Pets and International Travel

Attention Foreign Service pet owners! New airline rules impact shipment of pets from post to post!
The Transition Center advises pet owners to review carefully their travel plans for upcoming international moves. Whether returning to the United States or moving overseas, pet owners need to determine an airline carriers pet policies on live animals as excess baggage, cargo, and in-cabin before booking your pet.

The DOS Transportation Office has added clarification with regard to the GSA Waiver on pet travel. If United cannot guarantee shipment of the pet to the point of destination (interlining), then FS pet owners are authorized to use another carrier with some caveats (i.e., if in Europe must use an EU airline) and they may have to cost construct the difference between the United contract passenger fare and the other airline passenger fare.

Stay posted with updates about United and their pet shipping policies for Foreign Service employees PCSing on official orders by checking the AFSA website frequently.

The Transition Center will continue to post any new developments with regard to these policies on our website. It is important for pet owners to determine which carrier has the contract for their travel route and what the expenses will be.

Customs and Border Protection News for Pets Entering the U.S. as Cargo
If a pet owner ships a pet to the U.S. as cargo using a pet shipper, and the pet owner plans on having the pet collected by a professional shipper, the pet owner should download CBP Form 7501. After completing the appropriate sections of this form, the owner should fax or scan this information along with a copy of the airway bill, the health certificate papers and a copy of the owners driver's license or passport to the pet shipper. The shipper can deliver this form and accompanying papers to the Custom's office at the airport prior to the pet's arrival. In essence, this will mean that the owner is authorizing clearance—not the shipper. This avoids the need to hire a customs broker. A friend or family member may collect and clear the pet without this form because they are not being paid for this service.

Airline policies regarding other pets may vary; contact airlines directly for additional information. For information regarding the regulations of service animals/service dogs in air transportation, check the website The travel policies of U.S. airlines with regard to shipping animals are subject to change at any time. These policies are much more restrictive than in past years. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policy regarding the shipment of pets traveling as cargo on passenger planes should also be carefully reviewed; and if your pet must be shipped as cargo using a commercial shipper, it is important to contact one early. The information below provides only general guidelines; it is crucial that you review all considerations with the airline and, if necessary, the pet shipper you plan to use. OBC recommends that you request written confirmation of reservations you make for pet shipment.

There are three ways you can ship your pet via the airlines:

  1. Your pet can travel on the plane with you (either in-cabin or in the cargo). In either case, your pet will be considered excess/accompanied baggage and charged accordingly. Some airlines no longer offer this option.
  2. You can book your pet on a separate flight. In this case, you will be charged the cargo rate, which is considerably more than excess baggage. Some airlines no longer offer this option.
  3. You can have your pet shipped through a licensed commercial shipper. You will be charged the cargo rate plus the shipper's fee. Several airlines require this method unless your pet is small enough to fit in the cabin.

Note: As a rule, animals 100 lbs. or larger (including the weight of the cage) will be charged as cargo even if they travel on the same plane as you. It is important to check with the airline if your pet is close to that weight and to determine if its policy may vary from this general 100 lb. rule.

Also see the Overseas Briefing Center's handout on Labeling Tips for Your Pet's Travel Carrier.


Pet owners should also consider the possibility of emergency situations while overseas that could require rapid departure or shipping of a pet. Take time to think about the resources your pet(s) might need and consider options for sheltering them in-country as well as making plans for departure on short notice. The resource sheet below from the Overseas Briefing Center offers tips and topics to assist you in planning for emergency needs for your pet.

Preparing a Pet for Evacuation


Typically, airlines require pet health certificates that are no older than 10 days, even if the receiving country accepts an older one. Some countries, however, require a health certificate to be even less than 10 days. This is an important point to check.

American Airlines
Reservations: 1 (800) 433-7300
Air Cargo Section: 1 (800) 227-4622

USG employees or family members may call the Overseas Briefing Center at 703-302-7277 for information on airline restrictions.

Reservations: 1 (800) 241-4141
Live Animal Desk: 1 (888) 736-3738 or 1 (888) SEND PET or 1 (866) 782-2746

USG employees or family members may call the Overseas Briefing Center at 703-302-7277 for information on airline restrictions.

United Airlines
International Reservations: 1 (800) 538-2929
Live Cargo: 1 (800) 825-3788

USG employees or family members may call the Overseas Briefing Center at 703-302-7277 for information on airline restrictions.