Thursday, December 8, 2011

Health Certificates and Other Required Documentation

Most cruise lines require similar information outlined in the earlier Blog Post “Qualifying as a Service Dog.”  All of the documentation outlined below should be carried with you, as well as sent ahead to the airline, cruise line and, if required, the governmental authority governing immigration of service dogs.
Letter from Your Doctor Regarding How your dog supports your Medical Disability. Service animals must be individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. According to the U.S Department of Justice a Service Animal is not an animal whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional well-being. In order to bring your service animal onboard, you must submit a letter outlining what medical services your service animal provides you on a daily basis.  This should be written and signed by your medical doctor on your doctor's letterhead (not a presecrption pad).
Microchip. Many destinations require that your dog be microchipped.  See my earlier blog post on microchipping for more details.  Honestly, this is a really good idea if you are travelling, regardless of whether it is required.  It is the most helpful thing you can do to make sure if your dog gets separated from you, your dog is returned!
Current Vaccinations.  You must provide proof of current vaccinations.  Most veterinarians will provide a health certificate documenting that your dog’s vaccinations are all current and the dog is in good health generally.  The dog must have current rabies vaccination. (Documentation of the vaccination must include the product name, the lot or serial number, and the expiration date of the lot.)
Rabies Test.  Most cruise lines and other transportation companies do not require a rabies test, but some destinations do!  Specifically, Hawaii requires that prior to arrival the dog must have passed one OIE-FAVN test after 12 months of age, with a level of 0.5 I.U. rabies antibody or greater.  The laboratory will not perform the tests unless the microchip number accompanies the test request form. A passing test result is valid for three (3) years.  What they didn’t tell me, was that the test requires 25 days to complete!  I found out the hard way, that … for an extra fee… the test can be expedited, but still takes approximately 14 days for the expedited results.  (By the way, the test isn’t cheap!  Count on at least $200 for the test, and an extra $100 for expediting!) My strong recommendation is that this special test be performed at least three months in advance of your travel to allow enough time for test completion, and allow enough time, just in case something goes wrong with the test!
Flea and Tick Control.  While most destinations do not require this, some destinations (including Hawaii) do require certification by your veterinarian of your dog being treated with a long acting tick controller.  Hawaii requires a health certificate issued not more than 30 days prior to arrival, attesting that the dog was treated within 14 days of arrival with a product containing Fipronil or an equivalent long-acting product labeled to kill ticks.

USDA Form 7001. Some travel carriers (airlines and cruise lines) do not require this form at all.  Some do.  Check with your carrier early!  Of those that do, some only require the form be signed by your accredited veterinarian.  That is the case with Cunard.  However, some also require that the form be endorsed by the USDA!  To receive endorsement, the original form needs to be delivered to the central USDA office in your state - in California with a $37.00 check (or credit card fee).  They will endorse this and return the original to you if you include a return envelope.  My later blog post (Another Form:  USDA Health Form 7001) describes the procedure in more detail (my carrier requirede this form at the last minute!).
Your itinerary may include ports of call that have very specific and strict requirements that must be met, prior to your service animal being allowed off of the ship. Be sure you understand the requirements for a service animal to disembark in each port of call. Specific information on required documentation and immunizations for your service animal may be obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, local customs offices in the specific ports and from your service animal’s veterinarian. You may also wish to review the information on what is required for ports of call at PetTravel.com.  If you are on your way to Hawaii with your service dog, the requirements can be found at the government website here. Please also see my blog post:  Special Planning for Cruising to Hawaii.

Aloha!

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