March 4, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Travel blues

By |2018-03-21T18:20:50+01:00February 1st, 2006|Lifestyle Archive|
Why am I freaking out? I finally found Bella’s passport, but the vaccinations are out of date.

t is about that time of the month when I start to freak out. Nothing to do with guys, chocolate, hair color or fashion. I just worry whether Bella’s passport is up to date. Did I mention my dog is an EU passport holder?

On Oct. 1, 2004, riding the bus with Bella, I read that EU Pet Passport legislation had officially gone into effect. Word on the street was that Italy was definitely not up to speed. No way would the dogana guy check for a passport, and surely there was no vet in Rome with a microchip reader.

Not true.

Since that October, all non-commercial animals — dogs, cats, ferrets, invertebrates (except bees and crustaceans), ornamental tropical fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds (all species except poultry) and mammals (rodents and domestic rabbits) — traveling in, out and within the EU must have EU pet passports.

Knowing I was leaving Italy in two weeks, I began the Sisyphean task of getting Bella the near-mythical document. In Italy, the task involves your vet, the post office, and the state vet known as the ASL Veterinaria (Azienda Sanitaria Locale). It’s the ASL vet who issues the passport. Vaccinations, in turn, must come through your local vet and meet ASL requirements. Keep all appropriate receipts and documents. Preparing the documentation is easier said than done, particularly if you don’t know where to start.

So let’s make this painless.

— Find your local ASL-Veterinarian. The Pagine Gialle don’t help. Ask your vet or contact the Associazione Proprietari Animali Identificati (APAI) at 0332.236.577. No luck? Call the American or British embassies and/or consulates, and ask them where their diplomats go. Or punch in passaporto europeo cani and your city’s name on the internet which should help you find your local anagrafe and ASL, along with requirements and fees.

— Call the ASL bright and early and ask about the conto corrente fees for passport, microchip (if needed), and subscription to the anagrafe, or registry (registering applies mainly to dogs). You must pay these fees in advance and bring the receipt to the ASL.

On to specifics:

Microchip The ASL will insert it for a fee. APAI has a database of vets who can insert chips. If your pet was chipped outside Italy, bring all of those documents. Bella was American SPCA-chipped, which means that not all European readers “find” her chip.

Be tenacious. Note: Your animal does not need to be tattooed.

Rabies You need a Rabies Antibody Analysis taken at least one month (and less than 11 months) prior to your visit. ASL keeps the original certificate: Make a copy.

Go to the ASL with the following items: Pet (dog leashed and muzzled; cats, ferrets et al in appropriate housing); Passport and codice fiscale; Conto corrente (bank account) receipt; Rabies Antibody Certificate; Your pet’s libretto and whatever documents you have, just in case.

Now you’re ready to leave Italy with your pet, and return with no problems. Almost.

A few things to think about: Most airlines require a health certificate dated no more than 15 days prior to travel. So check with your airline. Most local vets will give you one at no charge.

Taking a small animal outside continental Europe on a plane can mean lockup in a cage in the cargo hold. Go with Air France and Delta; they allow small animals in the cabin. Always reserve and purchase a ticket (at the airport) for your pet — larger animals are ticketed depending on cage weight and size.

I’ve learned that there are always “additional requirements.” Check them at

Traveling to the UK? Not fun.

Dogs need tick and tapeworm treatment 24 to 48 hours before entering the UK. Quarantine can be avoided only if the animal’s rabies antibody level proves satisfactory and the analysis is taken at least six months before traveling. Animals can only enter at specific locations, Heathrow, for example, and on specific airlines, such as KLM and British Airways. The cost is outrageous. Don’t even think about flying “through” the UK on the way to some where else. See

It seems almost cheaper and more convenient to take a train to France and a ferry to Britain.

Oh yes, a word about trains: Animals must be kept in cages or carrying bags. If traveling on overnight trains, you must request a couchette that allows animals.

Why am I freaking out? I finally found Bella’s passport, but the vaccinations are out of date.

— See Erica Firpo’s guidebook series at

About the Author:

Erica Firpo wrote The American's pet advice column from 2006 to 2009. She is a freelance travel and culture writer who lives in Rome with husband, daughter and faithful sidekick Bella. She has worked for Fodor's Rome edition, Luxe City Guides and National Geographic Travel, as well as writing art reviews for Zing and other U.S.-based magazines.