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Pets play an integral part within today’s family structure and when faced with the possibility of overseas relocation pet owners the world over rarely hesitate to include their pets in their travel plans. However, there are a few things to consider before flying off into the sunset with your pet by your side.

First, you must find out if your destination country allows the importation of your pet as some countries do have limits on the types of species that they will allow in. You can do this by simply calling your Consulate in the destination country or checking an authoritative (e.g. government) website online. You will also need to find out whether a period of quarantine is necessary and what other documentation your pet will need. You will probably also have to obtain the relevant import and export licenses, health records and vaccinations, proof of ownership etc. Fortunately there are specialist pet relocation services available in many western countries that will deal with all the paperwork on your behalf and transport your pet to the airport if required.

Most EU countries and many countries outside the EU are now members of the Pet Travel Scheme under which dogs and cats from any of the countries covered by the scheme are able to enter the country without quarantine provided they meet specified anti-rabies, blood sampling and anti-worm/anti-tick hygiene requirements and are fitted with a microchip.

However, Australia is not a part of this scheme. Dogs and cats cannot enter Australia without numerous tests, treatments and examinations and 10 days' post entry quarantine on arrival.

For those countries not covered by the PETS scheme, you will need to find out what the quarantine requirements are for your pet – check the relevant government website and/or speak to your local vet for further information. Whether or not a period of quarantine is necessary, you will normally have to provide a current health certificate and proof of a current rabies vaccination for your pet. You should check carefully the specific rabies vaccination requirements of the country you are taking your pet to since the 3-year rabies vaccine commonly used in the United States, for example, is not recognised in some European countries.

When making travel arrangements for your pet, you need to take into account the quarantine requirements in effect in any country that the flight lands in since your pet may be subject to these even if it is just in transit through that country. You should also investigate the policies of different airlines regarding carrying various types of animals, as these vary considerably and the rules can be quite stringent.

The next thing to consider is the season in which you are planning to travel with your pet. Almost all airlines have embargos on pet transport during extreme summer or winter months. You will need to check with your airline to determine what they consider ‘extreme’. There are, however, a few breeds of dogs and cats that most airlines will place travel restrictions on, called ‘At-Risk Breeds’. These are certain breeds of cats and dogs that are susceptible to increased risk of heat stroke and breathing problems when they are exposed to stress or extreme heat, a condition that puts them at risk for travel. The following lists examples of such breeds:


Boston Terrier * English Bulldog * French Bulldog * Boxer * Dutch Pug * Pekinese * Brussels Griffin * Bull Terrier * English Toy Spaniel * Shih Tzu * Lhasa Apso * Japanese Chin * Japanese Pug


Himalayan * Persian

As sad as it may seem, you should also consider the age of your pet. Some elderly pets might be better off staying with friends or family than attempting to endure international travel. Your vet will be able to help you in determining whether or not your pet is healthy enough to travel.

There are three ways for your pet to travel:

In the Cabin: This is limited to small pets, such as small birds and dogs, that can fit into a carrier under the passenger seat and which comply with very specific airline guidelines. Riding in the cabin however is limited to just a few pets per flight.

As a Ticketed Passenger: Your pet travels on the same flight as you, although it travels in the cargo area.

As an Unaccompanied Pet: Your pet travels by itself or with pet “siblings” in the cargo area.

Purchasing your pet’s travel crate will be the most important purchase you make during your pet’s relocation process. Choosing the right crate is essential for a safe and comfortable travel experience for your pet. Pet air travel legislation has defined rules governing the size of a pet’s shipping crate. The interior travel crate measurement must be greater than the length of the pet by at least 2 to 3 inches, therefore allowing plenty of space for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie back down again comfortably with legs stretched out.

How To Measure Your Pet

A) Measure the length of your pet when it is standing, from the base of its tail to the tip of its nose.

B) Measure the height of your pet when it is standing, from the floor to the top of its head or ear, whichever is highest off the ground.

Remember to use a crate that has been specifically declared as airline-approved, as airlines will not allow wire crates or collapsible travel crates.

Once you have selected your pet’s crate, you will then need to help your pet become better prepared for travel. The best way to do this is to make sure your pet is comfortable with their new crate. Start by putting treats in the crate and then progress to leaving your pet in the crate for short periods of time while you are out. Your pet will soon become comfortable in the crate and this, in turn, will help avoid separation anxiety and ensure a relaxed travel experience for both you and your pet.

Although it is best to keep your pet calm before, during and after a flight, it is not a good idea to sedate your pet for travel. Sedatives suppress the respiratory system of pets and can often cause disorientation. Several airlines will not even accept your pet if they have been sedated. Rather, use an herbal relaxant instead and include a towel or t-shirt inside the crate so that your pet will feel safe by smelling your scent.

Remember to find out if you need to obtain a license for the animal on arrival in the new country and whether there are any particular laws regarding pet ownership, such as a legal requirement to keep dogs on a leash in public, or to ‘poop scoop’.

If you are moving to a very different climate, the environment may not be suitable for your pet and you may need to make arrangements for it to be cared for while you are away. Other factors that you might wish to take into account when deciding whether or not to take your pet are the availability of good veterinary care and pet supplies in the country that you are moving to. Expatriates moving from the USA to Europe are often surprised at the lack of pet supply supermarkets, for example.

On the subject of animals, it can be distressing for many western pet-lovers who move abroad to discover that starving and diseased cats and dogs or animal corpses on the roads are a common sight in many less developed countries. You might need to prepare your children in particular for this, and perhaps resist the temptation to provide a home for every stray. You should also endeavour to find out in advance if there are any cultural taboos or sensitivities associated with different types of animals in your destination country. For example, Muslims do not like to touch dogs, and this could be a relevant factor when choosing a maid who might be required to bathe a dog.


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