An overseas move doesn’t mean leaving your pet behind, however there is a substantial amount of planning that will need to be done.
Check Your Destination Country for Import Requirements
Most countries will post comprehensive and user-friendly regulations concerning their animal import regulations on the internet. Be sure to be consulting an official government website, and not a third-party’s site, as regulations can change. Typically moving between two countries that share a border is an easier process than those separated by sea, as disease transmission is an issue.
Allow Ample Time
Countries that have strict requirements will require additional time to process your paperwork to move your pet. Rabies-free countries have a tightly controlled process, and may require up to a year in advance to complete all the needed documentation.
Have Your Pet Microchipped
An essential step when traveling with any pet is to have them microchipped. Each chip will provide a unique ID number that when scanned, and ensure you have the corresponding paperwork with your pet. Most veterinarians are experienced with the microchip process, and be certain yours uses an international 15 digit ISO pet microchip, recognized world-wide.
Check Your Vaccinations
While your pet may be up-to-date on vaccinations at home, double-check the country’s requirements very carefully. Different types of vaccines are available for the same purpose, and while the type you have may be fine here, you may need to update with a different type to meet their requirements.
Each country has their own regulations regarding quarantine requirements. Until recently, rabies-free countries had a non-negotiable six-month quarantine period for any cat or dog brought from abroad. Thanks to microchip technology, it is possible to guarantee correspondence of the pet to their vaccination records, so this step may now be performed at home in advance of travel.
At least a couple months prior to departure, contact the quarantine service division at the airport which you will be arriving in-country. They can then confirm they will be expecting you on the date and flight, and forward a list of forms you will need to complete.
Locate an Experienced Veterinarian
If at all possible, locate a veterinary practice that has sent animals outside the country before. Having been through the process before, typically they can assist in sorting through the international red-tape.
Cargo or Cabin?
Should you be able to have your pet travel with you, it may help to lessen the worry over their safety during transit. Of course, you may not have a choice if you have a larger dog, and some carriers do not allow pets in the cabin. Carriers that do allow pets in the cabin, typically charge a small fee to do so, and will have strict size requirements. Check with your carrier for details and restrictions.
Food, Water, and Drugs
The practice of sedating a pet during transit has waned recently, due to complications that may arise mid-flight that cannot be fixed while an animal is in the cargo hold. Placing some ice cubes in a cup can provide some water during flight, although many pets will likely not eat or drink much during the experience as the stress of a new environment, and the separation from you will likely have them distracted.
There will be additional costs involved with transporting a pet, and while not small, it should not be overly large. Blood work and the costs of extra vaccinations will vary from vet to vet, and a final de-flea spray and airline charge will add up. For a typical pet-move, expect to budget in the $1000 US range.
Finally, don’t panic. Start with plenty of time and while the process is not difficult, it is time consuming and attention to detail is essential.