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Germany was recently named the most powerful passport in the world, allowing visa-free access to 177 countries. While it can be hard for us humans to get one, my cat Grace now has her official German passport. This German-issued EU Pet Passport allows her easy entry, exit and transit through European Union countries, as well as a few other countries. Now, our cat can enter the EU more easily and freely than we can.

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What Is an EU Pet Passport?

The EU Pet Passport is a universal document that contains all of a pet’s identifying, ownership and medical information. The passport is designed to be issued to a dog, cat or ferret once it’s first taken to an EU veterinarian and vaccinated, but it’s also commonly expected when traveling with these animals throughout the EU.

Sections I and II contain ownership information and a description of the animal. If there are multiple owners, each owner fills out a section — the passport has enough room for six owners. There’s room to include a picture of your pet, but the picture is optional.

Sections III and IV include information about the markings of the animal — in the form of a 15-digit microchip or visible tattoo — and about the authorized EU veterinarian who issued the pet passport.

Section V includes a listing of rabies vaccinations given by an authorized EU veterinarian since the passport was issued.

Sections VI through X are generally optional. Section VI is for results of a rabies antibody titration test, Section VII is for anti-echinococcus treatment, Section VIII is for other parasite treatments, Section IX is for other vaccinations and Section X is for results of clinical examination.

Where Is the EU Pet Passport Accepted?

All EU countries accept the EU Pet Passport as long as it includes details of a valid anti-rabies vaccination. Note that some EU countries have additional vaccination requirements. A few non-EU countries including Switzerland and Norway also accept the EU Pet Passport.

Some, but not all, other countries will accept the EU Pet Passport in leu of a health certificate and/or vaccination certificate. When traveling to or from non-EU countries, double check the requirements before traveling.

Why Get an EU Pet Passport?

Travelers need an European Union Health Certificate issued by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian to initially take a pet into the EU. This certificate is valid for travel throughout the EU for four months, until you leave the EU or until your pet’s rabies vaccination expires. However, this form can be expensive to obtain, requires visiting a veterinarian within 10 days of your flight to Europe and must be certified by the USDA — in other words, it’s a cumbersome process laden with red tape that I don’t want to go through again.

Luckily, the EU Pet Passport — if kept valid, as discussed below — can save travelers from having to obtain a new EU Health Certificate every time they travel with their pet to Europe. It also makes traveling within Europe easy, as it’s what airlines, train conductors, hotels and other operators in Europe expect to see.

Note that even with the EU Pet Passport, some airlines require a veterinary certificate dated within three to ten days of travel. I’d avoid these airlines due to the extra hassle, but if you can’t then find out exactly what they require. Airline check-in agents tend to check pet paperwork carefully — much more carefully than US or EU customs and agriculture agents, which haven’t asked to see Grace’s paperwork yet.

How to Get an EU Pet Passport

EU Pet Passports can only be issued by an authorized EU veterinarian, so you can’t get one in the US. Luckily, most veterinarians in European Union countries are authorized and able to issue pet passports.

Grace flew into Germany two months ago on Lufthansa. Lufthansa checked her EU Health Certificate, but I didn’t need to show the paperwork again until I visited an authorized EU veterinarian to get her EU Pet Passport.

Finding a Veterinarian

I used Google Maps to search for veterinarians in Frankfurt, Germany. I narrowed my choices down to veterinarians that (1) are near S-bahn metro stations, (2) have many reviews and a total rating of over 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Maps and (3) have English sections on their website. My search yielded two veterinarians in Frankfurt.

Although the veterinarian closer to my hotel didn’t answer when I called, someone at the second veterinarian, TierarztPraxis Dr. Doermer, answered the phone in German. I nervously asked whether the person on the other end of the line spoke English and got a “yes, of course” — which tends to be a common answer to this question. I specifically asked whether the veterinarian could issue EU Pet Passports for travelers — when I was told yes, I scheduled an appointment for later in the day.

The Visit to the Veterinarian

The veterinarian’s assistant was waiting for us when I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment. There was a short in-take form to fill out, which was unfortunately in German. I used Google Translate’s live camera translation feature to translate the form.

I gave the form and my EU Health Certificate to the assistant. About five minutes later the veterinarian came into the waiting room and asked — in English — who needed the passport. He informed us that, unfortunately, Grace would need to be vaccinated against rabies again in order for him to issue an EU Pet Passport for her. I expected that this might be the case, so I agreed to go ahead.

The veterinarian and his assistant prepared the passport and then called Grace into the exam room. He scanned and confirmed Grace’s microchip number, listened to her heart, weighed her, did a quick exam and then vaccinated her.

Grace with her new EU Pet Passport.
Grace with her new EU Pet Passport.

I’d expected that the veterinarian would only accept cash, so was surprised when I found I could pay with a credit card. The rabies vaccination and the pet passport cost 75 euros (about $89) total. I used the Chase Sapphire Reserve since it has no foreign transaction fees.

How to Keep the Passport Valid

EU Pet Passports are good for the life of the pet as long as the rabies vaccinations listed in the passport never lapse. The main caveat for those who aren’t EU-based is that all of the rabies vaccinations must be administrated by an authorized EU veterinarian. Hence, in order to keep your EU Pet Passport valid you’ll need to make sure to get your pet re-vaccinated in the EU as needed to prevent lapses.

Throughout the EU Pet Passport, some sections can only be competed by an “authorized veterinarian,” which means an authorized EU veterinarian. If anyone besides an authorized EU veterinarian makes an entry in these sections, the passport becomes invalid. Other sections merely ask for a “veterinarian,” meaning that any licensed veterinarian — including those in the US — can complete these sections.

Bottom Line

As travel can be stressful for pets, only take your pet overseas if you’re going on an extended trip or relocating. And, if you’re going on an extended trip or relocating to Europe, you’ll likely want and need to get an EU Pet Passport once you get there. Having the passport will simplify travel to, from and throughout the EU — although you should still check the policies of each country you visit and airline you fly to make sure you have the appropriate paperwork for your pet.

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