So, you’re going on a vacation to Europe (from North America), should you bring your cat or dog? It depends. In our case, travelling for over 6 months, it was a resounding “yes”. There are many reasons why you’d rather bring your pet than leave them at a boarding facility or under supervision of someone you barely know. Peace of mind, ability to share travel moments together, cost (flying and paperwork can still be cheaper than even a mediocre boarding facility or pet sitter, usually you’d break even at 10 days and bringing your pet along is cheaper on trips longer than 2 weeks).
Europe in general and Portugal in particular are very pet-friendly, there are so many Airbnb apartments that can be rented as pet-friendly accommodation at no additional cost, not to mention that most cafes and restaurants are dog-friendly. If you’re flying from North America to anywhere in Europe, the main steps are identical to the Portugal ones, but for the sake of outlining each and every detail (as every country has its quirks), this article focuses on Portuguese regulations for non-commercial pet movement for travel originating from countries outside of the EU.
The USDA website does a very good job of outlining the steps. Depending on your airline, the health certificate can be issued between 10 and 5 days prior to travel. Most airlines are set on 10, but beware that for example, SATA (Air Azores) only accepts within 5 days (how closely they check this is another story). So, plan on a day/half a day off to be able to bring your pet for a health exam to your vet, have them fill out the correct form, plan on then taking this form to the USDA or CFIA office in order for them to check and endorse the paperwork and have you pay the fee. This concludes the work to be done prior to travel.
Step 1. Plan ahead. In order to travel from North America to Europe, you pet cat/dog/ferret will need:
-current rabies vaccination (applied after a microchip implantation to ensure the rabies shot is coinciding with the animal’s ID/tag)
-ISO-compliant microchip or tattoo (only if applied prior to July 3, 2011-see sidenote below)
-health certificate in English and the official EU member country’s language (bilingual)
That is it! No blood titer or tapeworm required, if you’re coming from low-risk countries (which US and Canada are).
If your pet has current rabies vaccination that extends for the whole period you will be abroad AND was applied after the tattoo/microchip, you’re good to go, proceed to Step 2. If your pet has never received any vaccinations or tattoo/microchip, make an appointment with your vet at least 21 days prior to travel, but earlier is better. Make sure the rabies vaccine is applied only after the microchip. These days you most likely only have the option of one type of microchip and they’re ISO certified. If in doubt, just ask the vet’s office to check and make sure they are compliant with EU standards. Once the microchip is implanted, the rabies shot can be administered. If it’s your only travel abroad this year, you’re better off with a 1-year shot instead of a 3-year (higher dosage), ask your vet if you’re able to choose and tell them you’d prefer the lower dosage one ( I didn’t and was given a 3-year booster without my knowing, which was very upsetting. My cat was lethargic for days!)
Sidenote: A tattoo is an acceptable form of identification as long as it was given prior to July 3, 2011, is clearly visible and your pet’s current rabies vaccination was administered after the tattoo was applied (proof of record required).
Step 2. Obtain the correct paperwork for a health certificate. The form is available from here for US and available here for Canada . Print 2 copies just in case your local vet doesn’t have one and makes a mistake filling it out. Take them along with your pet to the vet, at most 10 days prior or 5 days prior. Make sure to make an appointment beforehand, especially if travelling in the summer, appointments can be full weeks in advance!
The veterinary will do a visual exam, administer a rabies booster (if needed), and fill out the paperwork on site. Plan for about an hour at the office. You can then drop off your tired pet at home and take the paperwork directly to the USDA/CFIA office near you (with a prior appointment).
Step 3. Have the Health Certificate certified by the USDA/CFIA office near you. If you don’t have one near, you can of course, overnight the paperwork and pre-pay the return postage, but I always advise people to do it first hand. I ended up driving 2 hours one-way but did it in person and am so ever glad I did- the CFIA agent in Brockville, ON found a couple of things the Portuguese authorities could take an issue with (timing of tattoo and rabies) and had filled out an addendum to make sure all goes smoothly, then then even photocopied the whole thing and e-mailed it to me so I can send that e-mail to the point of entry person asap! Surely worth the 20$ CAD fee and gave me a peace of mind that everything was in order.
A licensed veterinarian must complete the Annex IV form for Portugal within 10 days of entry. If your pet is traveling from the United States or Canada, the veterinarian must be accredited by the USDA or CFIA respectively and the Annex IV form must be
endorsed by the local USDA (United States) or CFIA (Canada) office.
More info on this given on the Ministry of Agriculture of Portugal HERE->
One thing to note, though, is that the certificate they give on the website and in correspondence with the authorities in Portugal is not the one your vest from the USA or Canada will fill out. Those will be English first, then the EU member’s state official language second (opposite to the “certificado”, but otherwise the form is exactly the same) I’d printed off both but my vet went with the Canada-endorsed one, since it’s the one she was told was the “official” one if leaving from Canada.
The website also gives a form to fill out and email at least 48 hrs before arrival at your first Portuguese destination (approved Point of Entry), where an authorized vet will give you the final landing stamp on the Annex Page.For this reason, you must enter through a designated port, though there are many:
Accompanied pets entering Portugal by air from non-EU countries must do so at Border Inspection Posts at international airports in Lisbon, Oporto, Funchal, Ponta Delgada, Terceira Island or Faro.
Pets can enter Portugal in the cabin, as checked baggage or air cargo.
Step 4. Fill out the entry form given on the Ministry’s website (just fill it out online, you will only need to e-mail it), attach a scanned copy of the health certificate and rabies certificate and e-mail to the contact at the Portuguese airport (given on the same website under Point of Entry Contacts), do this at least 48 hours prior to travel!
Step 5. Upon landing at your first POE airport, proceed to the veterinary’s desk onsite (you may have to ask airport attendants where to find them), present yourself, your pet and all the paperwork. They will scan the microchip (or inspect the tattoo) and conduct a quick visual exam, collect a small fee of 30 euros, after which you will receive the final stamp on your certificate. Congratulations, you know have a valid document for travel within EU for the next 4 months with no extra hassle or charges!
The EU health certificate is valid for travel within the EU for up to 4 months from the date it is issued by the USDA/CFIA Accredited Veterinarian as long as the rabies vaccine documented on it does not expire.
That is it! I know it seems like a lot, but in reality if you follow all the steps correctly, it is less than a day’s worth of work. If you have any questions or own experience to add, feel free to leave a comment below or Contact Me directly.