Pet Travel Guidance

 

March 2011

1. Summary: This telegram provides guidance for pet owners who are preparing to transfer this year. This guidance supersedes all earlier guidance relating to traveling with pets.

2. Shipping a pet is the owner's responsibility. Although the USG may reimburse some costs and posts may provide pet owners with some level of assistance, the USG does not accept any liability relating to the transportation of pets, including the death of a pet in transit.

3. The Department strongly advises travelers to contact their post of assignment to obtain post-specific information pertaining to pet shipments. Travelers are cautioned that some air carriers may refuse to transport pets during certain times of the year. The desire to travel on the same flight as a pet is not justification to fly on a foreign carrier, travel a less direct route, or make other changes to an itinerary that would violate travel regulations or result in increased costs. Travelers are encouraged to confirm arrangements for their pets well in advance.

4.  An excellent resource on traveling with pets is the Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) located at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center or online. This website contains valuable information and links to resources on pet travel, including current U.S. air carrier pet shipping policies, country specific pet entry requirements, import and quarantine restrictions, as well as a list of commercial pet transporting services located in the Washington metropolitan area. OBC's DVD "Traveling with Pets" also contains up to date information and can be viewed or borrowed from Room E- 2126 at the Shultz Center.

5. The Travel & Transportation (GSO) section at each post will also have invaluable information that generally includes any restrictions on pet import and export, clearance procedures and fees, and quarantine (if applicable). Please contact the GSO or management officer at post for specific requirements. A current post TMTHREE would also include pet-specific information.

6. Reimbursement for Expenses: The miscellaneous expense portion of the Foreign Transfer Allowance and the Home Service Transfer Allowance (DSSR sections 241, 242, 251, and 252) provides for reimbursement of "certain extraordinary costs" related to moving to and from foreign posts. Such costs may include some expenses for shipping a pet. In keeping with current Department policy, only the transportation portion of any charges for shipping a pet from airport to airport is considered allowable when itemizing miscellaneous expenses. No other expenses related to moving the pet to a new location (e.g. veterinary costs, kennel costs, quarantine costs, transportation to and from the airport) are allowed. A traveler who claims pet transportation as a miscellaneous expense forfeits his/her claim to the the standard lump sum reimbursement, currently $500 for singles and $1,000 for families -- see below. Please note that only pet shipment costs from foreign post to foreign post, from foreign post to U.S. duty station, or from U.S. duty station to foreign post are allowed. Reimbursement for pet transportation costs is not authorized in connection with travel to and from a home leave address or as part of R&R. Nor is it authorized for training periods. On a post-to-post transfer where the employee takes home leave, training or R&R before proceeding to the new post, expenses related to shipping the pet to a home leave, training, or R&R address may be calculated on a cost construct basis, based on the cost of shipping the pet directly from post to post. Without receipts, reimbursement for all miscellaneous expenses is paid at a flat rate of the lesser of $500 or one week's gross base salary for single employees and the lesser of $1,000 or two weeks' gross base salary for employees with families. Single employees who present itemized receipts for their miscellaneous expenses may be reimbursed for actual allowable expenditures up to the lesser of one week's gross base salary or the one- week gross base salary of a GS 13/10, ($1,786 in 2010). Employees with families who present itemized receipts for their miscellaneous expenses may be reimbursed for actual allowable expenditures up to the lesser of two- week salary of a GS 13/10, ($3,572 in 2010). Please visit the Office of Allowances' Intranet site at http://aoprals.a.state.gov for additional information.

7. Tax deductions for moving expenses: Costs beyond the limits prescribed in the DSSR are considered personal expenses. In some cases these costs may be claimed as moving expenses for income tax purposes. Check with a tax advisor or with the IRS for more information on the tax treatment of these expenses. Forms, publications, and other information are available from the IRS Internet web site. Of particular interest is IRS Publication 521, "Moving Expenses." In addition, to assist employees living abroad, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a new IRS brochure, IRS Publication 4732, "Federal Tax Information for U.S. Taxpayers Living Abroad."

8. The three ways to transport a pet via air are listed below (not all airlines provide all three options):
(a) As excess/accompanied baggage: Depending on the airline, a pet may be able to travel on the same flight(s) as the traveler, either in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Pets transported this way may be considered excess baggage and charged accordingly. Do not assume that the pet will be allowed on the same flight. Seek confirmation in advance. Animals weighing 100 pounds or more will usually travel as cargo, even if on the same flight as the traveler. Check with the airline. 
(b) As air cargo: Pets may be transported as an air cargo shipment on a separate flight. In this case the pet does not have to be accompanied, but must be picked-up at the final destination. The cost of this service is often considerably higher than shipping a pet as excess/accompanied baggage. Some airlines or countries require that pets travel as cargo even if the owner is traveling on the same flight.
(c) As air cargo via a commercial shipping company: A licensed commercial shipper can arrange to ship a pet as air cargo. Some airlines require use of this method unless the pet is small enough to fit in the cabin. Charges are likely to include the cargo rate plus the shipper's fee. Arrangements for shipping pets as cargo can be lengthy. It is crucial to plan in advance. Be sure any commercial shipper used is either a "known shipper" or holds an Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) license. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) strictly enforces regulations regarding the shipment of cargo, including pets, on passenger planes. (This does not affect pets traveling in-cabin or pets traveling as excess/accompanied baggage.) Airlines will typically only accept air cargo from a "known shipper," or from a company that holds an IAC license. A "known shipper" is a shipper that does business on a regular basis with an airline.

9. Shipment of pets to member countries of the European Union (EU): The EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) established requirements for the shipment of pets to member states, although some EU member countries impose stricter requirements. Requirements can also vary depending upon where the pet previously resided. The pet section of each post's welcome cable (TMTHREE) should include specific pet entry requirements. The GSO or Management Officer at post can also provide detailed information. Travelers transiting an EU country for a limited number of hours and not taking possession of their pet may avoid some of the more stringent EU Pet Scheme requirements. Links to the EU and the UK Pet Scheme websites are available online.

10. International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA): In addition to the other websites mentioned in this telegram, travelers may wish to visit the IPATA website. IPATA is an international trade association of animal handlers, pet movers, kennel operators, and veterinarians who care for pets locally, nationally, and worldwide.

11. Airline Restrictions and Pets: Some U.S. carriers impose restrictions or embargoes on shipping pets between May and September, the hottest months for pets to travel in the Northern Hemisphere. It is important to note that restrictions imposed by U.S. carriers are not uniform from carrier to carrier. Also note that airline partners and code share flights may have different restrictions. Detailed airline-specific information is compiled in the OBC's "Shipping of Pets Checklist," which is available from the OBC or online. Any questions regarding this ALDAC may be addressed to the Overseas Briefing Center, Maureen Johnston, telephone 703-302-7277, or the Transportation and Travel Management Division, or the Office of Allowances.

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