While traveling out of the Schengen region with a pet is much easier than trying to navigate their entry into the Schengen region the literature for acquiring a European Pet Passport is confusing at best. Here's what we learned about the Schengen shuffle with a pet passports:
1. Schengen tracks pet records better than the U.S.
The Problem: The process of getting your pet into a Schengen country for the first time requires you have EVERYTHING recorded by a vet. This could be any accredited vet where you're currently located, but this may require your pet to receive duplicate vaccines. A pet passport requires the manufacturer of the vaccines received, when your pet received them, who administered them and even the serial or lot number of said vaccine. Additionally, a vet will need to sign off on your pet being treated for external and internal bugs (fleas, ticks, heartworm, etc...).
The Solution: Connect with your vet early. Well before entering Schengen talk with a nearby vet and ask them for all the information you need to enter the Schengen region. They will give you a list of vaccines required to enter as well as what information they need about those vaccines. From here you can call your previous vet(s) and ask for the details on each vaccine. Please note if you're coming from the U.S. originally, your vet may not have details such as serial numbers or manufacturer name. If this is the case, your pet will need to receive those vaccines again so those things can be documented.
2. You may need a country ID and a pet passport, these are not the same
The Problem: In order for your pet to apply for a pet passport they need an ID placing them in that country to begin with. Think of this like applying for a state ID or driver's license before applying for your passport in the U.S. However, if you're unaware of this and used to contacting a vet a week or two prior to your departure you will be a bit pressed for time attempting to get both in order before you go.
The Solution: Connect with your vet early. Upon arrival in Schengen find a vet and apply for your pet's country ID. You won't need to apply for a new ID for every country, this is just required to apply for your Pet Passport as it is unique to the country where your pet has their ID. In other words, if they have a France ID card they can apply for a French Pet Passport and use that to travel in and out of Schengen.
3. Schengen requires a new rabies vaccination upon application for a Pet Passport
The Problem: Even though our pet has only had their U.S. rabies vaccination for one of the three years it covers, applying for a pet passport triggered a requirement for a new rabies vaccine. This is required for all new pet passports in the Schengen region. When we asked why that was our vet and the authority for pet travel in France said it came down to the vaccine being administered outside their country so they can't trust it. A horrible reason for a pet to have to go through an unnecessary vaccine in my opinion, but I digress.
The Solution: Unfortunately there is no fix for this, it's a necessary evil, but it does take a while to go through this process so once you have your country ID squared away talk to your vet again about a Pet Passport.
4. A titular test may be required for re-entry
The Problem: Once your pet receives their new rabies vaccine this triggers the need for a titular test (blood test) to gauge the efficacy of that vaccine. Usually a titular test takes 20-30 days to receive the results and you must have received those results 90 days prior to re-entry. So if you're doing a classic Schengen shuffle of 90 days in and 90 days out you need to have received those results before you leave the Schengen area.
The Solution: Ask your vet if this test is required for re-entry in your case and if so, ask to test your pet immediately to ensure you receive the results in time. In a bind you may be able to test the prior rabies vaccine, but in order to get approval on this we had to reach out to I-CAD (authority on pet travel in France) ourselves.
Please comment below with any questions or comments you have about pet travel anywhere in the world.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet or pet travel expert. Please verify all information with the proper authorities in the countries you are entering and exiting.