It can be very overwhelming trying to gather all of the information needed for your dog’s travel needs. I spent many days digging around the internet, calling different offices, and pulling out my hair trying to narrow everything down to a hit list of steps that I needed to follow. It seemed like the more I dug up, the more questions I unearthed, and the more confused I became. BUT! Never fear, for I diligently wrote everything down and then organized it in this blog post. Below are the steps I took in bringing Lizzie with me to Korea.
First things first: make sure your dog’s shots are up to date, especially the rabies shot! The reason I list this step first is because it can take up to 30 days for the rabies inoculation to take full effect, and this is required before you can move on to step two. If you are on a tight deadline, it’s important to keep waiting periods in mind.
You must have the rabies shot up to date before you move on to the next step – which involves even more waiting! Make sure that you receive the Rabies Vaccination Certificate from your vet. Below is a photo of the one that I have.
Next comes the Rabies Titer test (also called a FAVN test). This is where your pooch’s blood is sent to a laboratory to determine whether they have the proper anti bodies to fight against rabies. The blood work must come back with a test result of 0.5 or higher, and the results of the titer test must be written on the International Health Certificate (more details on that below).
My vet charged about $35 to draw the blood, and they packaged it up inside a styrofoam container with 2 frozen packs to keep the blood cold. It was up to me to mail it and pay to have it over-nighted (which costs a pretty penny! – over $100 to go through UPS from VA to KN).
Why Kansas? One reason why I chose this particular vet is because they send the blood to a laboratory at Kansas State University. From what I’ve read, there are only a few internationally approved laboratories in the US, and this location was recommended by many sources.
In fact, later in the process, the USDA official asked whether the FAVN test results came from Kansas State University, and fortunately for me, I could tell her “yes.” I’m not sure what would have happened had it been through a different laboratory.
This particular lab charged me $85 for the FAVN test, which I paid via money order made payable to “KDAS”. I placed the money order inside the box with the blood vial before I taped up the package. Be sure to check the price, as it may have changed since I did it in August of 2014.
**Be sure to allow 3-5 weeks to receive the test results.** For me, it took about 4 weeks, and the results were faxed to my vet, and then I got a photocopy of it.
I’d like to note that I tried to get the original result form, not just a photocopy, but my vet office said they couldn’t give it to me (something about the government requiring that the vet office keep the original). But, when I was speaking with the Quarantine officer inside the airport in Korea, she asked me for the original… I told her exactly what happened, that my vet refused to give it to me for legal reasons. I guess my answer was sufficient, but she gave me a disappointed look and let us go after that.
To read more about my experience going through the Quarantine inspection station, click here.
Now it’s microchipping time! If you haven’t already done this, do it soon. Make sure that the microchip is ISO compliant and uses a 15-digit number. A 9 or 10-digit number is NOT internationally recognized, so ask your vet which one they use.
Another reason I specifically went to this particular vet is because:
1) they use Petlink microchips,
2) they’re prices were cheaper than my usual veterinarian, and
3) the staff seemed so much more knowledgeable when it came to international travel with my dog. I called with a list of questions, including getting cost quotes, and they had every answer I needed because they have been through the process before with other pet owners.
**Afterwards, remember to register the microchip number into the database! It doesn’t do it automatically!**
Why Petlink? First, they offer lifetime registration in their database with NO annual fees. I paid about $50 at y vet and that included lifetime registration, a wallet-sized card with all of her information (to keep with me in case I ever need to give out her microchip number), and a little tag to put on Lizzie’s collar. Petlink also has a microchip that uses Datamars technology which, from what I’ve read, is the most internationally recognized microchip.
Here are a few sites that helped me in this step:
This document tells more about the importance of ISO compliancy.
This site gives useful information about why microchipping is important.
And this is Petlink’s site.
Next, you must get an International Health Certificate from your veterinarian and have it certified by your state USDA Office. Here is a pdf with a list of state USDA office addresses, but keep in mind that they may have changed since August of 2014.
**Be warned! This document has a 10-day expiration!** Because it’s such a small window of time, time management is very important. The moment that your vet signs that Health Certificate, it has ten days before it expires. As soon as we found out when we were going to board the plane, I immediately called my vet to schedule Lizzie in.
My vet charged $55 for an exam and $125 for the Health Certificate, which they completed and mailed out to my state USDA office be certified. The health certificate includes your dog’s identification (breed, age, etc) and health history (vaccination dates, etc). Your vet may not require an exam, but it’s important to find out ahead of time. Also, the fee for the Health Certificate can vary. Call your vet and ask about the costs because it can get expensive! I’ve read that some vets will charge $200-$400 just for the Health Certificate!
I called around to different vets so that I could save some money, and I actually ended up changing vets because my original vet charged way too much.
**Try to make a couple copies of the Health Certificate because the Quarantine officer will keep a copy.**
I can’t say how long it would have taken to receive the certified Health Certificate back in the mail because we were short on time, and we actually had to drive through Richmond, on our way to the DC airport. I physically went in to the USDA office to pick it up.
We called ahead to schedule an appointment and were relieved to find out that there were 2 slots available for that day. You may have to schedule an appointment at your state USDA office, so if you’re short on time, make sure you account for this.
We made it to our appointment with 15 minutes to spare, paid (another) $125, got the USDA certification stamp on my Health Certificate, and walked out of there about 25 minutes later.
*Side note: we actually negotiated with our recruiter to be reimbursed for the $125 because they changed up our schedule at the last minute and we had to go to Richmond to get the stamp, rather than waiting for the results to come back in the mail. I ended up paying $125 twice (once at my vet and again at the USDA office in Richmond), but our recruiter worked it out so that I would be reimbursed. Hooray!
Make flying arrangements next. Which airline you’ll be taking will depend on the policies you’ll have to adhere to, especially regarding the weight and height of your dog. Each airline has their own rules and they allow a limited number of animals on board, while some even restrict certain breeds. So do your research and plan ahead.
PetTravel.com gives a lot of excellent, useful information about travelling with your pet and even goes into detail about different airlines. I also found an article on Korea4Expats.com that has invaluable information as well. Below are a couple links to specific airlines.
Our recruiter purchased our plane tickets for us, and she knew from the beginning that we were bringing Lizzie with us. I think that was one of the biggest reasons she chose United. As soon as we got the etickets for our plane itinerary (which had the reservation code on it), I called the airport to make sure that Lizzie was allowed on board as one of my carry-ons.
I was able to pay over the phone, and the whole thing probably took less than 10 minutes. The fee was around $150, and I only had to pay it once, even though we took two different United planes. The woman on the other end of the phone told me that she had checked the airplanes to make sure there was room for a dog. After all, they only allow a few animals on board! She processed my payment and added onto my ticket that I was bringing a dog as carry on. She said all I had to do was walk into the airport and print out our tickets like normal. And that’s exactly what I did!
*Side note: I think throughout the entire experience of being on airplanes/in airports, no one knew (or even checked, for that matter) about my having a dog. The only people to ever see her were the TSA agents, as we walked through the metal detectors, before going to our gate.
Make sure to have copies of all paperwork. I definitely didn’t want a Korean Inspection Officer to quarantine my dog because I didn’t have all of my ducks in order. When you land in Korea and get to the Quarantine Office, they’ll scan for the microchip and will require 3 things: a certified Health Certificate that hasn’t expired, a FAVN Result Form, and a Rabies Vaccination Certificate.
Read Incheon Airport Quarantine Office for more information about going through the airport’s Quarantine inspection station.