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International travel: Last-minute glitches on a trip to Finland

Reader Heather wrote to tell me of two glitches in her preparations for international travel with Sisu, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. Heather’s husband is Finnish, and they spend time in Finland every year with their children and, this year, their dog.

Heather had all of her ducks in a row — paperwork, timely tapeworm treatment — but couldn’t get Sisu’s travel papers stamped by the local USDA office for two reasons:

Glitch #1: “[M]y dog had a microchip — correct 15-digit type — and got his rabies vaccine after the chip was in place. But the microchip had been placed by my breeder’s vet before I picked him up, and I had no signature or official record of the date. This was extremely important to the USDA official.” Make sure your pet’s chip is properly documented, with signature and date; otherwise, you’ll need to re-chip, and potentially re-vaccinate, your pup.

Glitch #2: “[M]y vet and her two colleagues all claimed to be USDA certified. They were not. All of them had overlooked a new class that needed to be done in order to retain their certification.” Heather suggests “hav[ing] your vet double check with the USDA office that they are still on ‘the list’!” And you can check too, by calling your local USDA office and seeing if your vet is on the list. If not, ask the USDA office for names of certified vets in your area.

This could have been a very sad story, since both problems presented themselves at the last moment, on the Friday before Heather’s Monday departure. I was relieved to see there was a happy ending: “[A]fter a very nervous weekend, I was able to get all the signatures and paperwork in place again, revisited the USDA office at 9am Monday, and boarded our SAS flight with no hitches.”

And the happiest ending of all? “Sisu was a terrific flyer, got to walk around in the Stockholm airport, and relieved himself in Helsinki 12 hours after being put in his Sturdibag. Of course, no one checked his papers when we got there! Sisu is enjoying the freedom of a cabin on an island and will be shocked to return to city life.”

Thank you so much, Heather, for letting me and other Dog Jaunt readers know about these two hazards — and how to avoid them.


  • Kristina

    I have to agree, when we went to France no one looked at our dogs papers at all! The next test is attempting London.

  • Renee — How to Fly Your Dog to Europe

    Yikes. The same thing happened to us when we were flying with our dog to the Netherlands. The CFIA (Canadian equiv to USDA) vet wanted proof of the chip date, but the breeder had done it before I got the dog, and there were no records. It didn’t matter that my dog’s vet had scanned his microchip before vaccinating him…the CFIA wanted additional proof. We spent two days dealing with it and, like Heather, almost didn’t get stamped in time. A really stressful experience.

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