I’ve decided not to discuss past lives on here but I do want to mention, before I get started, that if you’re like me and constantly feel like you never get things done because you’re so fucking busy getting things done and need some back-up when you’re on the defense with your significant other, my contact info is in my bio and I am here to help. I feel like the real reason why I packed up my life and went overseas was just so I could have some headspace to focus on things important to me… things I never fail to put on the back burner back at home for fear of failing other people.
That said… I came to Spain on an independent studies contract through The Evergreen State College with a focus on international exhibition, documentary photography and Spanish language. This spring of 2018 I was recognized in six categories of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers and invited to exhibit my work at the 5th Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography In Barcelona… a celebration that will continue for three weeks of October. I write this post whilst sitting on my bed in the tiny attic room I rented in the city for the first week of the show.
If you follow me on social media you might know that I was accompanied to Barcelona by one of my dogs, Luna, a small-for-the-breed blue heeler who can’t hear (and doesn’t need to anyways). Luna flew with me in the cabin of the plane; the result being that the most common comment on all posts since leaving home has not been Congratulations Jenny, but rather, How did you manage to bring your dog?? I promised at least three eager inquirers that I would outline the procedure, publicly and in detail, so here goes…
Bringing your dog overseas isn’t easy.
But it’s not impossible. It’s just that they want you to think it’s nearly impossible to dissuade you from attempting it in the first place.
First off… not all breeds of dogs are allowed on planes. If you own a snub-nosed breed type like a pug, bull dog, or boxer, or a fighting breed type like pitbull, rottweiler, or doberman pinscher… there are extensive rules regarding their travel on both domestic and international flights and many airlines won’t allow them at all.
If you have a breed that’s not on the No-No list, go to the USDA-APHIS website to find the requirements for pet import to the country you plan on visiting: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel
For dogs going to most European Union countries (such as Spain), they require a microchip and rabies vaccination with original certificate from the vet that administers it, signed with BLUE INK. The dog’s microchip number must be included on the certificate, and must show that the microchip was in place before, or the same time as, the rabies vaccination was given. The rabies vaccine has to be up-to-date no less than 30 days prior to vet inspection for export.
Once you have the vaccinations sorted out… make an appointment for your dog to be inspected by a USDA-Registered veterinarian:
Within 10 days of the date you plan to leave the U.S. if your dog is flying on the same plane (in cabin or cargo)
Within 48 hours of the date your dog is scheduled to fly if they are not flying on the same plane as you.
You will find the associated health certificate for the country you are visiting via the USDA-APHIS website. There are two different forms… one for dogs traveling with you, and another for dogs traveling on their own. Print out the correct version of the form and bring it with you to your vet appointment. If your dog passes the inspection, the vet will complete the paperwork (in blue ink) and give it back to you. It’s your job to send the paperwork (health certificate and original rabies vaccine certificate) to the USDA-APHIS office for your state with payment (check/money order… it cost me $38) and pre-paid self-addressed return envelope. I had a very narrow time frame to work with because I was flying out on a Monday, so I Fed-Exed my paperwork to the USDA with a pre-paid Fed-Ex overnight delivery envelope… and still crossed my fingers. The USDA requires 48 hours to process your application. I don’t know how they expect this time frame to work if your dogs are flying on their own (which requires the inspection to take place within 48 hours of departure), except to say that you likely have to drive the paperwork to the USDA office and have it processed in person. In my case, this would have been really difficult as I was flying out of Denver but the USDA office for Colorado was closed, and they were rerouting all paperwork to Sacramento. I felt lucky to receive my international health certificate signed and sealed and returned to me the Thursday before my Monday flight.
So I’ve just explained how I got permission to bring my dog to Spain, but that’s only half of the entire complicated hoop-jumping and making-it-really-hard-to-do-anything bureaucratic routine. Equally a pain-in-the-ass and exponentially more expensive is the issue of airlines. Not all airlines will fly dogs overseas!! You have to book your flight with an airline that will fly dogs and make sure you book with the same airline all the way through to your destination. Some airlines partner with other companies on international flights. I did a lot of research before booking with American Airlines…. they will fly pets both in cargo and cabin and they fly to lots of countries.
There are two ways to fly your dog… in the cabin, or as cargo. The airlines have been making it harder and harder to bring your dog in the cabin, for good reason, though personally I think air travel is enormously improved by the presence of dogs. If you have a physical disability they are required, by law, to allow your registered service animal on board with you for free…. no questions asked. If you have a dog you claim to be your emotional support animal, they are required, by law, to allow you to bring your dog on board for free if it’s 1) no larger than a two-year-old child and 2) you have proof of your diagnosis of a mental health issue recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health. If your dog is larger than a two-year old child the airline might require you to pay for an additional seat. (Though, dogs are not allowed on the seat itself… only on the floor. Not fair, you say? I don’t think so either!). You need a doctor or mental health practitioner to write you a letter to travel with that states your diagnosis and fill out a special form required by the airline. In addition to the mental health form, you also have to sign a waiver declaring your dog’s behavior and training, and another one stating your dog will not have to relieve itself on a flight over 8 hours and/or what you will do if it does. Something to seriously consider if your dog isn’t 100% trained to hold it.
I have a diagnosis of PTSD, and Luna happens to be approximately the size of a two-year-old child. She is extremely well behaved, and has been accompanying me to college classes for the past year without issues. I knew she would be the perfect candidate for cabin travel, and she was. She is also Deaf… which means she’s not alarmed by all the noise and bustle of the plane. As soon as we were on board she curled up under my feet and fell asleep. When we disembarked several people told me they had no idea she was even there. Luna was en route for fourteen hours without relieving herself. If you have any doubts that your dog could pull this off, consider sending him via cargo instead, where he will have something absorbent to pee on if your flight gets delayed like ours did. I tried coaxing Luna to use the pet relief areas at Denver and Chicago but she just stood on her tiptoes and wrinkled her nose.
Getting Luna launched from the North American continent was a lot of work…. but on the other side of the pond it was all smooth sailing. The customs officials at the airport in Barcelona barely gave her half a glance. And so far Spain seems fairly dog-friendly compared to the U.S. It was really easy, for example, to find accommodations that allow dogs, with no extra fee. But I’ll wait to see what the rest of my week in Barcelona brings before I say traveling with a dog here is just a breeze…. I should mention that my taxi driver wasn’t too pleased when Luna jumped up onto his seat. ;)