Imagine a chic Française sitting at a Paris café with her chic chien. Now imagine yourself there with your own dog. Impossible? Non!
As the world’s most dog-friendly country, France is full of dogs in restaurants, hotels, boulangeries, on hiking trails, the Métro — you name the endroit, there are dogs there. So how American dog-friendly are they? Here’s how to get your pooch to France with you.
The process of taking (re: flying) your dog to France is much like it is to take (re: fly) your dog domestically, with some more requirements and restrictions.
Not all dogs are allowed into France. Category 1 dogs are prohibited, and Category 2 dogs have travel restrictions. Also, most airlines won’t allow snub-nosed breeds to fly underneath for safety reasons.
Dogs must be at least 15 weeks old to enter France, to allow time for their first rabies vaccination. For the same reason, dogs must be at least 4 months old to enter the US (think about your return flight).
There are three requirements to go to France with your dog. One, your dog must have a valid rabies vaccine. Two, a 15-digit ID chip or an identification tattoo. Three, an official health certificate, completed within ten days of travel. (Here’s the form and how to fill it out.)
The certificate must then be signed by a USDA-accredited veterinarian. Most vets are accredited but call yours to make sure. It must then be endorsed by the USDA at one of their special offices. Check well ahead of time to find the nearest office and make an appointment, which can be hard to schedule.
Your airline may also require a health exam, so check its rules. Try to have the exam at the same time you get the health certificate. To see the details about requirements verbatim, check out the USDA and the French Embassy websites.
Leave extra time for check-in because all the paperwork you just did will be reviewed to make sure your pet can enter France.
You can usually let your dog out of its crate before you go through customs but be sure to keep it on leash. Dogs that travel underneath come out at the Oversized Luggage station and will arrive at the same time as your regular luggage.
When you go through customs you may or may not be asked to show your dog’s documentation. If not, just keep walking. Once you’re through customs, you’re good to go! Nothing else must be done, so let your French adventure begin!
– Most hotels allow dogs (check ahead), though some have an extra charge for cleaning your room. Nearly all restaurants and shops allow dogs.
– Dogs can take public transportation, but sometimes you have to buy a reduced-price ticket for larger dogs. Will anyone check the dog’s ticket? It’s unlikely if you’re somewhere with open seating like the Métro, but it’s certainly possible if you’re somewhere with assigned seating like a train.
– Where are dogs not allowed? Museums, grocery stores, some shops (it might depend on whether the resident cat accepts them!). Category 2 dogs must wear muzzles in public.
– Always keep your dog on leash in cities, though you can usually let them off in the country or on hiking trails. And please clean up after your pet!
This is the same procedure in reverse, with a couple of things to note. First, you will have to find a French vet for the pre-flight health exam within 10 days of your return flight. Second, don’t let your dog out of its crate in the US until after you go through customs. Once you’re through, you’ll be home free… and immediately resent that you can’t take your dog into Starbucks to buy coffee for the drive home.