Are you planning to fly with your pet to Portugal? TAP and some other airlines welcome dogs to travel in the cabin or the hold, as long as the owner provides valid documentation and the pet carrier is deemed safe.
Ticket: Regardless of the status of your dog, you must book your ticket with the airline directly (over the phone). You cannot purchase the animal’s ticket separately. If you are travelling with a Service Dog, you will have to provide a completed form from your personal physician that will be emailed to the airline prior to departure subject to approval (due to respiratory issues, flat-faced dogs are not permitted to fly).
Veterinary/USDA: You must book an appointment with your vet. They will facilitate the paperwork to be sent overnight to the USDA for approval. You will have to get a money order for USDA payment and include an overnight FedEx return envelope.
Carrier: You must have an airline-approved carrier, regardless of the status of your dog.
Customs: You will have to book an appointment with the custom’s vet in advance of arrival at Lisbon Airport. There will be a €40 fee.
We do not recommend procuring Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or Service Dog (SA) status if you intend to travel only once. The airline may prove difficult. You will have to pay for the certification and physician’s sign-off, which is similar to the cost of the pet’s plane ticket.
Service Dog status: As there is no accredited entity that supervises Service Dog certification, this status will not be recognised in the EU. Furthermore, there is no legislation that covers ESA so the airline might still charge for the ticket. That said, you can always travel with your dog in the cabin (if the dog falls under the airline weight limit).
Note: To be able to have the dog travel outside of the carrier, it must have the appropriate training (be able to remain calm for the duration of the travel – no barking, no peeing, etc).
Currently, US nationals are not able to travel to Portugal simply on a US passport. If you are able to procure an exemption, you will not be allowed to travel with a pet in the hold (in-cabin only, in accordance with weight restrictions). Once the present travel ban is lifted, so will these limitations. If your pet is over the weight limit, it can be transported in the hold.
Advice on pet wellbeing
Be sure to exercise your dog in advance of travel. Fortunately, the US-PT flights are overnight, so the dog should already be primed to sleep for the duration of the flight. If you travel from JFK, Terminal 5 has an outdoor dog run which is right by the Lisbon departure gate. It is well worth it to book this route as it is a long flight and your dog will be stressed from the check-in/security process. The flight itself is 6-8 hours depending on wind. If you add the travel to the airport, check-in and luggage claim, security at departure and arrival with the custom’s vet, the whole procedure adds up to ±12 hours.
Do not feed your dog dinner (breakfast only). Use dinner as a slow-feed opportunity to calm your dog at take-off with any relaxation protocols you might already have in place. Toys and treats are very important for the duration of the flight. Bring a water bowl and allow for small amounts of water during the flight, as pets too get dehydrated. Be sure to manage intake since there will be no opportunity for pee breaks. Bring a pee-pad for emergencies to be used in the plane’s WC.
It is highly unlikely that the animal will relieve itself in such an awkward setting, but if it is trained to go on command or it is clearly having trouble, this may be very helpful.
If you opt to medicate your dog, be sure to do a trial run well in advance of your departure so that you can mitigate any adverse reaction with the assistance of your vet.
By Suzana Horta Greene
Suzana Horta Greene is a dual US/PT national and flies frequently with her dog.