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Shipping Animals Internationally: A How-To Guide

Coordinating an international pet move can be a challenging endeavor. Each country has unique requirements for vaccinations, testing, health certifications, and permits that must be fulfilled for your pet to be accepted. Additionally, there are stringent crate specifications that must be adhered to. Most airlines mandate that travel arrangements be made by a member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) to ensure compliance with these requirements. Whether you choose to use an agent or not, you can find valuable advice on how to ship a dog or cat internationally here.

Step by Step Guide for Cats and Dogs Transport from USA 

At 0x Cargo Pet Relocation, your pets are in good hands. As pet parents ourselves, we understand the importance of your furry family members. We exclusively use top-rated airlines and facilities to ensure your pet receives the best possible care.

Step 1:
Research Destination Country Regulations

Every country has unique import requirements that vary depending on where your pet is coming from. You can start by searching online for the specific destination country’s pet import requirements, for example, “United Kingdom pet import.” The most reliable source are government websites. If your pet is departing from the United States, the USDA provides the official requirements for most countries, including the necessary health certificate forms, at USDA Pet Travel.

If the USDA does not have the official requirements listed, you can usually find them on the destination country’s embassy or import websites. While third-party websites may also list these requirements and are often correct, it's important not to rely solely on non-governmental sources. Always verify information through official government sites to ensure accuracy.

Step 2:
Research Airlines Policies

When shipping your pet internationally, it's important to know that not all airlines allow pets to travel, which may limit your options for airlines and airports. US-based airlines have strict regulations on pet shipments, including a ban on shipping snub-nosed cats and dogs. Additionally, if your dog is large, you may encounter significant difficulties booking with a US-based airline due to their limitations on crate size.

European, Asian, Australian, and some Spanish airlines tend to be more flexible with breed and crate size limitations. However, you might need to transport your pet to a coastal airport for the flight. You can hire a company to handle the ground transportation if needed. If driving your pet to the coast, consider arranging this before purchasing your own flight ticket, as it might be convenient to fly out of the same airport.

Always ask the airline representative whether you can book your pet’s reservation yourself or if it must be done through an IPATA agent. This will help ensure a smooth booking process and compliance with all airline regulations.

Step 3:
Request Quotes from IPATA pet shippers

The third step in shipping your pet internationally is to request quotes from IPATA member pet shipping companies. Even if you plan to handle the shipment yourself, these companies can provide valuable insights. For instance, you might learn that your dog must depart from major airports like JFK or LAX because domestic airlines do not accommodate pet transport.

Additionally, you may discover specific requirements, such as a six-month waiting period after a blood test before your pet can enter the destination country.

Pet shipping companies can also give you an estimate of the costs involved and serve as a backup plan in case you are unable to manage the transport on your own. To obtain the most accurate quote, measure your dog’s maximum length (nose to tail) and height (floor to top of head).

Step 4:
Prepare Documentation

1. Veterinary Checkup: Schedule a visit to a USDA-accredited veterinarian. Ensure your pet is up-to-date on all required vaccinations, including rabies.

What is a valid Rabies Certificate?

The Rabies Vaccination Certificate must provide the following details:

  • Owner Information: The name and address of the pet owner.

  • Pet Description: Specifics about the pet, including breed, sex, date of birth (or approximate age if the exact date is unknown), color, markings, and any other identifying features.

  • Vaccination Information: The date the rabies vaccination was given, along with the vaccine’s manufacturer, product name, and serial number, as well as the expiration date of the vaccination.

  • Veterinarian Details: The veterinarian’s name, license number, address, and signature.

  • Microchip Number: If required by the destination country, the certificate must include the pet's microchip number.


All vaccinations needed for import must be administered and officially recorded by a veterinarian, adhering to the documentation standards similar to those for the rabies certificate.


2. Health Certificate: Obtain an international health certificate, which must be signed by your vet and endorsed by the USDA if required.

3. USDA Endorsement: Submit the health certificate to the USDA for endorsement. This can be done via overnight mail or through the USDA’s Veterinary Export Health Certification System (VEHCS) through a vet.

4. Additional Documents: Prepare any additional documents required by the destination country, such as import permits or rabies titer test results.


