PCSing Our Pet Pooches

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.