Since May of 2012, when our move to Germany began to become a reality for us, neither Amanda or I were concerned about where we were going to live, our jobs, moving to Germany, etc. Our single, biggest concern was how will our dog Barney do flying over, considering he gets extremely nervous simply riding in a car?
We were both very nervous, but we are very happy to report that he did very well, and everything worked out well. This blog post is to document all that happened involving what was required to export Barney out of the US and into Germany (NOTE: this post is not a recommendation or process that is meant to be repeated — please contact your airline for specific instructions & requirements)
Traveling inside a Kennel: We have never used a kennel to keep Barney inside when we travel or just in the home. In September, after determining the size requirements from United Airlines, I went to Petco and purchased one. United recommends for International Flights, to have a kennel that is a little larger than normal for your dog to allow plenty of room. I brought it home, and we slowly introduced Barney to it by placing treats inside and putting him in it for a few minutes, working up to an hour or so.
For Thanksgiving, we drove from NJ to NC with him in his kennel the whole way. At first, we had to put him inside, but after few stops, he jumped from the ground to it, so that was a good sign.
Microchip Requirement: Germany requires a 15-digit microchip, but Barney only had a 10-digit one. So he had to have this implanted.
Rabies Vaccine: has to occur after the microchip is installed to ensure the number appears on the rabies certificate.
Paperwork: Germany requires a 5-page certification to be completed by our Vet that says he is healthy to be imported into Germany. This has to occur 10 days before entry (no exception). Then, this form and other paperwork has to be certified by the USDA office, which for us is located in Trenton, NJ (2 hours south). Since we were arriving Dec 31, backing up 10 days placed us at Dec 21, which was a Friday. Given weekend days, Christmas, and this 10-day requirement, we only had 3 days to get this done!
Day of Flight: our flight was at 7pm, and we were being picked up at 3pm. Barney was given a normal breakfast at 7am & water. I took him for an hour long walk at 12pm, and he had no more food and just a little water to recover from his walk. We dropped Barney off at the ‘PetSafe’ counter in Terminal C at Newark Airport. And, surprisingly to us, Barney was not shaking and just laid right down. United weighed his kennel + him, attached labels, his leash & collar, we filled out waybill paperwork, paid for his ticket (the company reimburses us), and United took him away.
Nervous Dog Parents on the Flight: as soon as we boarded our plane, we informed the Flight Attendant about Barney, and she checked with the Pilot, who confirmed Barney was placed onboard as the last item of cargo. While in flight, the Flight Attendant told us that the Captain informed her that the temperature in the cargo hold was 69 degrees and everything looked fine. 8 hours later, we landed in Frankfurt, Germany.
Picking Up Barney in Germany: Our driver picked us up, and took us to Cargo City North at the airport. Gate 26 is where we had to go to check-in with the Animal Cargo people. We checked in, they informed us Barney was there and had been let out of his kennel to use the bathroom, given water, and is doing fine. Our next stop was next door to the on-site Vet, who verified all the paperwork and confirmed Barney was healthy (paid 38 euro for his services). We then walked to a building about 0.25 mile away to clear Barney through Customs. Then, walked back to the Animal office, delivered our paperwork, paid 41 euros, and was told to go back downstairs to pick-up Barney. We saw Barney through a garage door being walked by an officer, the door opened, his tail was wagging feverishly, and both Amanda and I were SO VERY HAPPY that everything was okay. It took 3 hours from the time our plane landed until we were reunited with Barney.
Barney in the Hotel: we brought Barney to the hotel where he drank a liter of water, and slept soundly for the entire next day!
So, the process itself was straightforward. The only problem is that it is not too clear all of the steps involved, and exactly where to go at both airports. With this uncertainty and us never flying with Barney before, we were very stressed throughout.
Special Thanks: Both of our drivers (in the US who took us to the airport and in Germany who picked us up and took us to our hotel) were sooo helpful!!! Both were very courteous and allowed Barney to ride in the back seat with us. Our German driver went above his duties and went with us to each person to help with the translations that we needed at each step. The United Petsafe staff and the staff of United Flight 50 were very comforting. And, the people at the Frankfurt Airport involved with the animal transfers were so nice in reassuring us that he was okay.
But, even though we made it okay, we more than likely will not fly Barney again until we are ready to come back to live in the States. So, I’ll have to review this post again in 3 years to make that flight as smooth as this one.