CONTRIBUTED BY MARISA NOVOBILSKI
When we first got our orders to Germany, it’s safe to say that we were excited, anxious, and more than ready for some new adventures overseas. We couldn’t wait to sell the house, pack the bags, and jump on a plane to begin our journey. However, alongside of this excitement was an overwhelming anxiety about ensuring that all of our family was able to join us overseas—including our four-legged little pup, Banjo.
There is a wealth of information online for those lucky enough to have their pets PCS at the same time as them, including these great posts by Amanda Papenfus about PSCing with pets and Linda Mensch’s top 6 PSCing Tips. Even the Air Force helps pet owners out by posting current changes in information for pet imports.
However, in our case, PCSing with the dog was not the best option. She had already endured three months of hotel living stateside (due to an early sale of our house), and instead of subjecting her to a few more months of closed quarters in TLF while we searched for a house, settled into work, and got acclimated to the area, we opted to leave Banjo with family, who would ship her to us once we were settled in our new home.
As a result, we had a few additional steps in the pet PCS process that I will share now, so that all other pet lovers will know that their four-legged friends can make it safely to Germany.
There are a number of posts (see above) that explain the veterinary and USDA requirements that need to be accomplished within a 10-day window of shipping your pet. I’m not going to rehash those here. Those steps will actually become the job of your shipper (or in my case, mom and dad), prior to sending the pet on the journey. However, you can get some things done before you leave your dog with family and jump on the plane for a new post—even if the pet will join you months later.
In our case, since Banjo already had a microchip and we knew it met European standards, we simply made an appointment at our local vet before we PCS’d for her annual check-up and rabies shot. Since the rabies shot had to come after the doctor ensured there is a microchip but more than 30-days prior to shipping, doing this now ensured that the dog would be cleared by the USDA once my parents were ready to ship her to us. We made sure to collect original copies of Banjo’s veterinary records, and we checked that the records included the date her microchip was implanted and the date she was rabies vaccinated along with our vet’s signature, since they would be needed in the near future by the USDA. We scanned and emailed copies of her records to ourselves, and we left the original documents with my parents and the dog for shipping. We also made sure to get her a hard-sided pet kennel. She needed one that was airline approved to make the journey, and it was much easier to find one that was the right size when she was with us.
Now That We’re Settled—Can you Send Us The Dog?
Since Banjo was staying with my parents in hot-hot-hot Phoenix, AZ and winter in Germany is cold-cold-cold, we knew there was a short window of time in which airlines could ship our pet. (In other words, if it is too hot or too cold at the origin or destination, animals cannot be shipped). So, as soon as we found a house and had the HHG and POV delivery, we began the actual pet-shipping process. This required some research and assistance from mom and dad stateside, who were a big help in the process. (In other words, make sure that whoever you leave your pet with knows that they will need to take some steps to help you out!)
Our initial plan was to use a pet shipping/export company. We quickly learned that while there are a number of these companies operating throughout Germany, the costs far exceeded our budget (anywhere from $1,500-$5,000). Luckily, there are other options, and in our case, we opted to ship Banjo via airline cargo. While you may picture your pet sitting in a cargo area on suitcases or trapped in a box, this is not the case. In fact, this is a very safe, reliable, and easy way to get your pet.
To start, we contacted the cargo departments of a number of airlines that shipped to Frankfurt: United Cargo, American Airlines Cargo, and Lufthansa. This was important as the base price of airfare differed depending upon the airline and date we wanted to send her to Germany. United had the best offer ($599 for the ticket plus $.50 per pound for the weight of the dog plus her crate). She would board the plane in Phoenix, change flights in Chicago, and then proceed directly to Germany. United pet handlers would feed and walk Banjo (*if requested) during the layover. We booked the flight over the phone and received an email from United with a list of pre-flight requirements. Banjo was almost on her way!
Ready for Flight
The next steps of the process actually required a lot of help from my parents. Banjo needed to visit the vet for a pre-flight checkup within 10 days of her journey. After the vet visit, my parents overnighted all of the dog’s original vet documents to their local USDA office, and the USDA vets reviewed it, stamped it, and sent it immediately back to them. Banjo’s crate was prepared for the trip with a pee-pee pad, attachable food and water bowls, and a label with her name and our Germany contact information. Also attached to the crate was a zip-top bag with her food, leash, and car safety harness. It was then off to the airport for wheels up to Germany!
