Passports for pets?

Fluffy and Fido can easily travel Europe, as long as they have proper documentation

Photo: Norwegian Food Safety Authority
Animal ID pages inside an EU Pet Passport.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Europeans who traveled with their pets once faced obstacles in crossing borders with them. Pet health rules differed, and many countries required quarantines of up to six months for entering pets. No more. A Pet Passport scheme implemented in all European countries in the EU and the EEA now permits an accompanied animal to travel almost as easily as its owner.

An owner may cross a border with up to five pets, each with a Pet Passport of uniform design and dimensions, slightly larger than the international standard size of passports for humans, and with the number of an implanted microchip or readable tattoo identifying the animal.

In most cases, the Pet Passport essentially is a certificate of successful vaccination against rabies by an accredited veterinarian. A microchip is small, about the size of a large grain of rice, implanted under the skin of an animal using a hypodermic needle. Microchips and scanners that read them are standardized and are readily available worldwide, as they are used for identification by pet owners, kennels, breeders, humane societies, and others.

The procedures for preparing animals to be issued passports are uniform throughout Europe. Most countries ban dangerous dogs, which are designated as animals that get dangerously out of control in public places. For instance, Norway bans six dangerous breeds: Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Fila Brasileiro, Toso Inu, Dogo Argentino, and Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, as well as cross-breeds of them. Many countries, including Norway, require anti-rabies vaccination followed by a rabies antibody titration test, as well as an anti-echinococcus (tapeworm) treatment. Accordingly, the passport has spaces for veterinarians to enter the details of the relevant treatments. A vet issuing a Pet Passport will always ask about the countries to which the animal is to be taken, so it may fulfill the destination country requirements.

The Pet Passport scheme has been place long enough to function smoothly. But it isn’t error-free. An owner who loses a Pet Passport may apply to the veterinarian who issued it for a replacement, which may be inconvenient if the loss is first noticed upon crossing a border between countries. Worse yet, an implanted microchip may fail so it cannot be read by a scanner. A veterinarian can remove a failed microchip and send it to the manufacturer to find if it can be read. If so, the manufacturer can issue a confirmation of the reading to be entered in the Pet Passport along with the number of the new replacement chip. If not, the passport application procedure must be repeated anew, which may involve putting the animal in quarantine, just as in the days before the Pet Passport scheme came about.

The Pet Passport is available throughout Europe but not elsewhere. If you live outside Europe and wish to travel with your pet in one or more European countries, you should go to a veterinarian accredited to certify pets for international travel—in the USA by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture (APHIS, USDA) and in Canada by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The vet will fill in a Veterinary Certificate in accordance with EU regulations. Once in a European country with your pet and certificate, you may be allowed to apply for a European Pet Passport.

Further reading:
“Travelling With Pets,” Norwegian Food Safety Authority info sheet (English), link: www.mattilsynet.no/language/english/animals/travelling_with_pets

“Pet travel from the U.S. to Finland, Malta, Norway, Ireland, or the United Kingdom,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service info sheet, link: www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/eu/eu-echinococcus/pet-travel-echinococcus-treatments
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Service Centers State-by-state listing, link: www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/downloads/nies_contacts/sc.pdf

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 27, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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