Exporting Dogs: The Basics

Preparing to export a dog can be very time consuming and frustrating but with a little research and attention to detail the dog can be under way without a hitch. The most basic international trip will require a domestic health certificate completed within 10 days of flying and an international health certificate filled out by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredited veterinarian and endorsed by a Veterinary Service area office. This process can take many months depending on the country the dog will be exported to, so it is very important to leave enough time for the required steps to be completed. Most countries will require proof of a current rabies vaccination, with some requiring the rabies vaccine within the past 12 months but not within 30 days of flying.The first step is to determine the requirements for the country the dog is going to. Each country is different, even within the European Union. Some countries such as Germany are very straightforward with a bilingual rabies certificate issued in the past 12 months and the endorsed international certificate being all you need. Other countries such as Australia have a whole book of paper work to fill out with many strict deadlines. Vaccines for multiple diseases are required as are blood tests for a variety of diseases. This information is usually readily available via the internet. Embassy or consulate web sites for the country you are interested in may have all the information and forms you need. For the more common destinations, your accredited veterinarian may already have forms on hand. The USDA’s Import/Export website: www.aphis.usda.gov/NCIE has a lot of valuable information including a link to a listing of consulate web pages. A listing of select countries with requirements and forms can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/vs/iregs/animals/.Typically an ISO standard microchip must be in place before anything, including the rabies vaccine, can be done. Keep in mind an ISO standard microchip is different than the standard microchips implanted here in the United States. If your dog already has a U.S. microchip, a second ISO standard microchip may be implanted or a scanner capable of reading the U.S. microchip must be sent with the dog. The microchip is to be checked before any treatment is given. For the countries that require a rabies titer test, the timing of the rabies vaccination in relation to the blood draw for the titer test is very important so have a calendar ready and count the days carefully. This test measures the antibodies in the dog’s serum with the ability to neutralize rabies virus and prevent the virus from infecting cells. To my knowledge, the only laboratory performing rabies titer testing for export for civilians in the U.S.A. is Kansas State University. The test result will take at least two to three weeks (more like one month in my experience) to come back. To pass, the rabies neutralizing antibody titer must be greater than or equal to 0.5 IU/mL. The rabies vaccine lot number will also be required. Other vaccinations, deworming treatments, or flea and tick preventative may also be required.The next step is to find a USDA accredited veterinarian to fill out the required forms. Many general practitioners are accredited, so check with your regular veterinarian first. If your veterinarian is not accredited, check with your USDA Veterinary Services office. A listing by state can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/area_offices.It is important to note these forms are to be filled out in blue ink. The accredited veterinarian is there to fill out the required forms and inspect the dog for any signs of disease. It is not the responsibility of the accredited veterinarian to tell you all of the requirements and keep track of deadlines for the country your dog is going to, so be on top of those things. I can tell you about the frustrations and stress a veterinarian will feel if a client makes an appointment for a health certificate but fails to mention they are leaving for Sweden tomorrow when they made the appointment. I typically have 5-10 international health certificates in various stages of completion at any given time. I am more than happy to help you decipher the requirements and answer any questions you have, but depending on me to keep track of your deadlines is a disaster waiting to happen. A pet transport company can be hired to take care of that stuff for you if you prefer.When the forms are ready for endorsement, they will be sent to the USDA Veterinary Services office for the official stamp and signature. Depending on the form used, they are good from 30 days to four months. After the endorsement, a final exam and signature from the accredited veterinarian may be required within 24 hours of flying. A fee for the endorsement payable to USDA of $24.00 will need to be included, or $76.00 for certificates with any laboratory work (ie rabies titer test.) If, for any reason, something is found to be wrong with the paper work when the dog arrives, the dog may be sent back to the country of origin or kept in quarantine until any problems can be worked out. Some countries will require a quarantine even if everything is done appropriately. This will be very costly with a boarding charge per day. For example, issues can arise when a country requires two rabies vaccines, the count down for the titer test and arrival into the country may start with the second vaccine, not the first.With all of that behind you and a sigh of relief; you and your dog can enjoy exploring new places and competing all over the world!Dr. Melissa Rouge graduated from Colorado State University and is now a small animal veterinarian in Fairbanks, Alaska. She spent 10 years competing in sprint races in Colorado before moving to Fairbanks. She now owns a small kennel of 11 Alaskan huskies that she runs recreationally with an interest in going further and exploring new trails.

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