When I moved to France permanently from the USA to live with my husband Julien, we brought my three year old Maltese dog, Bear, back with us. Traveling from the USA to France with a small dog (17 pounds or under 8 kilo) is easy, as they can travel in the cabin. A larger dog either needs to go into the cargo hold or be accepted as a companion animal for nervous fliers. Travel in cargo will require more organization and is generally seasonal but using standard airlines will be more cost effective than a professional animal transportation service.
Since living in Europe, Bear has travelled all over – from France, Spain, to Reunion Island, and Rome. She’s lived the life and is a really great cabin dog and travel companion. Her first few trips we gave her a light tranquilizer to calm her nerves before the flight, but now she walks right into her bag and settles in for a nap during the travel. Finding places to relive her is probably the trickiest part as locations and availability vary in different airports and countries.
Our dog has a Petlink chip and tag on her collar which is great and has come in handy. It lists a website people can check for all of her contact information. Once she was being watched in Paris and the people didn’t even realize she was missing…but we got the call from the person who found her while we were in the USA and were able to get her back with the caretaker. Phew!
*Please note, if you are traveling round-trip from USA-France or vice-versa for holidays (not long term), you do not need to go to a vet again before returning home. (example) If you have gone to the vet before traveling on holiday to France and are then up to date on shots, keep that paperwork handy for your return home to the USA. You do not need to visit a vet in France before going home to the USA.
We use Air France or KLM to fly internationally, double check your airline as not all airlines allow animals on board or will not allow during the summer months in cargo. The bag, plus dog, needs to be no more than 8kilo and Bear is just able to slip through each time. It needs to be soft sided and big enough for them to turn around (each airline has the specific dimensions on their site). The cost is 125 EURO each way to be paid when checking in on Air France, however be sure to book the place for your dog well in advance by calling the airline.
Certain breeds are also prevented from traveling onboard, like pugs and short nosed breeds.
Information for Air France is here
Information for KLM is here
USDA information here and they are relatively good at writing back if you have specific questions
Flying from the US to FRANCE or SPAIN:
Your dog or cat will need to be chipped and updated on all of their vaccines and rabies. The certificate from the USA needs to be done by a USDA approved veterinarian, but don’t worry as your normal veterinarian should be able to send the information away to be certified before you travel. If time is tight, you might have to drive to the USDA veterinarian.
Flying from FRANCE or SPAIN to USA :
Your dog will need to be up to date with all of their vaccines and especially rabies and the certificate needs to be signed by a veterinarian less than a week before flying to the USA. Most dogs in Europe will have a passport with all of their vaccine, medicines and surgeries listed. The test to verify her rabies validity takes time to get done in Spain, so give your vet a heads up.
Different Countries, Different Rules :
FRANCE It’s interesting to see how different European countries respond to dogs, we have found France to be less friendly with dogs walking on grass (finding dog parks is tricky in city) but they are welcome in restaurants and often given water as well. You will find dogs everywhere, and their mess, but legally you need to be picking up. Dogs can go into the metro/buses but should be on a leash or muzzled if larger (you’ll want to carry your smaller dog to keep them safe).
SPAIN When we lived in Barcelona, there were lots of dog parks for her to run around and enjoy…but she couldn’t join us at dinner. Keep that in mind and be sure to bring your travel bag with you so you don’t miss your dinner reservation. We were lucky and had a really friendly vet on Carrer de Brusi who was great to Bear and also would watch her when we went away. Taxis and public transport accept animals but be sure to keep them on a leash. The word for ‘pet’ in spanish is ‘mascota‘, and she certainly is our mascot!
ITALY She only went with us to Rome, but servers always gave her water and one restaurant even gave her a bowl of home cooked meats! We had no problems in most areas, but she did need to be in a bag while in taxis and on the bus from the hotel. Public transport is not an issue.
Travel during COVID :
From our experience, it is essentially business as usual for booking and bringing our dog into the USA and back. Our flights were cancelled multiple times and each time we had to call separately to rebook her onto the new flight. The one problem we had was in Amsterdam, which had closed its outdoor spaces in the terminal and she had no place to officially go between flights. Poor girl had to just go in the terminal and of course we cleaned up, so be sure to bring extra paper towels and antibacterial wipes for accidents.