Just Need a Help Hand on Preparation of Your Pet's Paperwork?

Check Our International Paperwork Solutions Service for more details!

Step 5:
Choose a Crate

Airlines adhere to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) container requirements based on the species and size of the animal. Detailed specifications can be found on the IATA website.

For snub-nosed breeds, IATA mandates that the crate be 10% larger than the general requirements. Many hard-plastic crates available online and at pet stores will meet IATA standards if they are the correct size for your pet, have ventilation on all four sides, solid bottoms, are strong and stable, and do not use plastic clamps to hold the crate together. Ensure you thoroughly review the specific guidelines to purchase the appropriate crate for your pet.

For more detailed information, you can refer to the following resources:

Crate requirements for international pet transport

How to choose the correct crate size

Cat and dog crate setup

Step 6:
Unique Situations -
Banned Breeds,
Your Schedule,
US Military Members

Special Considerations for Certain Breeds
If you have a snub-nosed dog or cat (e.g., Mastiffs, Bulldogs, Persian cats), a fighting breed (e.g., Pitbulls), or a large dog, your airline route options will be more limited. These breeds often face restrictions due to health and safety concerns, particularly related to breathing issues during flights

Because of these limitations, it is often necessary to hire an IPATA member to book the flight. They have the expertise and resources to navigate these specific requirements and ensure a safe journey for your pet.

Your Schedule
How flexible is your schedule? It’s best to start planning your pet’s move as far in advance as possible. Flights operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and airlines have a maximum number of pets they allow on each flight. Most airlines permit reservations to be made within 10-30 days of departure. Additionally, many countries only allow pets to enter on weekdays.

You will need to allocate ample time for vaccinations to be administered and for testing to be completed to comply with the import requirements of the destination country. Early planning ensures you can secure a spot for your pet and meet all necessary health and documentation requirements.

US Military Members
If you are an active-duty military member moving on orders, be sure to inform the airlines and pet shipping companies. US-based airlines often make exceptions to some of their pet travel rules for military personnel. Additionally, many pet shipping companies offer significant discounts to active military members.

Step 7: 

The cost of transporting your pet will vary significantly based on factors such as your location, the destination country, the type of animal, breed, and weight. Many airlines and destination countries require dogs and cats to travel as manifest cargo, resulting in different routing options and pricing compared to passenger flights.

For a brief overview of the costs involved, see below. For a more detailed explanation, please visit our costs page.

Location and Destination: The distance between your starting point and destination affects transport costs. International flights tend to be more expensive than domestic ones.

Animal Type and Breed: Different animals and breeds have varying requirements for travel. For example, large breeds or snub-nosed breeds may incur higher costs due to special handling and crate specifications.

Weight: Heavier animals often cost more to transport due to increased handling and shipping fees.

Manifest Cargo: Transporting pets as manifest cargo, which is a common requirement, can be more costly and involves additional logistics compared to in-cabin or checked baggage options.

By understanding these factors, you can better estimate the potential costs of shipping your pet internationally.

Step 8:
Destination Clearance & Pick Up

At the Destination: Some countries require a customs clearance agent. Check here for a brief note on whether it is necessary for your destination. Country policies do change, so it's best to consult directly with the country's respective Customs and Border Control. 

Fees: Be prepared to pay customs fees, which can range from $150 to $1000. Quarantine requirements can significantly increase costs.

See more cost details & estimate here: International Pet Ship Cost

Step 9:
Decide - Do I Need to Hire a Professional Shipper?

Determining the best travel arrangements for your pet can be straightforward once you begin researching options. The destination country, the breed of your pet, and the available airline options all play significant roles in this process.

Most US-based airlines require international pet reservations to be made through an IPATA member. Many European airlines require a credit account to be established for these reservations, while other airlines require a TSA known shipper to make the booking. If you find an airline that allows you to make your own pet reservation, this is only advisable if the destination country’s import requirements are minimal.

Pet shippers often receive last-minute frantic calls from individuals who attempted to ship their pets on their own and faced issues. This typically results in higher fees, delays, and the need to redo tests and paperwork. For a smoother process and to avoid potential pitfalls, it’s usually best to work with a professional pet shipping company.

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