do you take him everywhere with you, even on trips out of state?  Did you know that you are violating the law when you take your dog out of state without a health certificate and proof of a rabies shot? These two documents serve as passports for your dog whenever you travel out of state.

A health certificate is a document you obtain from your veterinarian that specifies your dog is free of communicable diseases and has had all his vaccinations. This document usually must be obtained within fifteen days of beginning your travel and is good for about forty-five days after it is issued.  The veterinarian will need to examine your dog before issuing this certificate to make sure he looks healthy and is not showing signs of any diseases.  The veterinarian usually checks for heartworms and other worms before issuing it.  Only a federally registered veterinarian can issue this certificate.  Fortunately, most veterinarians are federally registered.

Some airlines require a certificate of acclimation as well.  This is a document your veterinarian fills out that tells how long the dog can stand certain cold or hot temperatures during his flight.  This requirement is more common when the dog is traveling alone than when he is traveling with you.

The other piece of paper your dog needs to travel legally is a rabies certificate.  You would think that the health certificate, which certifies that your dog has had all his shots, would suffice for this.  However, most state laws require a rabies certificate in addition to a health certificate.  This becomes especially important if your dog should bite someone.  It can save your dog’s life in this case, in fact.

When traveling internationally, be sure to check the laws of the country you are going to as well as the current requirements from the United States Department of Agriculture for re-entry into the United States.  Some countries require quarantine of your dog for periods ranging from a few days to six months before the dog can enter the country.  These are not good countries to visit with your dog since the quarantine can be stressful for you and your dog.  Examples of these countries are Japan and the United Kingdom of Great Britain.  Hawaii also has a long quarantine before a dog may enter that state.

If you leave the country with your dog, you must have a health certificate and proof of rabies to re-enter the country.  The Center for Disease Control does not require a health certificate but many states and most airlines do.  They do require proof that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies at least thirty days before entry for rabies.  If proof is not presented, the dog must be given the vaccine within ten days of reaching the United States and within four days of reaching its final destination.  The dog must then be confined for thirty days before it is free to move about the country.  By confined they mean the dog must be kept in a house or kennel and not have contact with anyone other than the owner for the confinement period.

As you can see, it is important for your pet’s welfare to have the proper documents when traveling with your dog, especially if you will leave and re-enter the country.