Since we struggled and struggled for well over a year to learn everything that needed to be known (or so we hope) about transporting pets, trailers, cars and people from the U.S. to the U.K., I thought I would create a few posts that might be helpful to others thinking of doing the same.
This one is for dogs (obviously) - there will be another one for Cars and Trailers, but, alas, nothing for people as you all know what there is to know about that. However, I would advise not losing your passport three weeks before your flight and having your Certificate of Naturalization locked away in a safety deposit box in California when you are in Texas; but other than that, I don't think we have anything special to share.
Basics on Dogs - Preparation Steps:
1) In 2012 getting dogs into the U.K. from the U.S. became much easier, so forget all the horror stories you have heard about quarantine and learn the new stuff.
2) Bookmark the DEFRA website - Traveling with Pets, specifically the Pet Travel Scheme, read all the documentation, including the actual form (and notes) for the Third Country Veterinary form.
3) Bookmark the APHIS/USDA website - Importing/Exporting Animals and read everything relating to exporting dogs from the U.S.
4) Make sure you are flying on an approved carrier and on an approved route (we did British Air out of Houston.)
5) Find a nice, helpful Vet, preferably one with exporting knowledge.
Definitely read all you can from each website multiple times, sometimes the language is very difficult to follow, although they clearly did a better job in 2012 than 2003.
Basics on Dogs - The Required Steps:
For getting into the U.K. from the U.S., it has become quite simple (this is offered as an introduction -- be sure you understand and follow the guidelines from the websites above):
1) Get your dog micro-chipped - must be with an international chip as some chips used the U.S. are not readable by the European devices.
2) After micro-chipping, get it vaccinated for rabies - very important! This must happen after the micro-chipping.
3) Get a signed letter from your Vet stating the date of the micro-chipping, the date of the vaccination and all pertinent vaccination information required by the Third Country Veterinary Form. Make sure the letter states the dogs' micro-chip number.
4) Ten (10) days before departure, get a Third Country Veterinary Form and an International Health Certificate filled out by a Vet--it doesn't have to be the same vet who performed the micro-chipping and rabies vaccination. The Vet will need originals of the letter mentioned above and the certificate of rabies vaccination.
5) Five (5) or fewer days before departure get your dog treated for Tapeworm. Must be administered by the vet--be sure the treatment includes the active ingredient listed in the Third Country Veterinary Form.
6) Get your documents certified by APHIS/USDA: The Third Country Veterinary form, the International Health Certificate form, the letter from your vet stating the date of the micro-chipping, and a signed rabies vaccination certificate must be mailed to the local ASPHIS/USDA office for a certification stamp. The vet who prepared the forms should send this out for you overnight with tracking, including the fees and a return overnight label.
As I mentioned, we are flying on British Air. They have you drop your dogs at BA World Cargo four hours before your flight. The dogs do fly on the same plane as you, but are handled by the World Cargo staff. More information about traveling with pets on British Air can be found here on their website.
Hopefully our preparation will pay off and all four of us will be landing in Heathrow (and be able to leave) on February 28!
UPDATE: Getting the Pet Passports completed in London turned out to be a great idea. They were required when we boarded the ferry to France and, now in other countries, many campgrounds require them as well.