The current EU regulations for importing “certain pet animals (dogs, cats, ferrets)” require a certified rabies shot within 365 to 30 days before entering Germany and most other EU countries. Also see the rules below for a microchip implant and other requirements.
The key thing when it comes to bringing or shipping a pet from North America to Europe is advance planning. Germany and the EU require certain conditions, including a rabies shot and a microchip. (All cats, dogs and ferrets must have a microchip and a rabies vaccination.) If you wait until the last minute, you may be traveling without your pet! Some international airlines allow smaller pets (10 pounds or less) to be carried with you in an approved carrier in the passenger cabin; the pet carrier must be kept under the seat in front of you, and airlines have other special in-cabin restrictions. Larger dogs have to travel as “live cargo.” You will need an airline-approved pet kennel for this. Airlines charge a fee for a Europe-bound in-cabin or baggage-checked pet (usually about $200) or a pet being shipped as international cargo ($400-600). Check with your airline for the exact rates. In-cabin pets are not allowed on flights to the United Kingdom, and special UK requirements apply to pets traveling as cargo.
Here’s what you have to do to prepare your dog or cat for the trip to Germany:
- Make sure your dog is not a prohibited breed! Germany labels certain breeds (pit bull terriers and others) as dangerous or aggressive, and does not allow them to be imported. However, this can vary by state. For example, Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) no longer prohibits any breed of dog. Most average dogs are permitted. See more about this below.
- Buy a suitable pet carrier at a pet supply store. The carrier must be large enough to allow your pet to stand and turn around. If in doubt, get a carrier a size larger. Especially when shipping from Germany to the USA, a larger size may be required.
- Get your animal accustomed to the carrier. Do this well in advance of your flight.
- Make your airline reservations, including one for your pet! Airlines require an advance reservation for pets traveling in the cabin or being checked as luggage.
- If your pet does not already have a microchip, get that done. Do this BEFORE the required rabies shot. Make sure the chip is ISO standard 11784 or 11785. Most vets will know about this.
- Have your pet vaccinated for rabies no less than 30 days before departure, but no longer than 365 days. (Germany does not accept the three-year rabies vaccination common in the USA.) Make sure you do the microchipping before the rabies shot. Otherwise your dog will have to get another shot.
- Get the proper paperwork done. Your pet needs a health certificate (Form 988 in German and English) filled out by a vet and dated within 10 days of departure. Most vets will have this “pet passport” form, but if not, it is available online (see links below).
Do all this in the proper order! Your animal must be vaccinated only after being fitted with a microchip. If not, it will have to be vaccinated for rabies again after the microchip has been inserted. Puppies younger than three months do not have to have a rabies vaccination, but must be inspected.
Airline Pet Travel Restrictions
Some airlines have their own restrictions on pet travel. For instance, American Airlines will not accept snub-nosed dogs or cats as checked luggage. This includes pugs, boxers, Boston terriers, Pekingese and some other breeds. American also will not accept pets for travel to the United Kingdom.
Extreme Heat or Cold Restrictions
During very hot or cold weather, airlines will refuse to transport animals. Your pet could die or become ill under conditions of extreme heat or cold. Each airline has its own rules, but as an example, Delta’s policy is: no pet travel as checked baggage if temps are below 10°F (-12C) or above 85°F (29.4C); no pets as checked baggage from May 15 through September 15. (Cargo shipment is allowed.) Some airlines will accept pets in the summer months under certain conditions. If possible, in the summer, book a flight that departs in the evening or early morning hours when temperatures are less likely to be very hot. Always verify your airline’s pet travel rules.
Food and Water
Do not put food inside the pet carrier prior to the flight, but you do need to provide water. Some people recommend freezing the water to prevent it from making a mess when the carrier is moved around before the flight. A hamster feeder bottle is another option for water.
Since January 2013, US military personnel and their families have been required to pay a 55-euro fee for pet inspections of up to five animals when entering Germany via Ramstein Air Base or the Frankfurt International Airport. Although the examinations have been required by the EU since 2004, only now do military people have to pay a fee, which can only be paid with a credit card. (Source: Stars and Stripes) WEB: Ramstein Air Base Factsheet: Pets
If you fly to Germany via the United Kingdom, remaining in transit, you do not need to worry about the additional requirements of the UK. However, if you enter the UK before traveling on to Germany or any other EU country, you must comply with the UK’s more stringent pet import requirements. Some airlines impose restrictions on pet travel to the UK, so you should check with your airline.
More Pet Travel Facts
- Germany does not require quarantine, but it does require a recent rabies vaccination, a microchip and a veterinary health certificate.
