Traveling with Pets & Service Animals
CDC Yellow Book 2024Family Travel
International air and cruise travel with pets require advance planning. Travelers taking a companion or service animal to a foreign country must meet the entry requirements of that country and follow transportation guidelines of the airline or cruise company. Additionally, upon reentering the United States, pets that traveled abroad are subject to the same import requirements as animals that never lived in the United States (see Sec. 4, Ch. 9, Bringing Animals & Animal Products into the United States).
See general information about traveling with a pet. For destination country requirements, travelers should contact the country’s embassy in Washington, DC, or the nearest consulate. The International Air Transportation Association also lists the requirements for pets to enter countries. Airline and cruise companies are another resource for travelers; most have webpages dedicated to traveling with pets.
Traveling With Pets Outside the United States
People planning to travel outside the United States with a pet should contact their local veterinarian well in advance of departure for assistance with completing all necessary paperwork and ensuring animal health and medical requirements are met. Depending on the destination country, pets might be required to have updated vaccinations and parasite treatments, International Standards Organization–compatible microchips implanted, and serologic tests prior to travel. Some countries require a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) test for pets prior to importation.
Completing the stringent testing and permit requirements for some countries (e.g., Australia) can take up to 6 months. People who plan to transport animals should consider the animals’ species (e.g., cat, dog); mode of travel (e.g., airplane, cruise ship); season of travel (some carriers will not transport animals during the hottest or coldest parts of the year); and vaccination and testing requirements of the destination country and of transiting countries, if applicable. Transportation carriers might have additional requirements (e.g., breed restrictions for pets traveling in cargo, health certificates), so travelers intending to take pets outside the United States should contact air and cruise lines for information as soon as they are aware of their travel plans.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) lists international export regulations for pets. Pet owners are responsible for making sure requirements of the destination country are met. USDA APHIS often is required to endorse a health certificate prior to an animal leaving the United States; certificates must be accurate, complete, and legible. Failure to meet destination country requirements can cause problems gaining certificate endorsement or difficulties upon arrival in the destination country (e.g., animal quarantine or retesting).
Travelers should be aware that long flights can be hard on pets, particularly older animals, animals with chronic health conditions, very young animals, and short-nosed breeds (e.g., Persian cats, English bulldogs) that can be predisposed to respiratory stress. The US Department of Transportation offers tips for traveling with animals by plane.
Traveling With Service Animals Outside the United States
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, including an intellectual, mental, physical, psychiatric, or sensory disability. DOJ does not recognize emotional support animals as service animals, and airline carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals.
Air Travel with Service Animals
The cabins of most commercial airplanes are highly confined spaces; passengers are seated in close quarters with limited opportunities to separate passengers from nearby disturbances. Animals on airplanes can pose a risk to the health, safety, and well-being of passengers and crew, and could disturb the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft. Accommodation of passengers traveling with service animals onboard a commercial airplane must be balanced against these concerns.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 developed minimum standards for service animals. Airline carriers can require passengers traveling with a service animal to document whether that animal has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks to assist the function of the passenger with a physical or mental disability; has been trained to behave in public; is in good health; and has the ability either not to relieve itself on a long (>8 hours) flight or to do so in a sanitary manner.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) provides 2 forms to document a service animal’s behavior, training, and health: Service Animal Air Transportation Form [PDF] and Service Animal Relief Attestation Form for Flight Segments Eight Hours or Longer [PDF].
In addition to the requirements already mentioned, airlines might require health certificates and vaccination records. Although airline carriers cannot restrict service dogs based solely on the breed or generalized type of dog, they might limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability, or require service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless the device interferes with the service animal’s work or the passenger’s disability prevents use of these devices; in which case, the carrier must permit the passenger to use signal, voice, or other effective means to maintain control of the service animal.
Cruise Ship Travel with Service Animals
Travelers should contact the cruise company they will be traveling with to learn more about each company’s service animal policy. Some cruise lines are unable to accommodate animals onboard. Pets, service dogs in training, and emotional support dogs might not be allowed. People traveling aboard a ship with a service dog should consider rules or requirements at ports of call. For instance, many ports of call have strict entry requirements for animals. Travelers with service animals should visit the USDA’s pet travel website or their service animal’s veterinarian to determine each destination country’s policy regarding admission of service animals. Some locations do not recognize 3-year rabies vaccines, and annual vaccination might be required; consult with the service animal’s veterinarian for more information.
Some locations require that service animals receive parasite treatment prior to arrival, and this information should be included in the service animal’s health records. Some locations require that service animals travel with documentation (e.g., an import license), regardless of whether the service animal will disembark the ship. Check with the cruise company or country of destination for details.
Some locations have breed restrictions per the country’s dog ordinances. Restricted-breed service animals might not be allowed to board the ship due to the destination country’s laws. Travelers should check with the cruise line and country of destination for more information.
Travelers should hand-carry (i.e., not pack in baggage) all of their animals’ required documents, including vaccination records. Service animals traveling without proper documentation might not be permitted to board the ship at embarkation.
Reentering the United States With a Pet or Service Animal
Once a pet or service animal leaves the United States, it must meet all entry requirements to reenter, even if the animal has lived in the United States previously (see Sec. 4, Ch. 9, Bringing Animals & Animal Products into the United States).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traveling with your pet. Available from: www.cdc.gov/importation/traveling-with-pets.html.
FAA reauthorization act of 2018; public law 115–254—Oct 5, 2018. Sec. 437: Harmonization of service animal standards. Available from: https://uscode.house.gov/statutes/pl/115/254.pdf.
Traveling by air with service animals. 85 FR 6448: 6448–76. Available from: www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/02/05/2020-01546/traveling-by-air-with-service-animals.
US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA; July 20, 2015. Available from: www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf.