Like many people out there, my dog is so important in my life and definitely just the best little friend on the planet. My husband and I adopted her off the banks of the Danube in Serbia when she was less than 6 weeks old! We went on a walk one day and found this little ball of sunshine running over to us and the rest is history!
When we decided we were going to be moving permanently to California I was instantly concerned about being able to bring Hejli (pronounced Hailey) into the United States. We had such a short time frame to figure it all out and I went straight to work on the research. Let me save you the countless hours that I’ll never get back…
- Your dog MUST have a pet passport. You can contact your vet to obtain one if you don’t already have one but there’s no getting by without it – it’s a necessity.
- These are items that you need to review! In Hejli’s case she needed nothing but proof of a current rabies vaccination from a vet, but the requirements vary greatly by country so don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself!
- U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
- U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Departments specific to your state, in my case, California:
- Airline requirements, in my case, Lufthansa Airlines:
- Documents needed
- Kennel requirements
- You cannot pay for your dog at the same time you buy your ticket, so call ahead before purchasing to make sure that flight has room for your dog
- Each country has their own requirements to give out official paperwork. For example, in Serbia to get the paper signed off by the vet we had to have two appointments two weeks apart, so don’t think you can wait! There were additional steps too but we didn’t have to follow them because the U.S. didn’t require them.
We got a kennel that was way too big for Hejli and we preferred that because we wanted her to have lots of space (it was about 20 hours for her in the kennel). We started putting her in the kennel a few hours a day to break it in. We would have liked to start leaving her over night in it for kennel training but the truth is we didn’t have a big enough window to do it correctly – it would have been too fast for her. Also, we were so terrified she’d be scarred but she was perfectly fine and totally normal when she was brought out of the kennel in California!
I heavily researched people’s reviews on traveling with their pets with many different airlines. If it’s just me traveling, I’ll take something cheap like Turkish Airlines, no problem. With my dog? My girl? My bff? Nah. Not going to happen! I read awful reviews and it just made me even more nervous.
Our top two contenders were Lufthansa and SWISS, both fantastic airlines with great reputations when it comes to traveling with pets. We actually booked SWISS but with COVID we had three flights cancelled and ended up flying with Lufthansa. I called their representatives to just inquire about the process of transporting her and I am so glad I did, I honestly probably saved myself hours of anxiety.
Lufthansa has an Animal Lounge where the animals are taken between connecting flights (if time allows). The representative told me that everyone who works there is a vet and will contact me immediately if something is wrong with her or if she isn’t eating/drinking. They give the animals their food (that you provide) and some water and if there is time they even take them out on a walk to stretch their legs! We had 0 problems with them and I would 100% travel with them again.
Lastly, when you arrive to the airport and baggage, be sure to locate where they’ll drop off the kennel. It’s not a watched station (or wasn’t in San Francisco). They literally just put her outside the door and went back inside. I even tried to ask if I was allowed to take her or had to wait but they just looked at me and closed the door… it was a bit strange. Regardless, last thing to do was go through customs! Make sure you either declare or throw out the food you packed for the dog, I got a bit of a chastening for that as I wasn’t aware. They didn’t even look at her or examine her they just asked for her information, passport and we were through!
I know it seems like a lot – and it was – but I hope I can save someone some time here. Was it worth it? 100%. My girl is living with us in the California sunshine!