Categorized | PCS-ing, Pets

PCSing Our Pet Pooches

CONTRIBUTED BY AMANDA PAPENFUS

PCSing Pets; germanyja.com

We have two dogs, a two-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Gir and a seven-month-old Miniature Pinscher named Apollo. When we decided to bring them to Germany when we PCSed, all we knew was that we would have to arrange and pay for their transportation and that we would need to have them seen by a veterinarian before we took them over to make sure they had current shots and to obtain certain papers for their shipment. Like everything else in this move, there were several steps in the process.

First Veterinarian Appointment

A local animal hospital had a coupon for a free checkup for up to two pets, so we took them for an appointment on to get started about three months before our PCS date.

First, each dog has to be up to date on its rabies shot (which can’t have been less than 30 days or more than a year old) and have a microchip implanted. The microchip is inserted with a 10g needle and contains identifying information, which the veterinarian has the owner fill out on a form. We had recently bought Apollo, so he needed to have both done. He yelped in pain at the microchip insertion but barely seemed to notice the rabies shot.

Pet microchipping is pretty standard in Florida, and Gir had already had one implanted when I bought her there. She’d had her rabies shot, which would still be less than a year old by the time we got to Germany. While her shot is effective for three years, Germany only recognizes one year shots, so I figured I would have to get her one after we got there, but not before. I thought, for her, we were only there for a checkup.

As it turned out, the veterinarian couldn’t read the microchip Gir had. The girl there who specializes in international pet travel said she only knows of a couple brands (Datamars and Trovan) that are guaranteed to be read by the scanners used in Germany. I found out later that, whatever brand one uses, the microchip must be a 15-digit microchip which operates at 134.2 kHz and conforms to ISO (International Standards Organization) Standards 11784/11785.

My options were to take the risk with the microchip Gir already had (and possibly have her denied entry if the microchip couldn’t be read), buy my own scanner (which would cost about $300) or get a new microchip (which was only about $35). So, we decided to get the new microchip. Since the rabies shot absolutely has to be administered after the microchip, she had to get that early as well. As with Apollo, the microchip obviously hurt Gir, and she actually bled a little. The rabies shot didn’t seem to bother her.

Next, we needed a European Union Veterinary Health Form 998 for each dog, which has to be in English and German. Fortunately these can be done up to four months before the trip, so the lady who handles the EU Veterinary Health Forms at the pet hospital said she could get started on that for us. She seemed knowledgeable about what needed to go on the form and promised to get it done and call us the following week.

The other document we will need is an International Health Certificate, but the health certificate can’t be done more than 10 days prior to the shipment of the dogs. We were told at the pet hospital that the veterinarian could do it when the time comes. However, if he does, he has to send the information out, and then it would have to be sent out for USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) approval and then sent back, and that would be cutting into time. If we went to the veterinarian on base or post (we didn’t even know there was one until he told us that), then it could all be done at the same time.

Flight Arrangements

I called Delta about two months before our flight to confirm our plane tickets and that our dogs were scheduled to come with us. I’m glad I did because I found out the tickets were confirmed, but there was no request for the dogs. The lady told me that they can put in a request as long as space is available, but first she needed to know the breed, weight, and pet carrier dimensions if the pets were riding in the cabin. I told her we have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who is about 30 lbs. and a Miniature Pinscher who is about 10 lbs. Both would be riding in the cargo hold.

She told me the kennels need to be big enough for the dogs to stand and turn around comfortably and ventilated on at least three sides. They also need to have a metal door, a food and water dish attached, and something absorbent lining the bottom. 

She said so far there was only one other pet traveling in the cargo hold on that flight, so there would be room for ours. She told me there is a temperature restriction for the cargo hold. They won’t take dogs when the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Then she said it’s actually 20 degrees minimum, but anything under 40 degrees requires veterinarian approval. We had picked up the European Union veterinary health forms required for their travel on October 18th, but had to wait to see the military veterinarian for their international health certificates. We couldn’t do this earlier than ten days before our flight, so we figured we could ask then if they could handle a lower temperature. We had also gotten Apollo a jacket to wear in case it was cold.

She reminded me the charge would be $200 per dog and could be paid at the counter when we check in and check our baggage.

pet carriers; PCSing Pets; germanyja.com

Pet Carriers

After the call, we went into PetCo to pick out the pet carriers. We picked one for Apollo first which is suitable for a dog up to a foot tall and we thought should have been more than big enough. The shell is plastic with a metal door. We bought a bigger version of the crate for Gir. Then we bought food bowls that screw to the door and water bottles similar to the ones used for gerbils.

We used the time between getting the carriers and our flight to acclimatize Gir and Apollo, enticing them in by filling the new food and water containers.

