5 things to check when shipping pets internationally
Friday, July 22, 2016
In today's transient society, more and more families are relocating for work, retirement or personal reasons. Summer is prime relocation time for corporations, since families prefer to be moved when children are out of school.
Along with these families, it is estimated that 2-3 million pets are moved by air around the world each year. Unfortunately, a good number of these pets may be held up upon arrival internationally, or not shipped at all, if their documents are erroneous. Here are five things to keep in mind when shipping pets:
The vast majority of countries now require a microchip as identification of pets, and it should be a 15-digit ISO compatible international chip. However, in Europe I have never had a problem with old Home Again or Avid chips, since the port veterinarians do have international scanners that read all kinds of chips.
If the dog has more than one microchip, list them all on the documents, including the rabies vaccine certificate. If they read the wrong one and it doesn't match the documents, it causes a problem. It also helps to write out the chip number in groups of three (123 456 789 000 000) as this format is easy to read and makes it obvious if a digit is dropped or an extra one added.
Finally, make sure the microchip was implanted prior to the rabies vaccine.
Write all dates in the international format of day/month/year. The United States is the only country that writes them with the month first, and it can cause confusion. To eliminate any possibility of a mixed up date, I write out the month: 17 July 2016.
Many vaccine certificates only list the manufacturer, but the brand name is also required by most countries, as is the serial number. Even better, peel the label and add to the certificate when it is filled out. The expiration date should also be included to show if the vaccine is valid for one, two or three years.
According to the CDC, rabies vaccine certificates must be signed by the veterinarian to be valid — this is one of the most common problems we see. Bear in mind most of the time the original vaccine certificate should accompany the pet during travel.
4. Speaking of certificates ...
No handwritten documents, please. Typed documents are neater and easier to read, and some countries now require typed documents. If a pet shipper is helping you by filling in the form ahead of time, you should review all the information, scan the microchip to verify it is correct, verify the vaccine information and any tests, and then sign in blue ink. Most countries want a signature in a color other than that the form is competed in, which is usually black.
The new USDA website provides many health documents that are partially filled in.
The Animal Welfare Act says health certificates are good for 10 days for export, but some countries have a smaller time window, and with birds or commercial shipments the time frame is 48 hours or less to Europe.
5. Verify what is needed for each country
We see cases of the wrong parasite treatments being used, or the rabies was done prior to the microchip. Or the wrong kind of titer being done. All of these errors cost the owner more time and money.
If the pet is shipped with incorrect documents or treatments/tests, the pet may be put in quarantine, returned to the country of origin at the owner's expense, or euthanized (Costa Rica is famous for euthanizing pets, birds and horses upon arrival if documents are not in order).
There are approximately 200 professional pet transportation companies in the U.S. who ship pets internationally on a daily basis, and who can assist you and your client with making sure requirements are met. If a pet shipper contacts your veterinary office on behalf of a client, please recognize they are only trying to help to make sure the pet gets where it is going without incident.
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