How To Fly Internationally with Your Dog

One of the most frequent questions we get asked after “your dog has her own Instagram” is “how do you take your dog on the plane with you” so I thought I would explain how we manage to fly back and forth between London and Philadelphia with Kendall in tow.

  1. Most importantly – Kendall is allowed in the cabin of the plane because she is a registered Emotional Support Animal. ESA dogs aren’t trained to perform a ‘task’ like a traditional service animal but they are for the benefit of their companion and should only be applied when the animal and owner have a significant and emotional bond – something anyone who knows me knows Kendall and I share.

    Getting your dog registered as ESA isn’t too expensive but you will need to meet with a licensed psychologist to determine if you qualify and you will need a yearly letter from them stated you require an ESA dog for medical reasons. For more information on what an ESA dog does visit the US Dog Registry.  
  2. Due to Kendall’s ESA status she is permitted  in the cabin on US owned and operated aircrafts – this is very important – because the UK does not protect ESA dogs under federal law they are not granted the same privileges. We only fly Delta with Kendall as they are US owned and have been nothing but accommodating when traveling with her. 
    Kendall gets little nibbles of our food to help keep her happy during the flight - usually our pretzels or bits of apple
    Kendall gets little nibbles of our food to help keep her happy during the flight – usually our pretzels or bits of apple



  3. Traveling from the UK to the US is simple in comparison to the reverse. You will need to bring your dog’s rabies vaccination certificate – or proof of rabies – we use Kendall’s passport (which I highly recommend if you are an EU or UK resistant). You’ll need your most recent ESA letter (they can’t more than one year old from your doctor) and any forms required by the US to be shown at customs – I use Pet Passport Store to see if any rules have changed. That’s all you need! You’ll need to show all documentation at check in to your flight and again at customs where you will claim your dog as agricultural and proceed to a different customs agent.
  4. Travel from the US to the UK is a bit more complicated. Before you do anything make sure your dog is microchipped. Then determine where you’ll be flying into the country – most likely Heathrow – which is the information I’ll be sharing. You’ll need to contact Heathrow Animal Reception who will give you the full list of how to import your dog into the country, which includes a hefty fee.

    The general basics are these:
    – microchipped
    – rabies AFTER being microchipped (which might mean you need a new rabies)
    – tapeworm treatment; no more than 5 days before arrival at Heathrow and no sooner than 24 hours before arrival – they WILL check the time on your documents
    – all of this information needs to be recorded by your vet; if you’re traveling back to the UK on a pet passport the tapeworm can be directly written in the passport (keep in mind not all US vets are allowed to add to passports and must be USDA accredited vets). If you’re traveling without a passport you will need your vet to complete a large amount of paperwork – again on Pet Passport Store – this will need to be signed by the USDA prior to departure.
    – all documents need to be spent to Animal Reception 48 hours prior to arrival so you can receive a pre-approved departure letter which you will be asked for upon check-in to your flight

    When you arrive at Heathrow will you be greeted by a member of Animal Reception as soon as you step off the place, where they will check all the paperwork before you’re allowed to continued to exit. You will need to show the stamped paperwork again at customs to exit. 

    She's a pro now, makes herself right at home on the seats (when no one is sitting next to us)
    She’s a pro now, makes herself right at home on the seats (when no one is sitting next to us)



  5. The best advice I have for anyone thinking about traveling internationally with their dog – ESPECIALLY to the UK – is do your homework, the costs can quickly add up and the paperwork is not for the faint of heart. I can say that the people at Heathrow Animal Reception are very understanding and will help make sure you have all your paperwork arranged.
  6. The good thing is, it gets easier with time – Kendall’s been on 5 international flights and we’ve all got our system down pact now. Hopefully this clears up some questions on how we’re able to travel so much with Kendall and she doesn’t need to be quarantined.
About the author
Staci West is an obsessive compulsive traveller who is currently dealing with a chronic case of coffee addicition. Symptoms include blackouts from online shopping sessions, a ferocious passion for everything colourful and energy levels that exceed a normal human capacity. On the advice of her carer and companion, Kendall her yellow labrador, she created L&L, a down to Earth lifestyle blog, as a distraction for her pathological need for shoes.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I had the same fears on our first flight but Kendall on a plane is the calmest she ever gets – must be something about all the attention and treats she gets for being so good, that or she’s incredibly nervous and thinks sleeping for the 8 hour flight will make it go quicker ha

  1. Hi Staci, I will be relocating from San Francisco to London in November with my 20-lb rescue dog. This is super helpful information – I didn’t know about Heathrow’s Animal Reception. My dog is an ESA (doctor letter was updated yesterday).

    I’ve heard good things about flying Lufthansa and read that they recognize ESA – have you found this to be true?

    Do you bring a carrier/kennel for Kendall (even though she’s allowed in the cabin)? Or, do you take her through the airport without a carrier?

    How have you handled potty breaks for Kendall? SF to London is up to 11 hours flying time, so I am thinking of scheduling a layover on the East Coast so we can find an airport pet relief station.

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Leslie, thanks for reaching out! I would first suggest reaching out to Heathrow’s Animal Reception to make sure you have the most up to date information about flying into London. I haven’t flew Lufhansa personally so I can’t speak to their pet policy. We fly with Delta and have had no problems. As Kendall’s too big for a carrier, she walks through the airport with us on a very short leash. For a smaller dog, they may require a carrier so call your airline to double check. As for potty breaks, Kendall is a champion. The first time we flew we scheduled a layover but found she wouldn’t use the relief stations because they were artificial grass. (princess) So we now fly direct from Philadelphia to Heathrow, from the time we get into the airport to actually leave on the other side it can be upwards of 14 hours and she will hold it all the way through. One thing I would recommend is be ultra friendly with the customs people, explain you have a dog and were just on long flight is there anyway you can jump the line through customs so your dog can go to the bathroom. Of the 4 times we’ve flown into Heathrow only one has made us wait in the line and even then we only wanted in half of it until someone else took tidy on us. Sorry I couldn’t be much more help but all the best in your move and send me a message when you arrive in London! x Staci

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