When Can My Dog Fly Out of India?
Puppies: Puppies cannot travel until they are 4 months old. This is because they have to be vaccinated for rabies before they can enter the US, and they can’t be given the rabies vaccination before they are 3 months old (12 weeks or 84 days). If given the rabies vaccine earlier than this recommendation, the vaccine is not effective. After your puppy gets the rabies vaccination, you have wait 4 weeks (28 days) before the dog can enter the US. This all results in puppies not being able to enter into the US until they are 4 months old. If you don’t know the puppy’s age, don’t worry. A veterinarian can examine the puppy and provide an estimated age.
Adult dogs: Adult dogs (15 months or older) who have a rabies vaccination record have no time restriction on flying - they are ready to go! But, your street dog does not likely have a vaccination record. If your dog doesn’t have a vaccination record (and most street dogs don’t), the dog will have to be vaccinated against rabies as though it is the first time (and it might be) and then wait 4 weeks (28 days) before traveling to the US.
What Are India’s Dog Export Requirements?
Here is a simple checklist of India’s export requirements for your dog or cat to another country. And, here are the FAQs.
What Paperwork Do I Need to Complete?
The following is a list of all the paperwork you will need to export your dog from India to the US. Once you have your paperwork completed, make two copies and have the original and copies organized well so you can produce paperwork throughout your dog’s travel to airport security, airline, and import/export authorities.
- AQCS Application: Your veterinarian will complete this AQCS application and then you can take it to your Animal Quarantine and Certification Services (ACQS) appointment. To schedule your AQCS appointment, contact the local AQCS location.
- Certificate of Health for Export (Pet Animals): AQCS will give this export certificate to you at the end of your AQCS appointment, assuming you have all the completed information and the dog examination is successful. This is your dog’s most important piece of documentation. Everyone in airport security, airline staff, and immigration will require you to show this certificate. This certificate is valid for only 10 days after issue. Schedule your dog’s flight so that it is within this window.
- Microchip Certificate: Your dog must be microchipped. Your veterinarian will need to complete a microchip certificate. Free Microchip Template here.
- Dog’s Last 1-Year Vaccination Record (Original and Copy): In addition to rabies, your dog needs other standard vaccinations required in India. These vaccinations will usually be documented in the form of a small paper booklet that includes vaccine date, label, etc. Your veterinarian will provide this booklet.
- Rabies Vaccination Certificate: Your veterinarian will ensure your dog gets the rabies vaccination. The US requires that the veterinarian sign a Rabies Vaccination Certificate. Free Rabies Vaccination Certificate here. For more information on rabies vaccination requirements, see the section above “When Can My Dog Fly Out of India?”
- Health Certificate and Screwworm Check: Your dog must be checked for screwworm for import into the US. This is a visual check that the veterinarian in India performs that will certify the dog is free from screwworms in the Health Certificate required for US import. Free Health Certificate Template here.
- Dog owner’s passport copy: Bring your original and copies.
- Copy of the air ticket: Include all air tickets (e.g. connecting flights). If you are traveling with your dog, include your tickets. The airline may tell you they can’t produce documentation of your dog’s ticket. Email the airline and tell them they must give you documentation to confirm the dog’s flight reservation. This documentation is required by the Indian government. This should do the trick, and they will give you the documentation right away.
- Photos of your adorable dog: 4x6 photos of your dog. Make sure it is well lit and it is the dog’s full body (not just the face). No one else should be in the photo. Include 4 photos.
Preparing for the India Animal Quarantine and Certification Service (AQCS) Appointment
This was truly my best government agency experience in any country! The staff were friendly and competent, and the appointment started on time and was completed within an hour.
You (or your delegate, if you using an export company) and your dog will need to be present for this appointment. At the AQCS appointment, you will meet with a friendly representative, who will review all of your documentation and make sure it is complete.
Next, your dog will be examined by the AQCS veterinarian. This is a simple, mostly visual exam where they take the dog’s temperature and weight and visually inspect the dog, including their teeth, to make sure you aren’t exporting a dog who is too young.
Once the exam is complete, the AQCS representative will provide you with the signed export certificate, which will be required by airline and security officials at the airport during the flight check-in process.
Transporting Your Dog from India
How will You Get Your Dog to the International Airport?
Inside India: Air vs. Car
Most domestic airlines in India do not transport pets. Those that do have restrictions for weight may not transport on all routes. Because this information changes regularly, it is best to check directly with the airline.
If air travel is not possible domestically, you have two choices. You can either hire a driver to drive you and your pup to your international flight destination (e.g. Delhi or Mumbai), or you can pay a dog transport service to do this for you.
In our case, I hired a driver (who brought another driver along as backup). We drove from Varanasi to Delhi (over 16 hours) with short breaks for gas, bathroom, and food. It was incredible to see the Indian countryside this way, but also exhausting, especially for the two drivers. But there were no flights that would transport a dog, so driving was the only solution.
Booking an International Flight for Your Dog
To book your dog on an international flight, identify the possible airlines you could choose from. For example, Delta and KLM both allow dogs on international flights with certain restrictions. Also, be sure if you booking a “codeshare flight” (where your dog departs India on one airline and then for the next leg of the flight takes a different airline) that you confirm the dog transport requirements for both airlines and confirm with both airlines that the dog will be flying.
When you have found an airline whose requirements will work for your dog, you are ready to call and make your reservation. Note that most airlines require you to call to make reservations for dogs. This is not something you want to do online.
There are two options for dog seating in a plane:
- Dog in Cabin: Some airlines will allow you to bring your dog on board and stow under the seat in front of you in a soft kennel. These doggie tickets in the cabin are limited, so book early to make sure you can take advantage of this option if your pup meets the size requirements. There is a flight fee for the dog to fly in the cabin, just like there is a fee for the dog to fly in cargo.
- Dog in Cargo: If cabin transport is an option, this is always going to be safer for the dog and less worry for you compared with flying your friend in cargo. However, organizations export dogs everyday from India to all over the world using cargo, so flying in cargo will work too. Note that many airlines limit or pause dog transport in cargo when it is very hot. Take seasonal temperatures into consideration before you book the ticket.
Finding a Foster Dog Parent for Your Dog in India
If your dog is a puppy or an adult dog who needs rabies vaccination, you won’t be able to export the dog immediately. (See above, When Can My Dog Fly Out of India?) In this case, you will need to either stay with the dog in India or hire a Foster Dog Parent to care for the pup until she is ready for export.
Foster Dog Parents are best found by contacting a local animal welfare organization, like Varanasi for Animals, if the dog is in Varanasi, and asking if they can coordinate a Foster Dog Parent for you. The cost should be around $60 USD per month for this service in India.
Armchair Adoption :)
If you haven’t been to India or haven’t met your next best friend there, but you really want to adopt a street dog from India, there are many NGOs that specialize in exporting Indian street dogs to places like the US and Canada. These organizations handle all the logistics of export for you. Here are a few to get you started: https://www.delhithestreetdogfoundation.org/
About the Author:
In 2019, Charissa Raynor found her Desi pup while traveling in Varanasi, India. Assi was only 20 days old and had been abandoned behind Assi Ghat from another part of town only two days earlier. Assi had no mother and no siblings, and even though locals were giving her milk, no one wanted to take her in. With guidance from Help Animals India (a US-based NGO), Charissa was able to get Assi medical care and a foster parent through Varanasi for Animals. In February 2020, Charissa traveled back to India to pick up her new best friend. Today, Assi has successfully adjusted to life in Seattle with her sister Pumpkin (a forgiving chihuahua mix from Los Angeles).