The first recommendation for any international pet travel is to find a pet transportation company that is registered with the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA). IPATA is a non-profit trade association of independent members who are dedicated to the safe and humane transportation of pets and other animals. Members are registered with Live Animals Regulations of the International Air Transportation Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and adhere to the rules and regulations of the USDA’s Animal Welfare Act.
The second recommendation is to, of course, always contact companies directly to address your questions, and search for online reviews. We had a recommendation for Pet Express relocation experts. They also happen to be part of IPATA so I filled out their online quote form and received a prompt reply! I spoke with our relocation manager Mia for quite some time and she graciously answered all my questions and concerns without making me feel like a burden.
I have heard of many people moving their small dogs overseas by taking them on their laps and getting some vet documents together. Trust me, if I had this option I would take it! If you do use a relocation company, brace yourself for the astronomical expense. But if you have a large dog, or a cat (or both in our case) you can’t or wouldn’t actually want to take them in the cabin with you. Could you imagine having a yowling cat under your seat for 10 hours!?
Some airlines, including Delta which is the only direct Portland to Amsterdam flight available, require a third party pet transportation company arrange everything. So in our case we didn’t have much of a choice. But I am glad for that in the end because turns out our gentile giant dog Django, didn’t fit into the largest standard sized crate available! This meant that Pet Express had to arrange for someone to build a custom crate for Django that met all the legal requirements for his size. Then the crate has to be hand delivered from Seattle (luckily it wasn’t further than that) and stored at our house until the move day.
On the day of the pets travel, you must have three major documents, in original format, ready to go with your pets. The USDA Certified Health Exam, a rabies vaccination certificate with microchip number present, and a US Department of Agriculture document all signed and stamped by the USDA office within the past 10 days. We flew out the day before the pets, and Pet Express picked them up and delivered them to the airport. So I don’t have any insight on how that part went, but I guess smoothly!
We were able to track the flight online, and then the next morning after our arrival we fetched them from Schiphol! Ok – lets be real. It was NOT THAT SIMPLE. This part is very important if you are picking animals up from Schiphol. First of all, you don’t need to show up until about 45min – 1 hour after the plane lands. Then you must go to the KLM Animal Hotel. It is in the airport cargo area which you will need a map from the Schiphol info booth to find. You need to bring your passport along with you as you must first enter the little security office in front on the security gate, obtain a KLM visitors permit, go through the gate, and then check in at the animal hotel. When you check in, they will have you go wait in the “grooming room”. This is just a barren room with a gratis, or free, coffee machine. Even the least fancy ones made a semi decent cappuccino, espresso, mocha, or the traditional coffee verkeerd.
When the animals have been processed and checked over by a veterinarian, someone will come notify you and bring you a stack of paperwork that you must take to the customs office which is in a separate building, driving distance away. When you leave the cargo area, in order to open the exit gates, you have to relinquish your KLM visitors permit. Arrive at the customs office, give them your paperwork and have a seat. Enjoy an even nicer gratis coffee machine! When they are done with your paperwork, you drive back to the Pet Hotel, obtain new KLM visitors permits, give them the stamped documents, and then wait just a little while longer and – huzzah! You have your beloved pets!!
That was a lot, and we had to figure it out step-by-step. Thank God for our Uncle Jan and his car. We are forever grateful for his help. Both our animals are settling in like champs. In fact, we aren’t sure either of them even noticed the change, especially our cat Eskimo. Most cats hide for a day or so, or act timid. But not him! He was jumping on counters, rummaging for food, and sticking his head through blinds immediately. Confirmation of our hard decision to take him and leave our little Suki behind.
Here are some of the additional and itemized details:
Airplane Accommodation: Pets have their own section in the belly of the plane. It is temperature controlled and about the same ambient noise as we experience in the main cabin. So generally once a pet gets settled in, they can sleep for the rest of the flight.
Does my pet get potty breaks? As far as I know, they do not get breaks. Once they are in the crate and approved for flight, they can’t leave. Once they arrive at the pet hotel, a vet checks them over, and if they have soiled themselves, they get cleaned up before you get them back. They also suggest you don’t give your pet food or water for 5 hours before hand. We feed ours a half meal the night before departure, and no food that day.
Quarantine: It is different for different countries obviously, but it is not required for an animal coming from the U.S. to the Netherlands. Of course what they DO need is rabies vaccinations, a US International Health Certificate, a USDA Endorsement, an ISO Microchip, and Customs Clearance. Yay!
Vaccines: For the Netherlands, all they required was an up to date rabies vaccination and an international microchip. The chip installation must occur prior to, or on the same day as rabies vaccinations. Eskimo and Django were already up to date on rabies, but because they had older style micro chips, they had to have both updated on the same day. Both the rabies and microchip items must happen 21 days or earlier from the day of the animals flight. So best to get this part done right away.
USDA Approved Health Exam: The health exam does take some minor pre-planning. The exam must be performed by a USDA certified veterinarian NO MORE THAN 10 days from the date of departure. The paperwork then must be approved by the nearest USDA office. For us, the nearest office is somewhere in Washington. So we had to overnight the paperwork and pay to have it overnighted back to us. If you need to find a USDA accredited vet, I would first check with your regular veterinarian (we got lucky and happen to already have a qualified vet), but you can also contact your regional coordinator and they will help you find the nearest option.
Pick Up At Schiphol Airport: See the last three paragraphs of this blog post.
USDA Regulations for Live Animals Exports – You can select the country you are exporting to at the bottom of the page and find out all the requirements there.
Locating a USDA Accredited Veterinarian
IPATA or International Pet and Animal Transportation Association
Thank you and I hope this helps someone else out there making the big move from the U.S.A. to the Netherlands!