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Why Do Airlines Require Health Certificates?

Published on: June 30, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

airplane landing in zurichMost airlines require pet health certificates, and the reason is simple. They want to ensure your cat or dog is not a risk - not ill, especially with a contagious disease, or carrying pests such as fleas or ticks that could create health problems for other animals nearby or ground crews working around them. They also do not want to be responsible for delivering disease or pests to one of the destinations where they fly. 

Those destination cities and countries agree wholeheartedly. International air travel for pets typically involves considerably more health-related documentation than anything required by the airlines. Each country has different rules, but all insist that you meet their requirements. Airlines or specific countries may also have different rules for pets traveling with you in-cabin as opposed to those being transported as excess baggage or cargo.

Rabies is the biggest concern

If you live in the United States, you probably don’t give much thought to rabies. Though it exists here, it has become well-controlled over the years, in large part due to required dog and cat immunizations.

Rabies is a disease that affects some types of mammals - transmitted in saliva when an infected animal bites or scratches another animal or a human. The disease causes the brain to swell and is considered 100% fatal. Wild animals have no chance against it, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends immediate euthanasia for unvaccinated pets bitten by a rabid animal.

For humans, treatment is available but only if it is begun shortly after the bite occurs. The treatment involves a series of painful injections. Pets with current rabies vaccinations are put in isolation for a period of time so they can be observed.

Rabies vaccines vary and can be effective for 1, 2 or 3 years, so it’s important to know what type of vaccine your cat or dog received. Depending on the airline or country, pet health certificates must be issued within 10 of departure and rabies vaccinations typically have to be administered within a year. That means your pet may need a booster even if their immunization is still current where you live now.

Beyond rabies, fleas and ticks can carry communicable diseases, and cats and dogs are susceptible to debilitating internal parasites such as worms. The health certificate confirms your pet is free from these potential problems, too.

You may never be asked to show your pet’s health certificate if you’re driving from one state to another, but if your pet is flying, you cannot avoid whatever regulations are in place. It is easiest to find out in advance what you need to do and obtain the necessary documentation. That way, you and your pets are covered. You can be confident they’re healthy, and everyone else can, too.

Where do you obtain a health certificate?

Each country has their own version of an international health certificate and it will depend on where your origin country is.

If you're traveling domestically within the USA, your local vet can use the APHIS 7001 form or their state's CVI (certificate of veterinary inspection). This document just needs to be completed/signed by your vet and must accompany your pet on their flight. If you are traveling from mainland USA to Hawaii, there are additional paperwork requirements.

If you're traveling from the USA to a foreign country, the USDA's (US Department of Agriculture) APHIS office (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) regulates and endorses international health certificates. The USDA has the required international health certificates on their website. These certificates must be completed by a USDA accredited veterinarian and then either mailed or sent electronically to the local USDA office for their official stamp of endorsement. If everything is in order, the USDA will endorse the paperwork and either mail it back to you or electronically send it back to your vet. Keep in mind that not all vets are USDA accredited. You will need to ask them and if they are not, you will need to find a local vet who is USDA accredited.

If you are traveling from another foreign country internationally, then you can work with your local government vet to obtain the international health certificate.

Health certificates simply makes sense

It is easy to understand the reasons behind monitoring and maintaining pet health as dogs and cats move around the country or internationally. The best part is that your pets are protected, too, from the risk that someone else’s dog or cat is a health risk. So while it might seem like a hassle to gather the proper paperwork – especially if you’re amassing everything needed for overseas travel – it’s the right thing to do, for your precious furry family and for the animal world in general.

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.