PCSing to Turkey With Pets

PCSing to Turkey With PetsI’m sure you’ve noted by now through my posts that getting the dogs to Turkey was, shall we say, a bit involved 🙂 When first looking at the requirements for entry versus other countries, it seemed as though we had it a little easier since we weren’t facing a quarantine requirement and odd vaccines and such. All-in-all I would still say the overall requirements are not all that difficult, it’s just that getting a clear answer on what those requirements are, and how to go about getting them done is quite challenging. So, I know this blog will only be helpful to fellow military members specifically PCSing to Turkey, but because I never found a clear resource for this information, I wanted to put it all in one place in the case there is someone out there that might find it useful.

Basic Requirements
There are three main things that are required for your pet to enter Turkey.

  • INTERNATIONAL HEALTH CLEARANCE – This much be filled out and signed by either a military veterinarian (this will either be the D-2209 form – used if you are flying on the rotator, or the D-2621 form – used if you are flying commercial, neither of which require further notarization), or a USDA accredited civilian veterinarian (if you go this route, the form must be overnighted to your state’s USDA office for notarization). The health exam, and notarization must all be done within 10 days of your travel. 
    • An important note: This is 10 days from the day you arrive in Turkey, not 10 days prior to the day you leave on your flight (since you will arrive in Turkey a day later than you leave). Also take into consideration the time in which you will be arriving. If you are flying commercial and your pet will go through a customs or pet processing center at the Turkish airport, it is possible that you may arrive after that office has closed for the day, in which case your pet may be held overnight and processed the next day. If this is the case, your health clearance must be good through the day they are actually processed. 
    • Helpful tips: We flew commercial and had to use a civilian veterinarian. In order to make sure we had the correct forms and followed the correct procedure, I called our vet clinic back at Ellsworth to get the correct number for the USDA’s office in NC. I then had the contact there email me the required form (and all of the requirements for pet travel to Turkey), then forwarded it to the civilian vet clinic, and brought a hard copy of it with me to the initial visit to the clinic so the veterinarian would have a chance to review it and clarify any questions before it was time for the actual exam. The USDA contact included a blank form as well as a “cheat sheet” of the form explaining exactly how to fill it out. When it came time for the real exam, the vet was able to do a few quick checks on the dogs, then signed off on the form she had already filled out. We were in and out in a matter of minutes. Because we were using a non-military vet, we had to get the form notarized by the USDA’s office. To do this we had to take the health clearance form, proof of their rabies vaccinations, and proof of their ISO compatible microchip to the post office and have it overnighted, also including prepaid materials for the USDA’s office to overnight the notarized form back once it was processed. I had been told the office would have it processed within 24-48 hours. I mailed it out about lunch time on Monday and received it back around lunch on Wednesday so it was super fast. 
  • RABIES VACCINATION – Your pet must be vaccinated within 6 months of your travel, but not less than 21 days before you leave. The vaccination must also take place AFTER the ISO microchip is inserted. 
  • ISO MICROCHIP – Only ISO compliant microchips are accepted, and your pet must be vaccinated for rabies after it is inserted.
    • Our experience: Our dogs had microchips already, but they were not ISO compliant. So they now have two microchips each. They were vaccinated after the chips were inserted, but because our leave date got pushed back a month due to SOS I ended up having to take them back to the vet for another vaccination so it would have been done within the 6 month, but more than 21 day window. 
Getting these things done, and done within the correct timeframes was pretty stressful. I started months in advance and did my best to leave no room for error. After all my trouble, believe it or not, not a single one of these things were checked. Not one. I’m sure if I hadn’t dotted my T’s and crossed my I’s everything would have been checked in detail. As is common to say here, “Welcome to Turkey.” It seems there is no such thing as standard protocol, so all you can do is make sure you have everything you are supposed to on your end, that way you are prepared regardless.
Preparing for the Flight 
Jim had to fly cargo, and Jeannie flew in cabin with us.  
  • GETTING A FLIGHT – There are limited pet spaces available on each rotator flight so it is imperative that you make your travel plans with TMO immediately upon receiving your orders. If you aren’t lucky enough to be stationed near your departing airport (usually BWI), you will be required to get your pet there. This often means having to drive them, or fly them commercial. Because most PCS’s take place in the heart of summer or the heart of winter, you will face the issue of pet embargoes that are common on commercial flights. Most airlines will not allow pets to fly in extreme temperatures. United is about the only one I know that will fly pets year round because they have temperature controlled cargo cabins, and transfer your pets from plane to plane via temperature controlled vans (although we learned there are certain planes they use that do not have this option, so you still have to call and make sure your pet will be able to fly with no issues). When booking your flight, be sure to confirm your pet is able to fly and double check that specific airline’s requirements for pet travel such as crate dimensions or special requests. If your pet is small and able to fly in cabin with you, you will just need to make sure their carrier size is approved for the specific plane you will be flying on. If you are flying on the rotator overseas there are no temperature restrictions as the pet cargo hold is temperature controlled. Also, providing there is time at the stops, you will be able to let your pet out to use the bathroom and stretch their legs along the way. If you fly commercial your pet will be in their crate for the long haul, and you will not have access to them.
