(CNN) — It isn’t just human beings who need a passport in order to travel.
Fashion designer Valentino had a coterie of six adorable pugs who traveled with him on his private jet. Not only did they all have passports, but odds are they had more stamps than the average human traveler.
However, most of the time “pet passport” is more of a metaphorical term. Rather than blue or red booklets with names and photos in them, pet passports are more likely to be a stack of paperwork.
And while one passport may get a human into multiple countries, the requirements for animals to travel vary widely between continents and countries. The process can be expensive and overwhelming, but it is navigable.
Beth Schutte is the president and CEO of the ARK Import Export Center, which manages The ARK at JFK, a full service animal reception and quarantine center located right on the runway at New York City’s JFK airport.
“The European Union primarily pioneered this whole pet passport practice that enables animals to move more freely with their owners throughout the European Union and the UK,” Schutte explains.
“Countries like Russia or China, you would see pet passports, but they really aren’t an official document, like a human passport. It’s more a consolidation of all the pet information. The United States does not require the pet passport at all. “
No matter your country of origin and your country of travel or relocation, there is essentially one piece of advice that every pet travel expert agrees upon: get started as early as possible.
Dog trainer and author Bash Dibra, who has worked with the furry friends of celebrities like Mariah Carey and Sarah Jessica Parker, believes it’s never too soon to get your pet more comfortable with traveling, even for short distances.
“Basically, the first time you get your dog you should be getting it ready for imaginary trips you will be doing,” he says. “Crate training gets you into proper training for everything else.”
He adds: “Once a dog or cat is crate trained they enjoy being in the environment. You can do that by planning special trips, go in the car, or to a weekend house or visit friends, or even if you want to take your dog to a hotel.”
Schutte recommends working with a reputable travel agency that specializes in animal transport — some of those can be found by checking out IPATA’s list of approved companies.
Meanwhile, Dibra advises that an overwhelmed owner reach out to their local chapter of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for a vet recommendation if they don’t know where to start.
You should also see if your current vet is familiar with the rules for travel and consider one or two visits to another vet if that’s not the case.
Schutte and her colleagues have seen pets denied boarding for all kinds of minor reasons, like transposing two numbers in a date. In the United States, dates are written month first, while in many other countries they are written day first and month second, so “May 10” in the US becomes “October 5” in France.
To reduce panic for both the human and the animal, working with someone who is familiar with the latest paperwork and restrictions will help reduce stress and make sure everything is in order on the big day.
In the United States
Animal transport into the United States is the domain of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, more commonly referred to by its acronym APHIS.
There are occasional exceptions to the rules in cases of emergency — for example, right now, animals being brought from Ukraine can get their paperwork in order more quickly due to the situation there.
In the European Union
One of the perks of the European Union is that travel is fairly easy for humans and their pets within those countries.
European Union pet passports can only be issued by approved vets in EU member countries. Ones from the UK, US or other nations will not be accepted.
Any pet going from a foreign country into the EU must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and over the age of 12 weeks.
Individual airlines have different policies about whether pets can travel in the cabin with their owners or not — size and breed play a major role. Make sure to do your research before booking tickets.
This dog is having a pre-departure nap.
In the UK
Cats, dogs and ferrets traveling as pets to the UK must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and have a valid pet “passport” or health certificate. It’s also a good idea to give dogs tapeworm treatments ahead of traveling.
Because it’s an island, the UK enforces its animal transport rules strictly. Failure to fill out paperwork correctly or bring relevant documents could result in your pet being refused boarding, being seized upon arrival and/or forced to spend up to four months in quarantine.
The UK is also currently expediting the process for pets being transported from Ukraine.
In Australia, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) handles animal travel criteria. First, all nations are placed into one of three groups.
Cats and dogs — no other animals — from approved countries may be brought in as pets, but they will be subject to a 10-day quarantine in the Mickleham Post Entry Quarantine Facility in Melbourne.
Quarantine protocols are very strict. As tempting as it may be to send your dog or cat to Mickleham with a favorite chew toy. these will all be destroyed upon arrival due to possible contamination concerns. Food is also selected by the facility, so if your pet has specific needs make sure to notify Mickleham in advance.
If your country is not on the list of approved nations, you’ll need to organize transport via a third country.
If you’re in the continental US, it is fairly easy to travel with your pet by car.
Past the paperwork
Even if your pet doesn’t need a “passport” right this minute, you can start thinking ahead by buying or organizing things you’ll need later.
Dog trainer Dibra prefers crates for most dogs, although smaller dogs who are able to fly in the cabin (or in the backseat of the car) with their owners can be placed in smaller carriers. When it comes to cats, he recommends plastic carriers, which he says are “sturdier and safer,” especially in emergencies.
In addition to buying new things, you should also hold on to old ones. Favorite toys and snacks are a must for travel, and many animals are comforted by a familiar-smelling item like a stuffed animal or an owner’s T-shirt inside their carrier.