Pets and PCS: answers to your questions

It’s that time of year again – PCS season. A high volume of servicemembers and families are leaving Europe this summer. In addition to moving your household goods, making the proper arrangements for your pets is key to a successful move.

To help plan ahead, check this list of frequently asked questions about shipping pets to the United States. For more information, consult the U.S. Army Europe Customs Web site at

Q. Will the government pay to ship my pet?
A. No.  You are responsible for arranging and paying all costs associated with shipping pets.

Q. Can my pet and I travel on the same aircraft?
A. Yes, unless pet spaces are full or a heat restriction is issued by your airline.  If a heat embargo is issued, your pet may be restricted from flying until conditions improve or re-routed on another airplane. Pet owners are normally given advanced notice of any restrictions.

Q. What if my pet cannot be reserved on my flight?
A. Due to the busy summer travel season, pet spaces on your scheduled flight may not be available. If so, the commercial travel office (SATO) will try to book your pet on another flight or airline. Remember, you incur any costs for shipping your pet.

Q.  Must I go through the commercial travel office to ship my pet?
A. Using the commercial travel office to ship your pet is convenient but not the only option. Commercial pet shipping companies may be more expensive, but can normally ship your pet when other airlines can’t. For a fee, they also offer pick-up services throughout Germany. You will bear all costs and potential risks associated with using these companies. Contact your local transportation office or commercial travel office for a list of potential sources.

Q. What documentation is required to ship my pet to the U.S.?
A. The original and one copy of a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian stating that the animal is healthy enough to travel by air and is free of injury and disease. The certificate must be dated 10 days or less from the date your animal will be shipped. A rabies vaccination certificate issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian at least 30 days old but not older than one year from the date your animal will be shipped is required. If your pet is less than 12 weeks old you should obtain a memorandum from a licensed veterinarian that waives the rabies requirement.

Q. There are no veterinary facilities at my installation.  Can I get shots and travel papers from vets on the local economy?  Are such shot and other records recognized by U.S. officials back in the States?
A. You can use the services of host nation veterinarians. They are familiar with international standards of pet immunization and shipment. Health certificate and rabies vaccinations will be recognized by health officials at your stateside destination.

Q. I have heard that some airlines will not accept a pet in a collapsible kennel. Is this true?     
A. Yes. Collapsible or foldable kennels are prohibited by most airlines. The kennel used to ship your pet must meet USDA guidelines for size, ventilation, strength and design. Animals must have enough room to stand up and turn around and each species must have its own kennel with the exception of compatible cats and dogs of similar size. When in doubt use a larger kennel. A contact address and phone number in the States, and two copies of your orders help speed your pet through customs.  

Q. What are the feeding instructions for my pet?
A. Call or visit your airlines’ Web site for feeding instructions. Most airlines and pet shipping companies require a 24-hour feeding schedule to be attached to the kennel to assist the airline in providing care for your animal in case it is diverted from its original destination. You, as a pet owner, are required to certify your pet had been offered food and water within four hours of transport, and the documentation must include the time and date of feeding. Food and water dishes must be securely attached and be accessible to caretakers without opening the kennel.

Q. My family and I bought a new puppy and he’s two weeks old today.  Is he old enough to fly?
A. Not yet. Your pet must be at least eight weeks old and weaned before traveling by air.

Q. How do I find additional information on shipping pets?
A. There are great Internet sites that provide tips and information on pet shipping.  In addition, each airline has rules, policies, and procedures for shipping pets. It would be beneficial to visit your air carrier’s Web site prior to shipping your pet. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army Installation Management Agency – Europe)