Pet import/export during PCS

Shipping pets stateside from Germany does not have to be a confusing ordeal. On this page are the resources to help your feline and other animal Family members get where he or she needs with minimal trouble. (Photo courtesy of Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Guardian)

Shipping pets stateside from Germany does not have to be a confusing ordeal. On this page are the resources to help your feline and other animal Family members get where he or she needs with minimal trouble. (Photo courtesy of Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Guardian)

By U.S. Army Public Health Command

ANSBACH, Germany (July 14, 2015) – Making preparations for canine, feline and other non-human Family members during a permanent change of station can be worrisome and confusing.

The best way to reduce the confusion and ease the passage of pets to the U.S. or elsewhere is to learn about the federal, commercial and international regulations that oversee an animal’s trip overseas. Below are the resources:

For the latest information on animal import/export requirements, check the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) web page (link below), contact the country’s consulate, contact your sponsor or the veterinary treatment facility on the post where you will be stationed. Be aware that rules and regulations can change on short notice. The best place to get the latest information is from the country of destination.

Contact the airline in advance to determine applicable airline carrier regulations. Check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web page (link below) under “Special Considerations: Traveling with Special Items” for information about flying with pets.

Remember that all pets traveling by air will need a health certificate completed by a veterinarian, which is generally valid for no more than 10 days from date of issue and may need to be signed by a USDA veterinarian in addition to the civilian or Army veterinarian (depending on travel destination).

In order to receive a health certificate for your pet to take it back to the U.S. the animal needs to be current on the rabies vaccine. The vaccine should be given at least 30 days prior to entering the country. Also the pet needs to be healthy and free of infectious or zoonotic diseases.

Be sure to carry all documents with you, including vaccination certificates, health certificates and import certificates when required.

Follow these other tips to make the trip easier on your pet:

  • Provide a sturdy crate with a leak-proof bottom. Often, the airline will have specific requirements, so you need to contact the carrier directly. The crate should be large enough so that your pet can stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably. Allow your pet to become used to being in the crate well in advance of traveling by encouraging it to sleep or even eat and drink while in the crate. This will allow your pet to feel relaxed during travel.
  • Place a comfortable pad or the pet’s bedding in the crate and add a favorite toy or two and/or a shirt you have worn or slept in so that the pet is comforted by your scent.
  • On the outside of the crate, print your name, address and the pet’s destination. Include your pet’s name, so the attendants can talk to the animal. Place a tag with your name, address and the pet’s destination on a collar around the pet’s neck, because on rare occasions, pets can escape from crates and might require identification. Also, attach a copy of the health, rabies and import certificates.
  • Exercise the pet lightly before departing.
  • Feed a light meal no less than 6 hours before departing and remove water 2 hours before, except on hot days. Provide a water dish with the crate, so attendants can provide water during stopovers. If the trip lasts longer than 24 hours, provide some food (dry is best), attached to the outside of the crate in a cloth or mesh bag.

Questions regarding animal import/export requirements may be directed to U.S. Army Public Health Command (USAPHC), Army Institute of Public Health (AIPH), Clinical Veterinary Medicine Program, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

There are some destinations which have more strict import regulations such as Hawaii, Japan, South Korea or Guam. Please prepare well in advance if it is possible that you will PCS to one of these places. Get in touch with your local veterinary treatment facility. The VTF will prepare you for the travel and most likely will have handouts to take home. The website links below are also informative.

Related Sites

U.S. Government

Non-U.S. Government


For more information on pet owner responsibilities, visit an earlier article on the subject, Moving with your pets.

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