Moving abroad can be a complex process for anyone, but bringing a furry friend along adds another challenging layer. Our furry friends are loving companions and an integral part of the family, so it goes without saying that we want to bring them along on our new adventure. Sadly, relocating with pets may not always be possible due to your destination country’s rules or certain dog breeds, such as snub-nosed dogs. The process varies widely according to the country you are moving to – and sometimes where you’re moving from. This should not be a deterrent because in most cases relocating with your pet is definitely possible. If you are moving abroad and plan on relocating with pets, this is what the process could look like for you.
What to expect
The first thought to get out of your mind is that relocating a pet is as simple as booking the flight. It is NOT that simple at all! International travel with a pet in the majority of cases requires you to obtain an import permit. Plan ahead and do extensive research because it can take a month or more to obtain the permit.
Right now, the United States has a general ban on animal import from high-rabies countries. It began in 2021 and was extended to 2023 in June of 2022. Learn more about the CDC’s exceptions if you are planning to bring a pet into the US. When we were moving to the United States from Thailand it took six weeks to finally get approval. This was because Thailand is considered a high rabies country and we got our dog there.
Before submitting the application, you also need to have your pet’s vaccination records in order. You will typically need to provide vaccination records and the results of a rabies titer, which tests your pet’s immunity to rabies. The latter took us nearly a month to obtain, which we had not accounted for. Don’t make the same mistake we did! Definitely make sure you understand how long each step of the process will take. Your pet should also be microchipped. It helps you locate your pet if they are lost and many countries require it for importation. These crucial steps will save you a lot of unnecessary stress and heartache.
Pet comfort and safety
The next step is choosing an airline that has a strong reputation for transporting pets safely – especially if your pet is too big to travel with you in the cabin. From Asia to the US, the airline recommended the most was Emirates followed by Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, ANA Airlines, and Korean Air. For long flights in particular, you will want to make sure that the airline allows your pet out of their crate for a stretch during layovers. Before booking make sure to call the airline to find out their latest policies and understand how they handle pet transport.
Your pet’s crate is another important consideration for an international move. If you don’t already have a travel crate, make sure to purchase one early so that you can give your pet time to acclimate to it. Airlines have specific rules about the type of crate you can have. Some of the specifications include:
- Internal measurements that accommodate the following measurements of your pet (from the tip of their nose to the root of the tail, from the elbow to the ground, width at the widest point, and from the floor to the tip of the ears or top of the head). They should basically be able to move around and stand comfortably but it should be so big that they get knocked around.
- Ventilation on all sides. Your pet needs to breathe!
- Food and water bowls attached to the inside of the crate. You will also be asked to tape extra food to the outside of the crate.
- Live animal stickers on the top and sides.
- No wheels on the crate.
- Identification on the outside with the pet’s name and your contact information.
Get help from experts
Handling the details of a move is incredibly difficult, and worrying about moving a beloved pet can be an added stressor that you may not want to shoulder. The last thing you want is to not have your pet approved for import or a long gap between when you leave and your pet arrives (trust me on that!). Along with transport, there will likely be final vet checks required before your pet’s departure and customs fees at the starting point and destination.
There are several companies that specialize in helping people relocate with pets. Some companies provide door-to-door service and take care of the customs process on both ends. Others may only handle the vet checks, transport to the airport and customs at your pet’s starting location. Your decision about what type of service to choose will be dependent on your budget, and if you will be able to meet your pet at their destination. It doesn’t matter if you select a company that is based at your starting point or destination. Make sure to ask around to see what kinds of experiences other people had before selecting a company. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) also maintains a list of pet shippers.
More info about relocating with pets
Relocating with pets can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be an added burden to your move. Check out these sites for more information as you plan your international move.
- Moving.com – https://www.moving.com/tips/how-to-move-with-pets-internationally/
- Earth Relocation – https://www.earthrelocation.com/how-much-does-international-pet-relocation-services-cost/
- Military by Owner – https://blog.militarybyowner.com/6-resources-for-a-military-move-with-pets
- PetRelocation.com – https://www.petrelocation.com/blog/post/5-essential-pet-travel-resources
What was your experience moving with your pet abroad? I would love to hear about how you got your furry friend to a new country!