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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Flying your pet to Europe using a military rotator (MAC) flight

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Flying your pet to Europe using a military rotator (MAC) flight

You have heard me blog about flying pets overseas and the prep involved.  But earlier this year, I had a reader contact me about flying overseas on a military rotator flight with their doggie and what did I know about that.  I didn't admit I was a total neophyte, nor did I give her any information she could use about pets and military flights.....honestly, I didn't think pets could even fly on MAC flights, PCS or no PCS.  Glad I kept my mouth shut, because thanks to Lee, she got back to me as promised with how the experience went for her and her cute little pug. Here is Reggie's story and how you can use the military to fly your pet to Germany.

As promised, I wanted to get back to you about our experience flying our dog overseas to Germany via the Patriot Express (the AMC Rotator).  We left BWI airport the night Sunday, 10 July, and arrived at Ramstein AB at noon on Monday, 11 July.  We're now settled in at our new duty location and I'm relieved to say everything went well!  However, there are a few things I would recommend to others preparing to PCS overseas with a pet:

* Plan ahead - way ahead.  As I wrote to you before, my husband scheduled our flight on the Patriot Express roughly 10 weeks prior to our PCS date, and we got the
very last pet slot on the plane.  I believe there are ten pet slots per rotator flight (not counting pets that can travel in cabin under the seat), and during heavy PCS seasons (like summer), they book out quickly.  So once you get orders, one of your first priorities should be working with TMO (or your branch's counterpart) to initiate your reservation and request a pet slot.

* If you are taking the Patriot Express during heat or cold with a snub-nosed dog (pug, boston terrier, etc.) consider alternatives to connecting flights.  If time allows and the distance is not too great, consider driving or taking a train.  We PCSed from the panhandle of Florida which is very hot and humid in July.  Our dog, Reggie, is a nine year old pug, and we could not find any commercial carrier in our area that would be willing to transport him.  Most have an embargo on snub-nosed breeds during summer months and extreme cold temperatures, and some carriers no longer take any dogs at all in the summer.  The Patriot Express does not have these embargoes, as the pets are in a climate controlled area, but getting Reggie to BWI was becoming
very problematic.  However, since we have family nearby, we opted to drive up and stay with family along the way, and then we shipped our car directly from the Port of Baltimore.  It was a lot of time in the car, but it was much easier than the hassle of flying him in the summer.

* Go through a military veterinary clinic if at all possible for your International Health Certificate (the one you can get up to four months out) and your Health Certificate (the one you must get within 10 days of flight).  If a military veterinarian signs off on the forms, you are exempt from getting the USDA stamps on your documentation, which saves a lot of time and hassle.  However, when you make your appointment, be sure to confirm there is an active duty veterinarian on site who can sign the form.  Because whenwe left our AFB in Florida greater than ten days before our flight out, we had to get Reggie seen by a military vet en route.  Four weeks before we left, I called several military installations in the Baltimore/Washington area, thinking they could see him - but they couldn't.  Most did not have an active duty veterinarian on site (they are frequently deployed during times of combat to serve as public health officers), and those that did had very limited clinic days/hours.  Fortunately, I was able to get him in at the Shaw AFB vet clinic, and although it meant four hours round trip in the car, it was still faster and easier than taking him to a civilian vet and dealing with the USDA stamp process.

* Make sure all signatures are in a color other than black.  Military veterinarians generally know this, but civilian vets might not.  After I obtained the International Health Certificate, I had to go back to my civilian vet and get a new rabies certificate and immunization record because they were signed in black ink.  Had I known, I could have requested this from the start and saved myself a trip. (Note from LLMW, I did not know this....something I need to follow up on).

* Make sure your pet's microchip number is on your rabies certificate and immunization record.  It does not have to be printed on the paperwork - you can hand-write it in if necessary (I did, without any problems).

* Check - and double check - your pet's documentation before you leave the clinic.  I cannot stress this enough - if there are any errors with the paperwork, your pet can be refused on the flight.  When I obtained our health certificate, I noticed that the batch number of the rabies vaccine was incorrectly entered, and date of the certificate was in MM/DD/YY format but my dog's birthdate was in DD/MM/YY format.  I pointed this out and requested that they reprint the certificate with the correct batch number and write out both dates (i.e., 5 July 2011 and 10 November 2001) in order to cut down on any confusion.  I know the clerk thought I was being anal-retentive and wasn't too happy with me, but these are the kind of small errors that can cause a real problem later.

* Bring multiple copies of your pet's documentation (health certificates, rabies certificate, immunization record, etc.).  I had to give a copy to the agent at BWI as well as the German customs officer at Ramstein AB, and a copy was taped to Reggie's crate.  Had we had connecting flights, I'm sure each carrier would have needed copies as well.  By having multiple copies with me, it saved time (agents didn't have to make copies) and I was able to keep the originals with me at all times.

* Get your pet a properly-sized crate in advance and let your him/her use it.  There are strict rules about crates for international flights (size, ventilation, etc.), so measure your pet carefully to make sure you get the right size.  (I used the following site for information on measurements and crate requirements.  I'm not endorsing them as a vendor, as I didn't buy my crate from them, but the info is helpful.)  Consider having your pet sleep in the crate for a week or two prior to the flight, so s/he can get used to it.  Flying is stressful for pets, so getting them used to their crate means they will at least have a familiar place to stay during the flight.  You may also want to include something like an old shirt or blanket that you've used and that smells like you - this may also be comforting for them.  We also bought a clip-on fan to help with ventilation, since Reggie is a pug.  I don't know if it helped him, but it reduced MY anxiety knowing he had it!  :)

There's a nice brochure about the Patriot Express at this web site:  (click on "Patriot Express Brochure"), and one about shipping your pet here.  I would definitely recommend reviewing these prior to the flight.

