Animal Planet host weighs in on pet travel: Health records and crossing the border

Animal Planet host weighs in on pet travel: Health records and crossing the border

Safe travel with pets

Photo by Chris Boland
Foter  CC BY-NC-ND

When you picture a family vacation do you see your pets there with you? Imagine the sun on your face and the sand beneath your feet- and your dog by your side. Does it seem attainable? Animal Planet host and Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner thinks that it is and he has teamed up with Petco to help pet owners prepare for a trip with their pets. Although it does require a lot of planning in advance and dedicated research, travelling with your dog or cat can be a safe and enjoyable experience for the whole family.

Schachner knows this because he is living it. He and I interviewed on May 6 while he was in sunny Florida, US at the Trade Winds Grand Resort on St. Pete beach with Hank. Hank is a 5-year-old hound mix who is available for adoption at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Schachner himself is a foster parent to a poodle and spaniel mix. Trade Winds Grand Resort is a pet-friendly resort- one of many that are converting to pro-pet throughout North America. Schachner has travelled with pets many times and he knows that the first time going foreign with Fido can be overwhelming.

“The very first time is a very stressful time because it’s like travelling with a small child for the first time,” Schachner explained. “Basically you’re in charge of a living thing for the duration of the flight- which can be unpredictable.”

Schachner says that the key thing that successful border crossing pet owners do that others don’t do is start planning well in advance. Good research takes time for Canadians wanting to visit places like summery, hot Florida where Schachner is. “You know they say ‘measure twice, cut once.’ (Pet travel is) the same thing: research twice, travel once,” said Schachner.

Safe travel with pets
Photo by cheesy42  Photo  CC BY-NC-ND

Documents and health records

“If you’re travelling from an outside country into the US make sure you have your most up to date vet record. That’s the number one thing they are going to look for, especially in customs,” Schachner said. He also recommends having all vaccinations up-to-date and documentation proving that. Not only do vaccines keep your pet safe from infectious diseases and bacteria that may be more prevalent in a foreign country but the rabies vaccine is a MUST HAVE when entering almost every country. It is a requirement of the US Customs and Border Security that all dogs and cats entering the US have a current rabies vaccine and documentation that states the following:

“The rabies vaccination certificate should include:
  •          Name and address of the owner
  •          Breed, sex, age, colour, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
  •          Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
  •         Date the vaccination expires

Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian
Pet owners should check with the U.S. Department of Agriculture 
(USDA) as well as their destination state or territory for additional requirements to import dogs.”

Can’t find your vaccine certificate? To get a copy of your pet’s current vaccine history owners must call the clinic that provided their pets with their most current vaccines and request a new copy. Since certificates with rabies vaccine documentation must be signed by the Doctor that provided the vaccine it may take more than 48 hours to be ready so don’t leave it to the last minute and don’t just walk off the street and expect one quickly.

The Government of Canada provides pet owners with a Canadian International Health Certificate to make crossing the border with your pet easier. Schachner also recommends having an up-to-date pet ID tag in case the animal is separated from its family while on vacation. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also offers detailed requirements for dogs, cats and exotic pets crossing the border. The different States will have different risks for pets too- for instance, Florida has a high percentage of dogs with heartworm- as do some other states shown on the most current Heart Worm Society map. Up to date parasite protection is a good idea but not all medications may be allowed into foreign countries. 

To get information about bringing veterinary drugs into the US contact the FDA. Research what restrictions the State you are visiting may have well in advance. Schachner’s message is that preparation is critical throughout the whole process. “Do your research- I can’t stress this enough,” Schachner urges.

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