  • CRATE REQUIREMENTS – Your pet’s crate must be large enough for them to stand in comfortably, and must be ventilated on all sides (not including the bottom or top obviously), and in my experience must be the hard plastic type crates (wire cages will not work – I don’t think). It is better to buy a crate that is a size larger than you anticipate needing, than to hope a smaller one will pass inspection. However, you don’t want the crate to be TOO large, as the extra space may cause harm to your pet in the event the plane suddenly shifts and they are tossed around. Be sure to read the recommended dimensions for your pet’s measurements when buying a crate. 
    • Hardware: Most crates come with plastic bolts holding the top and bottom together. You will need to replace those bolts with metal bolts and washers. Zip ties are also required (at least when flying commercial) to ensure the door to the crate is secure and your pet cannot get out. 
      • We had to drill holes in the crate so we could loop the zip ties through the plastic and the wire door and secure. Sometimes the airlines will have zip ties on hand, but we learned on this trip it is a good practice to bring some with you just in case. 
    • On and In the Crate: We have only flown our dogs commercial so I can’t speak to whether this is true when flying on the rotator, but we have always been required to tape our dog’s leash and a small bag of food (a sandwich sized ziplock is plenty) to the top of the crate, and include an attachable bowl (the kind most crates come with) inside the crate so the people handling your pet can give them food and water, and walk them if necessary (although typically if your total flight time is less than 12 hours they will not do any of these things – or in our case a long international flight, short layover, and short final flight). 
      • We also always include a copy of our dog’s paperwork. For this flight we included copies of Jim’s health clearance, rabies vaccination, ISO microchip, and our passports.
    • Consider the weather and elements your pet will face during their travel. Although they may be in a temperature controlled cargo hold, there will be times when they will be sitting on the tarmac waiting to be transferred. Adjust their bedding in the crate to accommodate for the conditions they will face. We purchased a self-cooling gel pad in Jim’s crate to help him with the heat. 
    • Exercise, Food and Water: It is a good idea to prepare your pet for a long flight by taking them for a long walk or run a little while before your flight. Your goal is to help them get any excess energy out so they will be happy to relax during the flight, but you also want to give them time to unwind, rehydrate and refuel well before you check them in. It may seem cruel, but it is best to take away and food and water a few hours before the flight, and make sure they have used the bathroom plenty of times. Some people choose to freeze water in the attachable bowl so their pet will be able to lick the ice to hydrate during the flight if needed. We have done this and found it pretty much just melted and got Jim’s bedding wet (he was too focused on everything else going on to think about licking ice), but if it gives you peace of mind go for it. 
    • Prepare for Accidents: We received a very good tip from a former Turkish Airlines pilot when telling him we would be flying the dogs. He recommended lining the crate with pee pads. It is a very long flight and even if your dog is potty trained very well, most likely they will have to go at some point. We placed two towels in the bottom of Jim’s crate, then layered four pee pads (the kind that turns the liquid to gel so it wouldn’t be running all over the place), and topped it with the cooling gel pad. When we picked Jim up he had peed quite a bit, but the towels and the pads soaked it all up so at least he wasn’t sitting in a puddle. We just washed everything and gave him a bath once we got to lodging and everything was good as new.
Once In Turkey
Once you arrive you are required to register your pets with the base vet clinic within 10 days of your arrival. You do not need to bring your pets to the clinic, you just need to provide their records and let the clinic make sure they are entered into the system. We were not required to make an appointment to do this, and it took all of about 5 minutes to complete. 
  • Your previous base will have green folders assigned to your pet where they will have kept all of  your pets records. This is considered your personal property and you are supposed to pick it up and hand carry it with you during your travel. When you arrive at your new base (in this case Incirlik) you can hand over those folders so the clinic has a full medical history for your pet. 
And that’s it! Easy peasy right? Right. Getting our dogs to Turkey was the most stressful part of our entire PCS. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard or worried so much. My best advice is to start preparing early. Get your forms, vaccinations, and crates in order. Work on getting your pet accustomed to their crate ahead of time so they aren’t stressed about the flight AND being confined. Ask questions, even if they seem redundant or silly. It’s better to ask and be sure than to hope you are on track and then have your pet rejected. And double check everything. I’m so thankful to be able to say things went as smoothly as possible for our dogs. We all arrived to Turkey safe and sound, just a little tired and frazzled from the long travel. 
One last tip I can offer. If your pet is a lover of toys (our little Jeannie has a few she is obsessed with), bring one of their favorites along. It can act like a security blanket for them, and provide them with a little piece of “home” when they get to their new base since it can take a while for your household goods to show up. It also gives them a way to expel their pent up energy while you are settling. I bought Jeannie a small toy I knew she would love a few weeks before we left the states. Since getting to Turkey she has not let it out of her site. 
So that is our story and our experience! I hope you find it helpful. And GOOD LUCK! 

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