Since moving to Germany I have gotten a lot of questions as to how I brought my dog Cocoa with me. To start, the process involved many steps, and I believe establishing a good relationship with a licensed veterinarian is a good place to start. However, the process is still wayyy easier than obtaining a Schengen Visa.
To give you a little background on Cocoa, I first adopted her in February of 2016 off of craigslist. I was a broke college student and didn't have hundreds of dollars to drop at a shelter ( I am 1000% against purchasing dogs from a breeder so that was out of the question). Her previous owner was a really sweet hispanic nurse whose mother brought Cocoa over from Puerto Rico. On the day I adopted her the first thing I did was head to Banfield at PetsMart to transfer her records over to me. I was lucky that she was generally healthy (like most mutts) and up-to-date on all her shots. When I brought her home she was the sweetest thing that ever happened to me for the first week. After she settled in, she let her true colors shine. She ate through the drywall in my bathroom, along with a few pairs of my shoes and handbags. She also destroyed my carpet with her various bodily fluids. She was so hard to contain I almost had to return her back to her original owner. Instead I decided to take four months off from extracurricular actives and intensively train her. The four months paid off as there were times she would go to class with me at my university and my teachers wouldn't even know there was a dog in the classroom until after class when everyone got up to leave. Since then I have never had a problem with her and I feel so lucky to be her owner.
Fast-forward to my last two weeks in the United States, specifically Orlando, Florida summer of 2019. I made sure Cocoa had all her shots needed through 2020, and my amazing vet at Banfield provided me with a checklist of items to do before my departure. For those who also need such a list can visit the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) website here.
I kept a paper copy of all of her records given to me since the day I got her and also had her vaccinations printed out on a separate sheet for easy access. 10 days before landing in Germany I obtained a health certificate signed by my vet and then made an appointment at the nearest USDA office in Gainesvilles, FL to have it sealed making it official. It is important that you do this step closest to your departure date because it is only valid for 21 days after it is sealed and will be needed to obtain a EU passport for your pet. It is also important that you have the address where you will be staying at and telephone number in the EU readily available because your vet will need to include this in the health certificate.
One mistake that was made in this process was booking a non-direct flight to the EU. We did good in booking a pet-friendly airline (Norwegian) that gave me little problems with checking in with Cocoa after providing them with her service dog letter from my psychologist, along with her ID that was made for her by my university (and not some fake site providing service dog ID's or a fake service dog ID bought off of amazon which, I must include that I absolutely hate people that walk around with those fake ID's). I digress. Honestly, if she didn't fit into a category that allowed her to travel with me in the cabin of the plane I don't think I would've brought her because I wouldn't be able to handle her being stuck in a cage in the belly of a plane for 10+ hours, it just wouldn't feel right.
About 30 minutes before my flight I administered vet-approved Benadryl to relax her during the flight. When it was time to board we went to our chosen seats at the back of the plane and she settled in under the seat and went straight to sleep. Returning to the point made about the mistake of booking a non-direct flight, we had a pit stop in the United Kingdom country of Norway. The layover was about five hours and then we would head straight to Munich. Being the polite dog-owner I am, I headed out with Cocoa so that she can use the bathroom after being on a plane for over seven hours. I graciously thank the little voice in my head that told me to take Cocoa's documents with me as I was unpleasantly surprised with the security that stopped me and informed me that I had to get screened by a vet before heading outside. Keep in mind that Cocoa's health certificate was only valid for the EU not the UK which requires a tapeworm vaccination in-order for dogs to be allowed. At this point I was extremely frustrated because my plane left in an hour and I just needed to step outside to let my dog pee and they were not making it so easy. I ended up having to wait for a vet to screen me and Cocoa before I could go any further. I was already out of the terminal and in the baggage claim area of the airport. I informed the vet of my situation and that I was just being polite and trying to go outside so my dog could use the bathroom and if I knew I was going to be in such a mess I would've just let her piss herself at the terminal and have the janitors clean it up (which I will do next time and advise anyone traveling to the EU on a connecting flight through the UK to do because the hassle is not worth missing a flight). I was lucky that the vet was super kind and understood my situation and expedited my case. Because Cocoa did not have the proper vaccines to enter Norway he had to escort us out to the closest plant so she could pee and escort us right back into the airport where we had no problems getting back though security. 30 minutes later our flight left for Germany.
Within the first week of arriving in Germany I found a vet close by my place of residence and obtained a EU pet passport. This is important because her health certificate was only valid for 21 days, after which I would have to obtain a new one which would not be so easy being in Germany. With an EU pet passport Cocoa can accompany me anywhere in the EU with just her passport and no other special documents. Since I was going to eventually be moving to France, this step was vital.
Obtaining an EU pet passport was fairly easy. I found a EU licensed veterinarian that she would 'establish care' with and brought with me all of her vaccinations and paperwork I saved over the years of having her, along with her health certificate. However, the only items the vet needed was the record of all her vaccinations and her health certificate. He did an initial exam to make sure she was healthy, which per usual she was (being a mutt) and then provided me with her passport, surprisingly the entire process, including her passport only cost 50 euros! At that point it was official, Cocoa was German. If only it was that easy for us humans :).