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by Dr. Andrew Silverstone, Animal Care Clinic of Holland Road

Whenever a family travels from state to state or out of the country with any pet, whether on leave or as part of their PCS, a health certificate is required. Depending on the destination, there are different rules, types of certificates, and procedures that must be followed by the pet owner. Families traveling back to the United States are also required to complete paperwork for all species of pets (dogs, cats, birds, horses, etc). The purpose of the health certificate is to provide you with a legal document that verifies your pet is not carrying any internal (microscopic worms and blood parasites) or external parasites (fleas and ticks) or be susceptible and/or carry illnesses that are contagious to other animals or people (Rabies, Bordetella (kennel cough)). 

For military families your nearest Veterinary Treatment Facility should be able to provide you with the proper documentation you will need. Your civilian veterinarian can also complete the requisite paperwork, but you must ensure that your doctor has the proper accreditation to complete the paperwork process. Only a veterinarian with USDA certification may issue a health certificate for international travel. 
For travel within the United States the documentation required is established by the destination state. The rules vary by state to state. You must keep in mind that depending on the length of your stay, you may be required to obtain a second health certificate to return to your home state. Quite often the airline requirements for travel do not always mirror those of your destination. In fact some airlines erroneously do not require travelers to present a health certificate for their pets. But failure to have the documentation can result in any of the following at your destination, a fine, the quarantine of your pet (at your expense). In the most extreme instances you may be required to return to your point of origin with your pet or have to euthanize your pet at the destination. It is highly recommended that you contact the USDA office in your state of destination and obtain a copy of their current regulations regarding travel with a pet originating from another state. You should bring these documents with you when you visit your veterinarian to obtain the health certificate.
By law you are required to obtain a health certificate if you travel from state to state within the United States of America. The requirements vary by state and country, and it is important that your doctor verifies the current regulations for your destination. Special rules regarding Rabies vaccination are in place for several common PCS destinations, including Hawaii, Japan, members of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other NATO member states. Some countries have rules limiting the number of pets one can bring with them on a given arrival.
Some of the most stringent policies require that the pet owner complete a special Rabies vaccination and blood testing protocol several months prior to their arrival date. Hawaii, Japan, and the United Kingdom are three such destinations, and there are others.
The steps necessary to complete the documentation process can sometimes be quite elaborate, and require testing and vaccination protocols that need to begin several months prior to your arrival date. Proper planning is necessary to budget your time to ensure you can complete all steps of the process. For travel abroad (whether civilian or as a PCS), the first step is that you contact the embassy or consulate of your destination. You will need to confirm what steps you will need to take as a pet owner wanting to import a pet to their country. For some countries the process is quite elaborate and you will need to document whether or not your destination country requires you to take the certificate issued by your veterinarian to a USDA office for certification and then to the country’s embassy or consulate for additional processing. As with domestic travel, you should obtain documentation from your destination country on their pet entry/importation requirements and bring documents with you when you visit your veterinarian to obtain the health certificate. 
For families returning to the United States with pets from an overseas tour it is imperative that you verify your host country’s exportation requirements and the importation requirements of the United States. In some instances the arrival hubs of commercial carriers into the United States are not legal destinations for pets to enter the country. It is imperative that you verify with the USDA the status and facilities of your point of entry into the United States. For foreign installations with a Veterinary Clinical Officer, it is advised that you contact the Veterinary Treatment Facility for guidance.
The purpose of this letter is to remind military families of the importance of obtaining proper documentation for their pets whenever travelling within the United States or abroad. This newsletter is not intended to be a comprehensive guide for any destination’s requirements. Ultimately your veterinarian will advise you on the proper steps required to complete the documentation process to travel with your pet. 

Dr. Andrew M. Silverstone, DVM, is a Veterinarian in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Dr. Silverstone is a Veteran of the United States Army Reserve serving in the Veterinary Corps.   He is also a proud  MilitaryAvenue Partner.  Click here to find out more about his practice as well as view his Military Reward.


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