If you follow me on Instagram, you likely noticed that I recently spent a month in Prague with my dog, Weber, in tow. Traveling to Europe with a dog has always been a dream, but I never thought it would become a reality.
Matt has been based in Prague for three months this summer (ending at the end of this month!), and we knew that to spend as much quality time together as possible, I’d likely go for a chunk of time, as well. Although we travel often, our trips are normally 1-2 weeks long. A month away from home seemed exciting, yet daunting. I knew that I wanted to bring our dog along, but how would it work? Was it even possible?
Earlier this spring, when we realized that the possibility of bringing Weber along to Prague might actualize, I dug into the research. Let me start by saying: I quickly became overwhelmed. The information that is available is so cumbersome and can be difficult to navigate. I honestly wasn’t sure if the entire process was going to work until after we had arrived in Prague!
Depending on where you are traveling and the duration of your trip, the rules change quite a bit. For one, traveling to the UK is pretty close to impossible with a dog in tow. Your dog must have many vaccinations and they often have to go through a quarantine.
Since the Czech Republic (or Germany, which is where we flew in to) is rabies-controlled, our process was much easier. The US is also rabies-controlled and many of the regulations are based upon whether the country is rabies-free, rabies-controlled or if there is a high incidence of rabies.
For us to travel to Germany, we needed to first confirm with the airline that we purchased the correct carrier (this is the one we got – I’d highly recommend. Make sure that there is plenty of space for your dog to stand, turn around, etc!), and purchase Weber’s ticket! For us, Weber flew in the same plane as me, so it was less expensive than some other options where he would have had a pet guardian (we flew Lufthansa and it was $400 one way; price was based on weight and size of carrier + dog). Plus, it was nice to bring him to the airport and spend as much time with him as possible before we were separated. Honestly, the separation was the most traumatic part. TSA is pretty thorough and I think Weber caught on to the tension in the room. Plus, then they secured his crate with zip ties, which was pretty scary for him. It was also scary for me, but well worth it.
After we were certain that our airline didn’t require any specific paperwork, I contacted the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control to make sure that I understood all of the necessary action items. There is actually a contact for each state / region, which I thought was very helpful.
Most importantly, your pet needs to have a micro chip (Weber had one implanted when he was a puppy, so we were all set there), rabies vaccination, plus be in good health. In order for the rabies vaccination to be approved, there has to have been enough time since the vaccination, so be sure that you time it appropriately. In order to complete the paperwork, you need to make an appointment with a certified vet (our normal vet wasn’t able to do this, so we went to the MSPCA Travel Center). Be sure to print out the necessary paperwork (we also emailed it over to them ahead of time), and bring all copies of your pet’s vaccination history if you end up seeing a new vet. Very important: the paperwork must be completed LESS THAN 10 days before arrival in the new country, or else it is void. As soon as you complete the paperwork, you must overnight it to the USDA APHIS official designated to your state (be sure to include a self-return mailer, etc). To be honest, I was nervous that the timeframe was going to be too tight, but these officials deal with this stuff all the time, and we received our paperwork signed by the USDA with plenty of time to travel.
To return to the US, be sure that you have a signed and dated copy of your pet’s rabies certificate. When we returned, that is the only thing that customs wanted to see.
Overall, be sure to do your research and ask plenty of questions! Now that I’ve done this once, I feel much better prepared to navigate the system should we have to do it again. Although it was a bit difficult to get Weber to Europe, it was an adventure that we’ll never forget (more on that to come)! I am headed back to Prague on Sunday, and have to say, quite sad that my buddy won’t be joining me this time around!