Health Certificates for Bringing Pets to Germany

Since this topic comes up a lot in military circles, I thought I’d post some helpful links from USDA APHIS that I’ve found to be very informative about the health paperwork required to bring cats and dogs from the US to Germany. Please note that this is ONLY the paperwork required by the government. The airline(s)  you travel with may have additional requirements. Be sure to contact them directly to ask what they need from you, including the Patriot Express. And if you take any commercial flights, pay attention to whether you have different flights operated by different airlines, even if it’s all billed as/arranged by one airline under a code share. For example, if you fly commercial the entire way, your itinerary may be ticketed under American Airlines but – due to the oneworld alliance codeshare – you may have 2 flights operated by American and 1 flight operated by Air Berlin or Lufthansa. Check on the requirements for all airlines, as they may each require different things. Additionally, this post only covers the health certificate and doesn’t get into the travel itself and stuff like crates, food/water, baggage transfers, etc. I may make a separate post about that later, but for now I’ll just say to pay close attention to what each airline requires and leave it at that.
On to the health certificate. Things to pay close attention to include the following:
  • The pet has to be chipped. The microchip has to be a very specific kind that meets a specific regulation (see the links for more info). Don’t assume that your pet’s chip is the kind you need, have the vet double check.
  • If your cat or dog is chipped and it’s not the right kind and you have to get a second chip, the pet’s rabies shot will have to be redone even if they just got it a month ago.
  • The chip has to be put in BEFORE they get the rabies shot. It can be the same day, but the chip has to be put in first.
  • The rabies shot has to be at least 21 days old [1] but not expired. There is an exception for pets under 12 weeks of age.
  • Their health certificate endorsed by the USDA has to be done and dated within 10 days of travel. This can be 10 days out or the day before. But any later than 10 days and the certificate expires and you’ll have to get a new one.
  • If you have to get a new rabies shot, you don’t have to wait for the 21 day period to be over. The 21 days is only how long they have to wait before they can go to Germany.
    Example: Our cats had to get the shot and the chip, then wait the 21 days. We got the health certificate done on…. I want to say it was Day 14, then we got the USDA endorsement done on Day 21, then the cats flew on Day 22.
  • If you use a civilian vet, make sure they have the credentials to do the certificate. You will probably also have to take the certificate to a USDA APHIS office to get their endorsement.
This is not a complete and exhaustive list of what you need to do, the links have the full info, but those are some notable things to pay close attention to. Even if you’re going to use a military vet, be familiar with and take this info with you to the appointment(s), because there are military vet clinics out there that give bad info. Voice of experience speaking.
Another note: if your pets are going with you, the health certificate HAS to have the name of the person who will be traveling with them. So if there’s even a chance that the spouse will go later, take that into account when doing the health certs. In our case, since I knew there was a chance I might have to stay behind and fly after my husband, we put the health certificate in my husband’s name. Sure enough, I ended up being delayed by a week. If we’d put them in my name, the certificate would have expired and I would have had to pay again to get it re-done.

We just brought cats over with us when we PCSed from California to Germany in October. We ended up getting the USDA APHIS endorsement at their office next door to LAX since that’s where we were flying out of. If you have to get the USDA APHIS endorsement yourself separate from the vet’s office, you’ll want to make note of the location of the UUSDA APHIS office you’re going to use and if you aren’t going in person, note whether you need to overnight, send a return envelope, that sort of thing.

If you have any questions, I’m happy to share my experience, feel free to ask.
The links to the requirements:
[1] For whatever reason, some people are getting told the rabies shot has to be 30 days old. That is not what the USDA requires. It may not seem like a big deal but a whole week can be if you’re last minute getting your shots and whatnot (which we were, in part because of bad info from the vet clinic).

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