Traveling To America With Your Pet

Carissa Sutter, 126

chat travel


The most frequent question I get from Peace Corps Staff, Volunteers, and members of my community is: “Are you taking your cat home?”  My Thai neighbors want to know because my cat is a sii sawat, or Korat Cat, and they are highly prized in Isaan (and other places); but the Volunteers want to know because they suspect that transporting a pet to America is incredibly difficult – both because of importing a foreign animal and the cost. Well, it’s not too complicated, or expensive.

Airlines to Consider

Korean Air is my choice because they allow pets in the cabin during most international flights. That’s something to double-check:  some airlines have different rules flying internationally than they do domestically – and different rules depending on what type of plane you are on. And as far as pricing, Korean Air charges excess baggage fees for your pet companion (even if you carry the pet onto the plane without any other bags) whether they fly in-cabin or in cargo, which is exactly $200. This is a little below average cost for pet transport. Considering the incredibly low cost of vaccinations in rural Thailand, I just see it as finally paying the full price for those shots.

My problem right now is the weight limit. There is a required maximum combined weight of animal and carrier of 5 kg (11 lbs.) or less as a carry-on, and my cat Chaturon is 4 kg by himself. For cargo, the pet + carrier requirement is between 5 and 32 kg (11-70 lbs). Above 32 kg, and your pet has to be transported by freighter.

While considering airlines, also consider how you want to travel. Do you want to see how well you pet bears travelling for 25-30 hours? Or do you want to see if you can break up your time on the airplane? For myself, I discovered a possible stop in Korea. There is a (pretty pricey) hotel inside of the Airport that is not pet friendly, but it might be worth it to try to sneak him in. If I choose to do that, it would mean taking the five hour flight from Bangkok to Seoul, staying in the airport for a night to give us both a break, then taking the 10-12 hour flight to L.A. At that point, it’s L.A., and deserves a short visit. The last leg to the east coast is only another four or five hours. Of course, Korean Air doesn’t have flights from L.A. to the east coast, so that requires a different airline. But that’s okay, with this itinerary the trip can be turned into a mini-vacation instead of a stressful string of flights.

Booking Your Flight

Make sure that they allow pets before you confirm your booking. You might want to call their customer service and tell them your ultimate destination to confirm that you meet all the airline’s and country’s requirements.

petraveller-header-1600-001Once you’ve booked your flight, contact the airline again and explain that you wish to book a live animal onto the flight as carry-on or as checked baggage (choose one). Ask how much you’ll be charged for the transport, just to be sure.  Have your carrier’s dimensions ready; every time I have booked a flight for travel with a pet they have wanted to confirm that I had the appropriate-sized kennel.

Mandatory Official Documents

1)  International Health Certificate – Within 10 days of departure, your veterinarian will need to issue an International Health Certificate which is required by all airlines.  This certificate states that your pet is in good health and OK to fly.

Screwworm Policy (for dogs only)– The USDA pet import policy allows dogs from screwworm affected countries, like Thailand, to enter the country if the following requirements are met:

1. Health certificate issued prior to the flight needs to state that the dog was inspected for screwworm within 5 days preceding shipment to the U.S. AND dog was found free of screwworm.


2. A dog found infested with screwworm was held in quarantine and treated until free of infection prior to leaving the country.

2) Rabies Vaccination & Certificate – Cats and dogs must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to entry into the United States from Thailand, except for puppies or kittens younger than 3 months. The valid rabies vaccination certificate must be dated more than 30 days before your arrival.

If a vaccination has not been performed, or if the certificate is not valid, your animal can still be admitted into the United States, but will be confined immediately at a place of your choosing (you are responsible to pay for the lodging). The pet must be vaccinated between four and 10 days after arrival and must remain in confinement for at least 30 days after being travel

3) Pre-travel inspection and Export License (Form R.9) – Thai authorities require pets to be brought to the Animal Quarantine Station at Suvarnabhumi International Airport for inspection prior to export.  This is not inside of the airport or within walking distance, it is in the cargo area, and you will need to have a taxi take you there. I have been told there are internal buses that go there, but I have never been able to find them.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Animal Quarantine Station
First floor of Building CE 1 in the Free Zone
*Entrance Way Number 1 of the Free Zone

The Quarantine Station is open 8:30 AM to 12:00 Noon and 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM, Monday-Friday.

Telephone: 02-134-0731
Email: or

The Animal Quarantine Station will issue an export permit and health certificate immediately after the examination is complete. The entire process should take between 30 minutes and an hour. The information on the US Embassy webpage in Thailand is misleading, so I called the Embassy and I was told you must get this export permit within two or three days of your flight. If you have a flight on Thursday, you MUST take your pet for the examination on Monday or Tuesday. You must be present at the inspection, even if using a pet transit service.

You will need the following to apply for the permit:

  1. Your original passport and one copy of your passport.
  2. Original vaccination record and one copy.
  3. Pet Transportation Form (Form R. 1/1) which is available in their office.
  4. Flight itinerary.
  5. 50 Baht per pet export fee.

At the office the vet will conduct a health check, take a photograph of your cat (and you) and give you the documents you require for export.Sukair

In Summary:

Make two photocopies of all the following documents and keep them with you when you travel.

  • Your pet’s health certificate
  • Rabies vaccination certificate
  • The airport vet health certificate (that you will be given with the export permit)
  • The export permit

Loose estimate of various costs: Cost of of a single visit to the veterinarian (around 300 baht in your nearest town), cost of rabies vaccinations (150 baht), Cost of a trip to obtain the export permit (300 Baht by taxi), export permit (50 Baht), International transport cost (around 6000 Baht).

Total Estimated Cost: Around 6800 Baht


When you get to America

  1. Make sure you check the box on the customs form that you will be bringing a live animal into the country.
  2. A customs official may want to check your pet at the destination. Pets may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a pet appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian might be required at the port of entry (at the owner’s expense).
  3. If you checked your pet as excess baggage then you may collect your cat after passing through customs.

Sources (list of airlines that allow pets)

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