Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moving Abroad with Pets

Today's guest post is about bringing your pets abroad. I've briefly touched on this topic in the comments to Why you'll say "no" to living abroad, but mainly focused on a couple of legal issues. Vivienne Egan describes some practical considerations.

Moving abroad and bringing the family pets

If you are considering moving abroad – especially if you are relocating the entire family – one thing you might need to consider is your pets. From the much-loved hound to the moggy that pre-dates the children, these family members will need your special consideration.

Cats cats cats! (Arrow Rock, Missouri, 20050703) 03
Who would want to leave these delightful critters behind?
Photo by Scott Granneman

Things you’ll need to think about
  • Are you bringing the pets with you? Moving kids overseas can be a difficult thing to negotiate at the best of times; the news that Fido isn’t coming too might be met with dismay from the other family members
  • What’s best for the animal? Consider that elderly pets may not appreciate the long journey and unfamiliar new surroundings or climate
  • How long are you going to be away for? If it’s only a year or two, perhaps a trusted family member of friend can care for your pets during that time
  • Where are you moving? What are the local laws about bringing pets over borders?
  • Should you engage a relocation service? This may be best left to the experts, and pet relocation services will ensure all the right paperwork is complete on time for your flight
Facts of pet relocation
  • Pets are transported in a secure cargo area in a plane with a ‘sky kennel’. It is dark and temperature controlled area specifically for live animal transport, and they won’t be checked on during that time
  • The PETS scheme is designed to stop the spread of rabies and other animals. The UK requires all pets to be transported with registered carriers
Tips for the flight
  • Try and give your pet time to get to know its carrier before the flight
  • Putting a familiar smelling blanket or toy in the kennel will help your pet settle for the flight
  • Give your pet a light meal before flying and leave time for a toilet stop
Settling your pet in abroad
  • You will have to check that your new home abroad is suitable for animals – are the fences secure? Is there enough room in the backyard?
  • Where is the nearest vet and the nearest pet supply store?
  • What’s the pet culture in your new location? Attitudes towards pets might be substantially different from what you’re used to at home
While it may be a lot of fuss to relocate a pet, for devoted pet owners the hassle is ultimately worth it to have a special furry friend to help you in an unfamiliar place.

Have you ever relocated a pet? What tips would you offer?

Vivienne Egan writes for Now Health International


  1. Great topic! Oh yes, this can be a nightmare.

    A few years ago we moved from Paris, France to Tokyo, Japan. The cats, of course, came with us but it was not as straightforward as we thought. The problem was rabies. Our cats had never been tested for it or vaccinated against it but the Japanese authorities insisted. Apparently France is on a list of countries that still have rabies floating around. The entire process to bring them up to speed took months. So we left them with a friend, moved and then went back for them many months later and brought them home to our little place in Shirokanedai.

    We learned our lesson. Now, every year we get that vaccination renewed and the papers stamped just in case we move outside the country again. They also have been equipped with a chip in addition to the tattoo that they are required to have in France.

  2. Would you believe me if I said that relocating my cat has been the single most difficult thing when moving from Italy to Norway?

    We didn't bring him for our 5 months in Australia though. That would have been a painful experience for everyone involved, and I'm including the cat :)

  3. ...and it took me 9 captcha attempts :-)

  4. I will post my Facebook comment...

    Moving with our dog, Bella was ok. We had just adopted her from the animal shelter 7 months before moving. Fortunately for us, the vet had seen her a lot in that time. All we had to do was request a paper from them and have her examined. They literally took one look at her and signed off on the paperwork. We then had to have the paperwork sent to Denver (1 hour north of us) for processing so we could get an international health certificate. Unfortunately, we had to do this process twice because the certificate was only good for 30 days and after travel/moving plans were set, the first certificate was going to expire a few days before we left the US. The worst thing was the cost (about $1,500 USD in exams, certificates and air fare) and the trauma the dog went through during the flight and for the first few days after arriving to the Netherlands. She traveled in the belly of the plane in a carrier. She was really skittish for a little while but she has since recovered well.

    I think it would have added to our stress if we had not brought our dog. And, I also think it would have been traumatic for our dog if we had given her away since she was adopted in the first place. We had just started to get her to trust us when we moved.

    Considering I was not and am not able to find work, I also think that she has helped me cope. She is a great companion for me and I think pets are good, in general, for 'trailing spouses'. I have also met people because of our dog. I like having my little buddy here. And, my husband really likes coming home to her happy little self (and me, of course. But, there is just something about a happy little dog that does a person good.)

    1. Alecia, that's an awesome story. My wife and I had to deal with this with our cats, too. I couldn't imagine giving them away.

  5. We also brought our two cats over from the UK to Canada. The actual flight over we did slightly differently -- instead of using a formal animal cargo system, we actually brought them over as checked baggage! Few airlines did this, but both BMI and Air Canada did allow this for the two legs of the journey. The advantage for us was that we didn't want to leave our cats for the several days needed for the animal cargo system, and wanted more control at the transition at Heathrow. It worked brilliantly -- the cats travelled very well, and settled in very speedily. If this is possible, and if the flight isn't very long, I'd consider it. (Must admit, I did explicitly get the cabin staff to confirm they knew there were live animals in the hold and that the heating was on for them.)

    We used very large cat carriers, so they had plenty of room to turn around. We used puppy liners as a layer below vet bedding, in case of accidents. There weren't any -- I think cats have remarkable water management systems on the whole. The staff at both BMI and Air Canada were amazingly helpful, and did offer food and provide water even when I wasn't there. And eventually, they showed up in a special cargo exit by the baggage area in Toronto, we speedily passed through customs with little effort (I think they said, "Yes, the're cats, you can go through") and didn't even look at the paperwork on vaccinations and fitness to travel.

    As with others, we needed vaccination against rabies -- and a blood test to confirm that it had taken -- but this could be completed after arrival in Canada. In practice, our Canadian vets didn't think much of the UK rabies vaccination system, so it was redone here as soon as they considered it right to do so.

    Because I travelled with the cats, and my other half stayed in Scotland to sell the house, a big win was to buy a cheap webcam so she could see them whenever she wanted. She was also going through some health stuff at the time, and even seeing the cats remotely helped a lot. A totally worthwhile addition if you are apart for any time.

    1. morungos, Sounds like your cats did better than ours. Our cats ended up in cargo and were traumatized both coming and going. It was awful - their cages were filthy when we picked them up and they were scared out of their wits. I felt terrible about it but like Curtis we just couldn't imagine leaving them behind.

  6. We moved from the US->UK and then back again with our dog. The UK rules were more difficult a few years back but as long as you follow all the paperwork to the letter it was fairly straight forward. Thankfully we had the time as the process did take a while then (I believe it's now much shorter into the UK the first time).

    It can be done, and we're glad we did it. Not sure how you get the kids up and move and have them leave the puppy behind, though clearly it depends on where you are moving to

  7. This is a great informative blog. As the owner of a ground shipping company for pets I feel that their isn't enough information out for pet owners. Thanks for your time you've put into this blog and for getting out the much needed information about pet relocation