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2048x447 parrot 1 on A Step-by-Step Guide to the International Pet Transport Process - International Pet Shipping from Feathers & Fur Express


Step-by-Step Guide to International Pet Transport

750x400 – parrot 1 on A Step-by-Step Guide to the International Pet Transport Process - International Pet Shipping from Feathers & Fur Express

This should be done BEFORE hiring a pet shipper. 

Watch how to measure your pet correctly here.

Crate size measurements

Once you have your pet’s details in place, you’re ready to request a quote and start reviewing the services we can offer for your travel needs. Our quoting department will get back to you within one to two business days while we gather the safest and most cost-effective route for your pet. When you are ready to move forward, you will accept the quote and pay the deposit. 

Payment Schedule:

  • A $1000 deposit (plus the cost of the crate) is due when the reservation is made more than 30 days before transport.
  • 50% of the balance due 30 days before transport (if making a booking within 30 days of departure, please pay 50% of the contract amount)
  •  100% of the balance is due 10 days before transport

Payment Options: credit card, debit card, ACH bank transfer, Zelle, or wire transfer.

Shortly after you hire us, you will receive an email with a link to join our secure portal. Once you have created your account, you can also download the app to your phone. Watch the app tutorial and welcome video here.  

Once logged into the portal, you will find a checklist of documents needed for your pet’s travel. You will be able to upload those documents directly to our portal. All pertinent communications and documents will be uploaded/shared through our portal to ensure our entire team can access the information and help you if needed.  We handle all communications and document sharing through our portal.

Access the portal through the following links:

Each country will have a list of requirements for pets to enter.  That information will be shared with you by your assigned pet shipper.  At a minimum, every pet will need a rabies vaccination. 

The Rabies Vaccination Certificate must include all the following information:

  • Name and address of the owner
  • Breed, sex, date of birth (approximate age if date of birth unknown), color, and markings of pet
  • ISO-compatible microchip number (when a microchip is required)
  • Vaccine product name, manufacturer, lot number, vile expiration date
  • Date of rabies vaccination and next vaccine due date
  • Name, license number, and address of the veterinarian that administered the vaccine
  • Signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccine

We provide templates to be used for vaccinations if needed:

We will send you a link to an order form that requests your pet’s ideal departure date, the pet owner’s legal names, addresses, contact information, etc.  We will use this information to personalize your pet’s travel plan, book the flight, and prepare the health documents. 

Your ideal departure date can change at any time as long as we have not already booked the flight. Please note that all flights are first come first serve, and we cannot guarantee the booking until we have requested the flight. Most airlines allow flight requests within 7-20 days of departure.  We usually can get bookings on the date we request or within plus or minus one day. We will request your pet’s flight on the first date available and provide that information to you as soon as we have it.

The health certificate exam should be scheduled well in advance to get the most ideal appointment date and time.  Please discuss the ideal date with your assigned pet shipper before scheduling.  Each country has a specific timeline for when the health certificate can be completed before travel. Keep in mind, that the USDA will need to endorse the documents as well, so the USDA turnaround time will need to be considered.

For pets traveling non-commercial to the EU, we typically recommend a morning appointment 8-9 days before travel.  For pet/s traveling commercial to the EU, the exam should be in the morning 2 days before travel.

We will provide your veterinarian with the items below before the exam:

  • Pre-completed health certificate
  • FedEx overnight label to get the USDA-endorsed documents back
  • Supplemental health records (rabies, etc)
  • USDA payment details
  • Instructions for the signing of the health certificate and final submission to the USDA

The documents can be submitted to the USDA via two options:

Option 1: VEHCS, the USDA’s online portal

  • After the examination of your pet and documents, your veterinarian will upload the signed health certificate via the USDA online portal (VEHCS). We will have pre-uploaded all other items to VEHCS and drafted the submission to simplify the process for your veterinarian. Only your veterinarian can submit the final documents via VEHCS using their digital signature.
  • The USDA will review the health certificate and supplemental documents within 1-4 business days of receiving them. If the USDA needs any changes, they will reject the submission and require your vet to resubmit the corrections. This does not double the timeline, as the USDA prioritizes the re-submissions and typically reviews them the same day.
  • Once the USDA confirms all health documents are correct and in good order, they will print the health certificate, sign, and stamp/endorse.
  • Our pre-paid FedEx label will be used to overnight the endorsed health certificate back to you/us.

Option 2: FedEx overnight mail

Occasionally, a veterinarian prefers to overnight the items to the USDA. The process will unfold very similarly, but if the USDA needs a correction to the health certificate, we may need to mail the correction overnight as well. Some items can be emailed to the USDA, such as if they want a change on a supplemental document.

