Why Do Airlines Require Health Certificates?
Published on: September 15, 2015 | Author: Starwood Animal Transport
Most airlines require pet health certificates, and the reason is simple. They want assurance 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 or 30 days of departure and rabies vaccinations 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 play. 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?
The official document for animals traveling within or from the United States is the US Department of Agriculture APHIS Form 7001. (APHIS is the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, responsible for ensuring living organisms entering or leaving the US are not carrying transmittable diseases or pests.) Your veterinarian fills out and signs this form, confirming your cat or dog is healthy in general and up-to-date on required immunizations. For foreign travel, you may need to get a separate endorsement from the official USDA vet in your state, if your own vet is not USDA-accredited.
The one significant exception to travel with the US is Hawaii. Although the Hawaiian Islands are a state, because they are rabies-free they have more stringent rules in place to protect their fragile eco system. So when it comes to pet travel, Hawaii functions like a rabies-free foreign country.
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.
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