I hope everyone had a great 4th of July holiday! As summer kicks into high gear and families begin their travel, it is important to consider some important issues regarding traveling with pets. In this blog I will discuss health certificates for pets; next week’s topic will be preparation for travel, and logistical considerations.

Health certificates (also known as certificates of veterinary inspection or official health certificates) are forms filled out by veterinarians stating that pets are fit for travel. Proof of rabies vaccination is mandatory for completion of a health certificate. These certificates are typically required 10 days before travel, and are good for 30 days. If you are traveling for more than 30 days to another state, you would be required to get another health certificate prior to your return trip.

Each state has their own requirements for bringing animals across the border. These criteria are not dependent on the mode of travel; as far as the state is concerned it doesn’t matter if you are traveling by car or plane or other transport. A detailed state by state list of requirements can be found here:

It is also important to realize that airlines can have policies on health certificates that may be different from that of the state you are traveling to. For example California does not require a health certificate for pet dogs and cats (although proof of rabies vaccination for dogs is required). However many airlines mandate a health certificate for travel (all pets in cargo on Alaska Airlines have to have one for instance) even if you are going to a state that doesn’t require a certificate. In my opinion it is always a good idea to get a health certificate for pet air travel. Although many airlines don’t absolutely require a health certificate, an airline staff member can arbitrarily decide that a pet doesn’t look “safe” for travel and refuse to accept it on board. Having a recent health certificate can potentially save you a lot of hassle at the gate. Rarely airlines can also require a letter of acclimation from a veterinarian stating that the animal is used to temperatures as low as 45 degrees. Contact your airline for their specific pet policies at least two weeks prior to planned air travel.

Health certificates can only be filled out by USDA accredited veterinarians. There are two levels of accreditation: Level 1 for small animals (dogs, cats, etc.) and Level 2 for all animals including horses and farm animals. Since I have extensive small and large animal veterinary experience, I have the higher Level 2 accreditation and can certify travel for all animals.

Note that Hawaii has especially stringent requirements for pet travel. Hawaii is the only rabies free state in the US, and for this reason they have to be very careful with pets entering the state. If you are considering taking your pet to Hawaii, talk to your veterinarian well in advance since the process can take months to complete.

I hope this information on health certificates was useful. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on my blog. Wishing you safe summer travels!

Kim Cork

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