Throughout the process, I told my friends and family that getting Reggie to Germany was more complicated and time-consuming than it was for my children - and I wasn't really joking either.  However, if you start early and are proactive and organized, it makes for smooth traveling later.  I hope your readers find this information helpful, and as always, thanks for the service you provide us military spouses.  Were it not for your blog, I would not have been
nearly as well prepared for our move, and I am so grateful I discovered it!

Thank you Lee for taking the time to report back on your experience!  If any of my other readers would like to share any experiences, pet or otherwise, just let me know!  My goal is always to share information here, whether it comes from me or one of our fellow readers!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just did this same thing about a month earlier than your writer and the only thing that I would add is that it cost $240 for my 65 pound goldendoodle. I was able to get the first pet spot on the BWI flight by booking it 60 days out which was the earliest date that they list the flights. I, too, travelled from AZ to MD in the car with the dog and had to find a vet to take care of the health certificate. It was not easy finding a civilian vet either.

July 18, 2011 at 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We didn't fly MAC, however, we did just PCS out of Germany on June 2nd, 2011. Did you hear that Lufthansa is no longer flying military members' pets? We were originally on a Lufthansa flight out of Frankfurt and got changed to United. Just an FYI for you.

July 18, 2011 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Rebs said...

Thank you for this information! My husband and I are getting ready to PCS to Germany with our two cats and it's so overwhelming what all needs to be done. I'm glad I found this blog. Thank you!

July 19, 2011 at 2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are about to PCS to Germany! I recently found your blog and I was excited to read about Reggie's adventure! We have a Chinese pug but have decided to keep him at my parents while we are overseas. We are very sad to leave Bubba behind. Is there any way to ship a pet after you have already gotten settled overseas?

July 19, 2011 at 3:38 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

There are quite a few pet shipping services out there you could use. They are much more expensive than taking the pet with you though but for a pug to not fly in an unknown cargo hold in hot weather during the summer, it would be worth it to me...also look at buying a friend or family member a RT trip ticket and having them bring the dog over...even with the price of the ticket, it could be much cheaper than shipping the pet! I've had friends do this with much success:-)

Rebs, you're welcome too!

July 19, 2011 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Stacy, I hadn't heard that...Lufthansa didn't update their website either to reflect their new policy?

I think that's strange as Lufthansa and United are codeshares and share flights, so you might have a United flight on a Lufthansa plane and vice versa, and I know United flies them, as someone just left here with a pet on United.

Now I'm wondering if something happened with a military pet...and that they still take civilians but won't under the government's dime? I don't know...just guessing...

July 19, 2011 at 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the German lady who worked at SATO, an incident had recently happened in which a servicemember showed up w/ a dog in a too-small cage. B/c he was on orders he had to make his flight and called a friend to pick up his dog. She did not, however, say if this was going to be a permanent policy w/ Lufthansa or not. But I do know that Germans do become upset w/ the way a lot of American military abandon their pets (as evidenced by the AFN commercials).


(if you get this twice, sorry, my computer never showed if the other post was sent or not)

July 19, 2011 at 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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July 22, 2011 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

I don't think it's true about Lufthansa. It's a single incident. If your crate is too small, it doesn't matter if you are military or civilian, your pet won't fly, unless you buy a crate right there and then!

United almost wouldn't ship my dog because they said the crate was too small. They said he "can't stretch" and I was like "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" they called the Vet and he determined that the crate was just fine. If they had denied the crate we would have had to take our dog to my parents place.

The decision, if a pet flies or doesn't fly is made every single time a dog is checked in and the air line has the last word about it. If they say, they say no but they won't denie every single Service Member to ship their pets.

By the way. United is the cheapest way to go when you PCS from Germany to the US. German Shepherds cost 250 Euros each (don't know if they upped the price that is what we have paid last December). Also, Gradlyn an Pet Air, both use Lufthansa.

Get quotes from both of them. They are not cheap but have outstanding Service. We took three dogs as extended Baggage and shipped on via Pet Air.
To ship them from Germany to the US is much much easier ;)

August 11, 2011 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger Korey said...

Just curious, with United did people get to bring them as checked luggage versus cargo? We are headed to the UK (we are Air Force) and from what I can tell the UK doesn't allow animals to come into the country unless they come as cargo (which is of course super expensive).

August 16, 2011 at 1:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if there are fees from customs to bring pets from US to Belgium?

August 20, 2011 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Belgium can be tricky! Usually, if the pet is going with you, there probably won't be any fees...but I have known a few who had fees less than 100 euro. If the pet flies as cargo unaccompanied, fees can range up to 200 euro per pet..more if they need to board your pet, vet check, prepared with cash just in case. Less of a change of this happening in Amsterdam or Frankfurt for some one can explain it to me!

August 20, 2011 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Sorry to say I know nothing about flying pets to the UK, I just know that it's MORE expensive than the European mainland:-)

Try visiting

Might wanna read this too

August 20, 2011 at 9:32 PM  

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