Prepare the items required to travel with your pet. View the departure list below.

If you have opted for home pickup, we typically arrange to pick up the day of the flight or the day before depending on the drive time and the flight check-in time.  We typically schedule local pickups shortly before the check-in time.  If needed, we board pets with our drivers at their homes or a local boarding facility depending on what works best for the individual.  We will provide a timeframe for pickup as we get closer to the departure date and all plans are solidified.

DHPP and Bordetella are required for dog boarding (plus CIV for LAX departures), and FVRCP is required for cats.

One of our team members will meet you at the airport for the check-in, so you will not be on your own to handle the process.  Please ensure you bring the items listed on the checklist, and we will ensure everything is in good order before the check-in is complete. If you are providing your crate, please assemble it before the meet-up time.  

Depending on each airline’s policy, pets must be checked into their flight 4-7 hours before departure.  Once the check-in is complete, pets do not exit their crate until they land at the next location.  Pets are kept in the warehouse under the supervision of the airline cargo staff, or in an interior room until they are ready to be loaded onto the aircraft.  They will be kept in an area with the presence of humans, so the temperature will remain tolerable for everyone, human and pet alike.

We only work with airlines with a proven track record and commitment to keeping animals safe. Each airline maintains the temperature and pressure of the pet cargo hold to be similar to that of a passenger cabin. Your pet will not be stuck in their crate if a layover flight is required. They will be given water, food, and ample space, similar to a stay at a boarding facility.

Most pets do arrive thirsty and tired.  Keep in mind that although pet travel is safe, it is still stressful for pets. Despite the availability of food at the layover, it’s common for pets to skip meals during their journey. The stress associated with travel can significantly reduce their appetite, leading them to ignore the food provided. However, hydration is less commonly neglected.  Most animals will drink some of the water provided to them during transit, but they still do arrive thirsty after the final leg of the flight.

You can read our article about air travel safety for your pet here.

Tracking will be similar to that of FedEx or UPS, with system updates when your pet departs and lands at each location.  We will not get direct communications from the airline, as they deal with a large volume of pets and do not give individual status updates beyond tracking. Note that sometimes there is a lag in notifications or system updates. This does not mean that your pet did not depart. System delays are common, as they are not automated.  A person must register that the “cargo” has departed.  If any issues, delays, or flight changes arise, the airline will update the flight information in the system. It’s very rare to have issues arise after pets depart, so please do not stress over this or expect anything out of the ordinary.  Your pet is in good hands!

There are two pathways for clearing your pet through customs once they land:

Hired Customs Clearance

If you hire us to arrange customs clearance, you will be provided the direct contact information for the agent on the ground at the destination before your pet(s) depart the USA. The agent will handle all communications with the airline and customs on your behalf, and they will also contact you once your pet has been released by customs. Customs clearance can take several hours and is country dependent. If you opt for home delivery, the agent will contact you when they are on their way.

Self-customs clearance process

General advice is to arrive 1 hour after your pet lands to begin the clearance process. If your pet is arriving in the evening, confirm that customs will be open and the best pickup time with the destination. It could take up to 6 hours for the process to complete (longer for Central and South American countries), but usually takes closer to 2-4 hours. The airline will direct you through the process, which typically involves walking or driving (depending on airport size) back and forth to customs to pay fees, submit paperwork, and wait time. We do not advise on the detailed customs clearance process, as we cannot be in all countries at all times. We do offer an optional add-on for customs clearance, in which case we hire a trusted company on the ground at your destination to handle the process for you. Your pet will travel with all of the required health documents needed to clear customs. At a minimum, you will need to arrive with the AWB number, your passport, proof of your own travel and residency. You should have received an email communication or phone call from the airline to confirm that you will be there to pick up your pet (ok2fwd), and that would be the best contact for further questions. We highly recommend you confirm the items needed, fees, how to pay, the pickup time and address with the airline and customs so the process goes as smoothly as possible, thus minimizing the time your pet is in the crate waiting. DO THIS IN ADVANCE! Let us know if you are having trouble contacting the airline to obtain the needed information.

Fees Due at the Airport

Expect to pay approximately $200 in miscellaneous fees at the time of pickup. Fees vary depending on the airport, number of pets, etc. If you need the exact fees in advance, please contact customs at your destination directly to inquire. If you have opted for our company to provide customs clearance, all fees are included except for import tax, which is commonly waived). 

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We’ll treat your pets as our own

Every team member at FFexpress is also a pet parent, so we know just how important your fur baby is to you. We only use the best airlines and facilities to ensure your pet is receiving the best care possible.

If you require more information, please Contact Us