- The laws and regulations concerning pets vary among each of Germany’s 16 states (Bundesländer). You need to know the laws for the state where you will be living. Dogs (but not cats) must be licensed in all states.
- Never sedate your pet prior to air travel. This can endanger your animal, and airlines will refuse to transport a sedated pet. In most cases your pet will survive the flight better than you will.
- A maximum of five animals may be imported for non-commercial purposes, but airlines limit the number of pets on an aircraft, and you must make a reservation for your pet(s).
- A pet tattoo was also accepted up until July 3, 2011. Now the EU requires a microchip implant.
- SoKa (“Sogenannter Kampfhund”): Germany bans certain dangerous or aggressive dog breeds (so-called Kampfhunde, “fighting dogs”). You are not allowed to import or bring in certain breeds, including pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and other dogs descendant from any of these dogs. If you are not sure about your breed of dog, it is wise to check in advance. Also see: Rasseliste – Wikipedia – A guide to prohibited breeds (SoKa) in Austria, Germany and Switzerland (in German).
- Guide and service dogs are usually allowed in the passenger cabin, but check with your airline.
- Pet birds fall under special requirements to prevent avian diseases.
- There are generally no restrictions on the non-commercial import of the following animals: guinea pigs, pet rabbits (max. of 3), turtles/tortoises (except for endangered species). However, airlines impose their own restrictions on carrying such pets. Contact your airline about its requirements.
- Some airlines allow you to travel with a small pet using a carrier in the passenger cabin. (American Airlines does not allow in-cabin pets on flights to or from Europe.) But the import requirements are the same as those for pets transported as checked luggage or “live cargo” in the cargo compartment.
- Most airlines do not allow in-cabin pets in business class or first class sections. You’ll have to travel tourist class if you want your pet in the cabin. (This actually has more to do with under-seat space than with “class.”)
- Train travel with pets: If your pet is small enough to travel in a small cage or basket, there is no charge. Owners of larger dogs must purchase a ticket (half fare) for the dog. The dog must be on a leash and be muzzled.
Pet Relocation Services
Just as for human professionals, there are relocation services for pets as well. Such services will assist you with all the hassles of moving your pet – for a fee of course. But it may be worth it to you to have help with this burden. Just do a search for “pet relocation services.”
See the special web links below for more about traveling to or from Germany with your pet.
Next | Blog: Moving with Max
AT THE GERMAN WAY
- Blog: Moving with Max – GW expat blogger Jessica’s experiences with taking her dog to Germany
- Blog: For the Expat Pet People – More by GW expat blogger Jessica
- Blog: There’s a Dog in the Pub by GW expat blogger Jessica
- Living in Germany – Our starting page for expat matters
- City Guides: Germany – Explore German cities
- Air Travel – Flying to or in Germany
- Rail Travel in Germany
- Travel and Tourism – Travel-related information for Germany, Austria, Switzerland
ON THE WEB
- PDF Version of Form 988 (1) – From the EU, the two-page pet health certificate form for the EU and Germany
- PDF Version of Form 988 (2) – From the USDA, the six-page pet health certificate form for the EU and Germany
- Taking Pets to Germany from the USA – Dogs, cats and ferrets must have a valid rabies vaccination and a microchip (standard: ISO 11784 or ISO 11785). (German Embassy in the US)
- Dangerous Dogs (zoll.de) – Certain dog breeds are banned from import to Germany! – from German Customs (in English)
- American Airlines – Traveling with Pets – American Airlines’ pet policy information with answers to many common questions regarding the transportation of pets. Includes special pet guidelines for travel to international destinations.
- Lufthansa – Animals – Guidelines and tariffs for traveling with your pet on Lufthansa flights
- United Airlines – In-cabin pets – United allows cats or dogs to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights. An in-cabin pet may be carried in addition to a carry-on bag and is subject to a service charge each way. A pet traveling in-cabin must be in an approved kennel, either hard-sided or soft-sided. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.
- United Airlines – PetSafe – Airport-to-airport delivery for animals with the ability to track pets from origin to destination and more.
- Airline Pet Policies – A survey of airline pet policies and fees from BringFido.com.
- Flying with Pets – A survey of airline pet policies and fees from PetsWelcome.com.
- Flying via the UK?
- Bringing Pets to the UK – How to avoid quarantine in the UK using the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)
- PETS – Pet Travel Scheme from the British Embassy Berlin
- Taking Pets to Germany from the UK – Dogs, cats and ferrets must be microchipped and the ID must be recorded in an EU pet passport which must contain all necessary health records such as a valid rabies vaccination. (German Embassy London)
Legal Notice: We are not responsible for the content of external links.