Pet travel form taking flight

Pet travel form taking flight

AVMA objective is model certificate of inspection all states could adopt
Sep 01, 2008

NEW ORLEANS — Better parameters on what veterinarians consider suitable conditions for companion-animal domestic travel could be crafted at the next American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Veterinary Service meeting.

"It's asking a lot to have a veterinarian say it's OK to keep an animal at 45 degrees or below," says Dr. Mark Helfat, who introduced a resolution to create a new certificate of veterinary inspection for domestic travel at an AVMA House Advisory Committee meeting earlier this year. The House of Delegates voted to move forward with creating a new document at the annual conference in New Orleans.

Most airlines require some form of a health certificate, signed by an accredited veterinarian, before a pet can travel.

"When we sign these certificates now, I feel somewhat guilty," Helfat says. "I'm required to sign a statement saying the animal, to the best of my knowledge, is acclimated to air temperatures lower than 45 degrees."

While Helfat concedes that the airlines have been doing better recently, he says they "are just going through the motions of what they think is appropriate for animal owners to have in hand when going on an airplane."

There is an existing USDA form for international travel, but it doesn't work well for domestic travel, Helfat says. And there is no uniformity of certificates among states.

"When someone comes in and asks for a health certificate for travel, most vets reach up on a shelf and pull down an antiquated federal form. We all use it, but it doesn't seem to meet the challenges of today. You want a form that is vet-friendly; this form is missing a lot of things that we have to squeeze in."

For example, the form doesn't leave room for a veterinarian to write in cat vaccination information. And it asks for a tag or tattoo number, as well as commercial breed, breed or scientific name information, which leads Helfat to believe the form's original intent was not for pet travel.

But having a uniform certificate is important with domestic travel becoming more frequent for dogs and cats and possibly for other companion animals, Helfat says.

He fills out one of these forms, which must be signed by an accredited veterinarian, about once a week.

"We want a certificate that makes sense," he says. "One that addresses the animal's health, vaccination history and identification."

"There is nothing on the form now that asks for a microchip number," Helfat adds incredulously.

Rosemary LoGiudice, staff consultant to the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service, will work with the council for its September meeting to help draft language by gathering information from different states with certificates already in place.

"The idea is to have a model certificate that all of the states might adopt," she says.

Once the form is drafted, it will then go to the Executive Board for approval, LoGiudice says.

Once approved, the forms will be used as a model certificate for boarding, shows, exhibitions and training classes, as well as travel, Helfat suggests.