Second Veterinary Appointment

After we had confirmed request for our dogs to travel to Germany we thought all we had left to do was to get a new crate for Apollo and an international health certificate for both dogs.  We were told by our local vet the international health certificates can’t be done sooner than ten days before the travel date and can most easily done by a military veterinarian because the military veterinarian doesn’t have to send the form out to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) for approval whereas a civilian veterinarian does.

When we got to the military veterinarian, we found out that the European Union veterinary health form done by our local vet had been done incorrectly. Even if it had been done correctly, it would have had to be sent out to the USDA for it to be valid, which it hadn’t been. The receptionist also noted that the records given us for the dogs’ rabies shots did not include a rabies license number. Fortunately, since we at least had the dates and could verify the shots were administered after the microchip, they didn’t make us redo them. The military veterinarian said she couldn’t sign off on the civilian veterinarian’s observations and would need to start the process over and see both dogs to do their international health certificates and veterinary health forms.

She completed both of the required health certificates rather quickly. I’m not sure what took the other vet so long to do one, especially since they didn’t even do it correctly. She also gave us a Certificate of Acclimation stating he couldn’t be exposed to temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. We asked if there was any wiggle room with the lower temperature in case it was a couple degrees colder that day. She said Apollo doesn’t weigh enough and the flight is too long for it to be safe at a lower temperature. This is understandable and obviously we want the safest experience for our puppy, but it was worrisome because we didn’t know how cold it would be. The veterinarian let us bring Gir back with us later that day for all of the same forms, which also went quickly.

I wish we had known about the army veterinarian prior to going to VCA. In addition to knowing what to do and being speedy about it, they were cheaper. If we’d gotten the rabies shot there, it would have only been $10 and the microchip would have been $25. Overall, I was much happier with their service than the civilian doctor, and I was glad that we were able to get in and get everything done without having had an appointment.

All that was left was waiting for flight day and hoping the temperature forecast for 47 degrees would be accurate.

PCSing pets; germanyja.com

Flight and Arrival

We flew on civilian flights in the States and then to Frankfurt. Before we boarded our flight to Germany, Tim was called over to the desk and given paper tabs from the dogs’ kennels, which verified our dogs were already on board. After the trans-Atlantic flight we followed the general crowd to get to the baggage claim area where we saw our dogs off to the side in their crates. We looked around for a minute and saw no one, so we took our dogs and put them on a luggage cart with the carry-on baggage.

Before we arrived we were misinformed about the price for housing our dogs. We were told we would have to pay for them in temporary lodging as well as our permanent, on-post housing. In fact, we were only charged a $50 one-time fee and $3 per day per dog while we were in temporary housing. In our permanent on post housing, we do not pay anything for having our dogs).

Notes: Amanda originally posted about PCSing her dogs on her site, but has graciously shared the information in a slightly different form with us here. 

As of 1 Feb 2013, all pets will be charged a 55 Euro examination fee if they are arriving on the rotator. The charge will be slightly different if your pet arrives at Frankfurt or another civilian airport. See the article here for further information. 



3 Responses to “PCSing Our Pet Pooches”

  1. Very informative article. You all should check out what the guys at Schweinfurt are putting together. Apparently, the Army base there is closing and they have a closure blog addressing pets & PCSing — among many other transition topics. See: link to teamschweinfurt.wordpress.com.

  2. Kari says:

    If you’re from an area that is very familiar with international travel, your local vet might be much more familiar with the process. We’re a civilian government family now and do very little on bases, so we didn’t even realize that we could have gone on base. Our vet (near DC) actually had a girl who coordinated all international travel, relocations and PCS’s!

    You can can shell out a few extra bucks to overnight the forms to the USDA, call them to follow up, include a postage paid envelope, and have them overnight it back to you. I think I did it through the UPS store. You’re still biting your nails, but they came through for us. You just have to do it right away. We scheduled the vet 10 days out–the max–then mailed the forms. You’re allowed (in VA, at least) to go to the USDA yourself, but I couldn’t lose a day to do it.

    Different airlines have different requirements for the crates, etc. (some require all four sides be ventilated), so definitely get on the phone with them as soon as you make your flight arrangements.

    **When flying in hot/cold weather and running the risk of the airline rejecting the pet that day: you can get a limited power of attorney naming someone who is allowed to pick up your pet, and allowed to then release them to the airline, say, the next day when it is safe for them to fly. Typically people can’t stick around another day or so–orders have a date–so you’re basically authorizing someone you trust to allow them to ship unaccompanied.

    Some airlines allow active duty to check the pet in at the counter, while others require them to be checked in at the cargo terminal. For civilians traveling on orders: the airline rep on the phone might tell you to check your pet in at the counter (even if you specify that you are not active duty) and then you get there and they tell you to go to a totally different building because you’re not active duty – it happened to us!

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