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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Have Pet, Will Travel: Border Hints

The wire-haired, scruffy stray dog canvasing Maureen Kiser's courtyard knew a meal ticket when it saw one -- one chilly night this spring Kiser became an unwitting pet owner. "I took her in, but I thought it was only for one night," said Kiser, who is in Russia with the Washington-based Citizens for Democracy Corps. "Then as soon as I fed her she fell asleep." The rest, as they say, is history. Now, as Kiser gets ready to return to the United States in August, she finds herself arranging health documents for not one, but two dogs. Bunny, as she named her long-eared stray, turned out to be pregnant. "I have to take them home, they're part of the family," Kiser says. Taking pets in and out of Russia is surprisingly less complicated than taking rugs or books out. Perhaps the best advice is this: Plan in advance. The most important and time-consuming part of the process, getting the necessary health forms and vaccinations, usually needs to be set in motion at least a month before leaving the country. The following points can serve as a rough checklist. First, if you are taking a pet out of Russia, know the rules of your destination country. Embassies generally can tell you. The United Kingdom, zealously protective of its rabies-free status, imposes a strict six-month quarantine. Germany, on the other hand, has no quarantine but does require dogs and cats to have a rabies vaccination and health certificate, an embassy spokesman says. The United States is relatively easygoing about admitting foreign pets, except for Hawaii which has a quarantine. According to the Center for Disease Control quarantine information desk (tel. 1-404-639-3311), cats need only be in good health upon entry, a fact which will be ascertained by customs officials at the arrival point. Dogs should have a rabies vaccination. If you need to get your dog or cat a rabies shot, this must be done no less than 30 days before the animal leaves the country, veterinarians say. Most Russian vets will not give rabies vaccinations to cats under six months or dogs under three months. All animals leaving Russia must have a spravka, or permit, from an accredited veterinarian stating that the animal is in good health. But note: Spravki must be dated no more than three days before departure. Not all vets are licensed to give rabies shots and health certificates, although those who provide one usually provide the other. Prices for this service vary widely, from 20,000 rubles (about $10) to $55, depending on the vet. Veterinarians permits will be converted into international health certificates by customs officers at Sheremetyevo airport for a fee of 4,300 rubles on weekdays and for 9,000 rubles on Sunday. Russian customs authorities advise that pet owners make a trip out to the airport with their spravka and pet a day or two before travel, to avoid delays on the day of departure. Look for the veterinary office on the left side of the main departures terminal. Russian customs authorities also require a certificate from the local dog club for pure-bred dogs that indicates the pet's value. For rare breeds, a stiff customs fee may be imposed. Consult your vet for information on the relevant club. Bringing pets into the country is generally less complicated. Airport customs say that only an international health certificate is required, including immunization records. Brad Goebel, a vice president of Baker Hughes, an oil-industry supplier, said he would recommend that people who want to bring their animals into Russia classify them as baggage rather than as cargo, so that they are sent onto the baggage carrier immediately after the flight, not to a warehouse. His plane arrived from London just as the warehouse was closing for the day, and he was told he would have to wait until the next morning to get his animals. After several hours of waiting and speaking to airport authorities, he finally got his dogs. "Shoot, they've got more frequent-flier miles than most people," Goebel says. "If my wife is along, my dogs are along. It's a package deal." Whether the animals are coming or going, you will need to find a cage or pet kennel to take your pet on the plane. Unfortunately, most pet stores in Moscow usually carry only birdcages. Ptichy Rynok, on Malaya Kamenshchikaya Ulitsa, sells plastic kennels starting at 25,000 rubles. Most airlines sell kennels, but this service is a good deal costlier: Delta charges $60 for kennels, and SAS $100. Lufthansa's cargo department offers a range of carriers, from small boxes for pets traveling in the cabin, which are free of charge, to large kennels which run about $300. It is always advisable to mark your pet's carrying case clearly with details such as your name, address, telephone number and flight numbers. The rules for checking in pets vary widely according to the airline. Delta does not allow pets in the cabin; animals are stored in a pressurized section of the baggage hold and their owners are charged $100 per animal, regardless of size. SAS counts animals as if they are excess baggage and the price depends on both the weight of the animal together with the cage, and the destination. Small animals whose cages fit underneath an airline seat are permitted to travel in the cabin. Lufthansa also charges according to the weight of the animal and the destination. A dog that weighs 2 kilos and is traveling between Moscow and Frankfurt can cost as little as $20, while a pet flying a transatlantic route can cost as much as $198, not counting the cage. Cats and small dogs may travel in the cabin with their owners if their carriers fit under the seat. One consolation, if the pet owner is American: Transportation of a pet to a new residence can qualify for a tax deduction as a moving expense.