Moving with your pet to another country can be a complicated and stressful experience but like many other things in life, forewarned is forearmed. Therefore, by familiarising yourself with all the requirements and doing your research ahead of time, you can help to ensure a smoother journey with less anxiety for both yourself and your pet.
The most important thing to do first is probably to find out about the quarantine requirements of the country you are planning to emigrate to as this will determine how easily you can take your pet with you. Some countries have very strict rules and it may take several months of preparing documentation and receiving the proper inoculations against disease, prior to your actual move, before your new country will accept your pet.
The strictness of a country’s quarantine laws can also depend on the original country you are coming from. For example, if you are planning to emigrate to New Zealand and you are starting from the UK (or Republic of Ireland, Singapore, Hawaii, Norway, Sweden and Australia), then it is a relatively straightforward procedure as all these countries share a rabies-free status and high biosecurity levels. This means there is usually no quarantine or rabies requirement, as long as your pet is accompanied by a veterinary health certification showing protection from diseases such as canine heartworm and Leptospirosis, has been treated for parasites and is microchipped for identification. On the other hand, if you are trying to emigrate to New Zealand from China with your pet, you would find it extremely difficult – in fact, you would not be allowed to enter New Zealand directly but would have to let your pet spend time in an approved country for a certain length of time first.
In general, it is best to allow a lot of time in advance for preparing the necessary documentation and to research all the requirements thoroughly, so that you can take advantage of any special quarantine-waivers.
Despite the UK’s rabies-free status, you will still be required to provide evidence of your pet’s rabies-free state before being allowed to enter most developed countries. Some countries, such as Japan, Singapore, Canada and the US, are satisfied with a certificate issued by an authorised veterinarian confirming that New Zealand is a rabies-free country and providing the necessary information, such as microchip number, for individual identification. With this certificate, your pet will not have to undergo quarantine or may complete it within a few hours.
Other countries, such as the EU member states, require proof of rabies vaccination and satisfactory blood test results, accompanied by individual identification, to allow your pet entry. In many cases, there is a specific time condition as well, where dogs and cats must wait a certain amount of time after a satisfactory blood test before they can enter the country. This is why it is important to research these requirements ahead of time to make sure that you have built in this time in advance of your departure so that your pets are ready to travel when you do.
Another thing to research well in advance is the cost of transporting your pet, which for a large animal (e.g. Giant breed dog) can be substantial. Aside from the cost of the actual flight, there are also the fees for documentation, taxes and administrative procedures at both ends of the trip, examinations by authorised veterinarians and the cost of an approved travel crate that meets the International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards.
It may be easier to use the services of a pet transport company to help you organise everything and oversee various stages of the journey, for a fee. Make sure you only use internationally-approved pet transport companies – check their credentials and experience, as well as their animal handling skills. They should be treating your pet like a valuable member of the family, rather than just lucrative cargo.
Preparing your pet for travel
While the journey will undoubtedly be a stressful one for your pet, there are several things you can do to help prepare him for the challenge. Animals cope best if they are given a chance to adapt gradually to change and build positive associations. Thus, you can order their travel crate in advance to give yourselves time to teach your pet to use it and adjust to being confined in it. Feed them treats and meals in the crate to associate it with positive things and reward them for being calm. In some cases, you will be allowed to leave a familiar item in the cage with your pet which has your scent on it to comfort him, such as an old T-shirt.
If your pet is a particularly sensitive or anxious individual, speak to your vet about any possible natural remedies which may help to calm him, such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Contrary to popular belief, it is a bad idea to sedate a travelling animal as it can dull their necessary survival instincts and it is difficult to monitor a pet during the flight for any adverse reactions – sedation is actually believed to be responsible for the deaths of several pets during transport.
Finally, it is important to consider the welfare of your pet first and foremost. While it may break your heart to leave him, if he has an extremely anxious temperament and is unlikely to cope well with the stress of a long journey – or is elderly and has a medical condition which may make it unsuitable for him to fly at high altitudes, then it may be kinder to leave them with a family member or friend who will be able to look after them.