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Moving Overseas with Pets by Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl

Moving Pets Overseas

How to Keep Man’s Best Friend Safe and Happy

Don’t plan on moving abroad with your pets on the spur of the moment. First, investigate whether your dog or cat will be subject to quarantine. Countries that do quarantine newly arriving animals usually require proof of a neutralizing antibody titration test for rabies performed more than six months before the date of importation. Even countries that don’t require a quarantine period require a health certificate and proof of a current rabies vaccination.

The U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs is expanding its PETS (the Pets Travel Scheme) to the U.S. and Canada. When it goes into effect, pets will no longer be subject to the mandatory 6-month quarantine as long as they undergo a rabies test and obtain an import license.

Domestically, dogs and cats can fly in the cabin if their crate is small enough to fit under the seat, as checked baggage, or as cargo. Airlines ban animals flying as checked baggage between May 15 and Sept. 15 on those going as cargo when temperatures are extreme. The airlines advise you to call a day ahead to check weather conditions.

American Airlines and Delta Airlines websites explain industry regulations for transporting live animals as well as guidelines for purchasing International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved shipping crates. Airlines can refuse to ship pets if their crates do not conform to the IATA standard.

Transporting your pets out of the country is not as simple as booking them a ticket and waving goodbye as they board the plane. When my partner and I moved our beagles to New Zealand, because of the country’s strict regulations, we hired a pet relocation service to make these arrangements for us. Jet Pets booked Charles’ and Beatrice’s flight to New Zealand and handled their inspection by the USDA vet. They went over their health certificates and other paperwork, furnished us with IATA-approved crates, and took them to the airport. As part of their service, they can also pick up animals at LAX, board them, and transfer them to their international connections.

Jet Pets owner David Hasenauer says the biggest problem he sees with moving animals overseas occurs when owners show up with incorrectly completed health documentation for their pets. “We have had owners trying to tell their vets how to fill out health certificates without any idea of the correct method and vets deciding not to perform tests because they thought they where unnecessary. It’s better to talk to the USDA for the correct method of completing any health certificate for the foreign country that you’re traveling to.”

Qualified Pet Services (QPS) picked up our dogs at the Auckland airport and transported them to their facility nearby. To help pets adjust, Sarah Newnham, QPS’ quarantine liaison, recommends that owners furnish their animals with familiar items such as old blankets or clothing. “It’s comforting for pets to have something with their owners scent on it,” she says.

Charles and Beatrice received weekly visits from a veterinarian and staff members stopped by every couple of hours to check on them, feed them, and clean their kennels.

Taking your pet overseas isn’t cheap—the bill to bring Charles and Beatrice with us totaled $5,500.

For More Info

The websites below contain information about importing pets into various countries and Hawaii. The European Union is currently revising its health requirements with the intent to standardize regulations across individual countries.

Pet Relocation Services:

The Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) maintains a lengthy list of pet relocation services and offers guidelines on choosing a good one.

LISA WILLIAMS lives in Whitianga, New Zealand.