Now the Fun Part: Arrival in Frankfurt
The final steps for getting Banjo to Germany were arguably the most confusing for us, but since she’s here safely, I guess we did ok!
Here’s what we did. First, we made sure to monitor her flight online. United Cargo provided us with her flight numbers and air bill, and through the cargo system, we were able to track Banjo throughout the entire process. Banjo’s flight was due to arrive at 9:30am, so we left the airport with plenty of time to get there before her flight. (Actually, we arrived too early and wound up waiting. It turns out that even though the flight arrived at 9:30, she didn’t actually make it through pet inspection and customs until more than two hours later).
Once we arrived in the airport area, we kept a lookout for Frankfort Cargo City north, Gate 26, Building 463. It’s a left hand turn off of the road into the building area once you are off of the autobahn. We then drove to the gated parking area on the extreme far right. The barrier rose automatically on our approach, and we procceded to park our car and enter the Anmeldung building.
Inside, we were directed to use the computers (there is an English option) to register our vehicle information. This was to allow us to park in the cargo area. Once we finished entering our information, the person behind the desk asked to see our passports and issued us a plastic card. He let us know that the card would let us exit the cargo area after we had our dog. We then returned to our car and drove through the lot straight towards the fences by the cargo buildings. We noticed a building that said “Lufthansa Pet Lounge” and proceeded to park in the fenced area of this building. Detailed directions with a map can also be found on the Frankfurt Airport Animal Lounge website.
We entered the building door, and once inside, we headed up the stairs and turned right. At the end of the hall was the pet office. We explained that we were picking up our dog and provided them with the air bill number and identification. The officials handed us our pet’s documents to take down the hall to the veterinary office for country clearance. At the veterinary office we paid the vet fee (80-100 Euro depending on the pet’s size), and they reviewed our dog’s paperwork. Once finished at the veterinary office, we returned to the first office with the papers.
We then had to clear our pet through customs. The pet office provided instructions and an access card to clear the customs area, which is in a separate building that you walk to down the road. We then walked down the road to the customs office. Upon entry into the custom’s building, we entered the office immediately on the right. We handed over our pet’s paperwork, a copy of the air bill, and our military id/passport to the customs agent. (If you use your military ID, there are no fees). The agent provided us with a stamped paper, and we then returned to the first pet office.
Now comes the exciting part! When we arrived back at the pet office, we gave them all of the paperwork. After a quick review of the papers, they notified the holding area that we were ready for our pup. (Note: We did have to pay an additional fee of about 60 Euro here since they held Banjo while veterinary and customs paperwork was being completed, but they did walk and feed her for us, which was nice).
After heading down the stairs and waiting briefly outside, Banjo was brought out to us. Following tons of Banjo kisses and excitement, we went to the car, strapped our pup into the pet seatbelt, and with the access card that we received when we first got to the airport, we drove out of the gate. Banjo was finally homeward bound!
Was it Worth It?
You bet! There was nothing more exciting than seeing our little Banjo make it to Germany. The airlines took good care of her (they even walked and fed her while we completed the paperwork), and she’s now happily settled into her German home. Though the steps may seem confusing, a little planning can make for smooth travels and happy days for your four-legged friend.
1. Prepare what you can ahead of time. Take care of the pet’s microchip and rabies shot before leaving pets with their temporary caregivers. Collect original copies of vet paperwork and leave this with the pet. Purchase an airline-approved pet crate and be sure the pet fits.
2. Check multiple airline cargo offices. Prices vary depending on date and route. Also, know that the price quote does not include the additional cost of the weight of your dog and crate.
3. Bring your passport and military identification to the airport (to save customs fees). Have at least 200 Euro in cash with you to cover the vet and airport fees.
4. Be sure to have a pet safety harness for the car with you at the airport (pets need to be secured according to German law!)
5. Leave the little ones at home. They may be excited, but the cargo area of the airport is not child-friendly and will only add to your stress!
Note: All pictures of handsome Banjo are credited to the author. Click on the other two for individual credits.