Bringing my Animal to the USA
If you’re planning on moving to the USA, and your family includes a four legged friend, there are three main options available to you:
- Using a Pet Shipping Firm
- By Sea – QM2
You also need to consider the USA regulations, both federal and state level. Certain dogs are not easy to import into certain states – search on “Breed Specific Legislation”. Here are some links to USA regulations:
This is written primarily for cats and dogs – some of the links will be useful for other animals, but I would recommend getting in touch with a shipping firm.
 Using a Pet Shipping Firm
This is the easiest, lowest stress solution. These people have done it before, and they know what they are doing. They offer just shipping services through to everything up to delivery to and from an address, so you have the option of going over to the USA, leaving the family pet(s) at home with friends/relatives and then getting them shipped over once you have accommodation set up. They will also deal with all the paperwork should you want them to.
Depending on the airline you use, this may be your only option. For example, British Airways pretty much require a pet to be shipped as
BE members have used various firms, including:
Quotes vary, but you can reasonably assume about £750 - 1,500 for a dog, depending on size – PBS (http://www.shipyourpet) could be a bit cheaper than this using a more basic service, i.e. you provide the travel crate etc or Silver Birch who are a smaller independent company with lower overheads
Depending on the airline you are flying with, this may be a pretty easy option. People have recently used the following airlines in a DIY way:
In the cabin vs. hold
Very few airlines seem to offer the option, but it may not be an outright ban. If your dog is a small dog (smaller than about 10 lbs to allow for the carrier) you may be able to take them on as hand luggage. Whether you want the hassle of a dog on a 7+ hour flight is up to you, but it is an option. The same can apply to cats, though the higher potential for allergies may mean in the hold with some airlines.
For all others you are going to be using the hold. You will need an IATA compliant kennel (such as a Varikennel). It would be safer to assume all animals have to travel in the hold at this point.
There is no straightforward answer on this. The PETS scheme (pet passport) is a must if you are planning on going back to the EU with the animal. This generally requires a microchip and a rabies immunization and follow on test. The rabies test is expensive – think £150 - £200. If you are immigrating to the USA with no intention on coming back then it is possible that you don’t need it but this can depend on the carrier. If circumstances change once you are in the USA you can get a pet passport from abroad.
Also, the airline requirements vary on what is/isn’t required to fly with them. As a minimum, you will likely need a fitness to fly certificate from the vet, issued a matter of days before the flight. Some airlines websites are thorough, others not so much. The likelihood is that the airline will require more paperwork than the USA will.
The main advantage of the DIY method is cost. You may be able to do it for as little as a quarter of what you would be quoted by a pet transport company. Be prepared for multiple discussions with airline staff on the phone, as well as conflicting information. Get everything in writing!
KLM guidelines as at Feb 2013:
 By Sea – QM2
Some BE members have also used the Queen Mary 2 to cross to New York. This is an additional option that may work for some people. The paperwork required isn’t different. As the QM2 is the only option, it makes sense to go straight to their website.
 Other Considerations
External temperature – depending on the time of year, it may be too hot/cold for the animal to be transported. The cut offs vary from carrier to carrier and airport to airport. It may also depend on the plane being used.
Paperwork – get everything in writing where possible. Paperwork will be your friend at the airport, should you go the DIY method. Don’t expect every airport employee to be as familiar with the rules as you are at the end of this.
Where to pick them up at the airport – generally at oversize baggage. They will probably be sat there in the crate waiting for you by the time you clear immigration.
Customs – you will have to go through the equivalent of “something to declare” in the USA with the animal. This is not a painful process, especially coming from the UK as it is “rabies free”. Any unsealed dry food left uneaten/attached to the crate will be confiscated at this point.
Vets – try and find a vet who is experienced in shipping animals – they will be an invaluable resource.
Liability insurance (an umbrella policy) – something to think about at least- you are moving to a very litigious country.