Moving Abroad with Your Pets

The last decade has seen record numbers of folks leaving North America to swap the rat race with a more affordable and relaxed lifestyle abroad.

Many of those emigrating have pets. At first glance, it might seem like a daunting task to move your dog/cat to another country, but if you break it down it usually only takes three steps.

  1. Appropriate vet/immigration paperwork
  2. Pet transportation (via airline or pet transporter)
  3. Appropriate and approved housing upon arrival to your new life abroad

Paperwork

Each country has their own rules and regulation when it comes to importing pets, but they do usually have the following required documents in common:

  • A pet health certificate issued within 10 days of travel by your approved vet in the country of origin
  • Dogs: proof of vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus (DHLPP), leptospirosis, coronavirus, parainfluenza, and rabies
  • Cats: feline viral rhinotracheitis, panleukopenia (FVRCP), calicivirus, and rabies
  • All vaccines except rabies must be administered within 30 days of departure
  • Rabies vaccines must be given more than 30 days but less than 12 months prior to departure. The three-year rabies vaccine isn’t always recognized.

Transportation

Each year, more pet owners are opting to take their pets along with them to their vacation destinations. This means added pressure on airlines to accommodate dogs/cats aboard passenger airlines. Before you purchase your airline ticket read up on your airline’s pet transport policy! Some airlines restrict weight limits for in-cabin pets (by law this excludes service animals). You also need to reserve your flight early because most airlines only permit 4-5 animals carried on per flight. Other restrictions often include one pet per traveler, maximum and minimum outdoor temperature (for those who are to be stowed below in a crate), and requires a nonstop flight.

pet travel abroad

istockphoto/JodiJacobson

Most countries don’t require your pet to be quarantined as long as your paperwork checks out and you carry on your pet. If you have your dog/cat imported as freight, you may be subject to customs charges and a hold time. Make sure you read the actual airline’s policy (the included links below) and not a third party’s site. During the research for this article, there were numerous out-of-date sources on third-party sites. The last thing you want when showing up for your flight is to be told you can’t take your pet. Below are direct links to the pet policies for a few major airlines.

If you’d rather not transport your pet via passenger jet, there are other options. Pet transportation companies utilize smaller planes that are temperature regulated. They also often include a vet tech or another caretaker to monitor your pet’s comfort, assuring that they remain calm and sedated as necessary.

Services like Animal Land Pet Movers are pricey, but can actually deliver your pet door-to-door! They also provide you with a moving counselor who will help facilitate the best schedule and route so that your pet has the fewest connections possible. They provide the kennels used during transit, kenneling when necessary for customs, shots, and paperwork as needed. They also obtain your necessary international import permits!

Shop around and find the best pet transporter that fits your budget and requirements. I recommend visiting IPATA to shop for your transporter. Only reputable pet transporters are awarded certification through the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA). The website also includes information on airlines, insurance, vets, animal handlers and more.

Housing

If you’re moving to a home you’ve purchased abroad then this is a non-issue. Otherwise, you’ll need to do some research about rentals in your new country. Craigslist, Airbnb, and VRBO are popular sites for short and long-term rentals that sometimes allow animals (owner preference dependent). Other countries have their own sites like Kijiji (Canada) or are more old-fashioned and rentals are secured by calling the number on a for rent sign or reading the classified section in the local paper. Just make sure you’ve already secured animal-friendly housing before you land in your new country because in some cultures this could prove very difficult. In most cases, with the right preparation, however, moving abroad with your pet is completely doable. Thousands of folks have done it before you, and now you’re better equipped with these three steps to your new life abroad with your pets.

Meet the Author: Shannon Enete

I’m never happier than when I’m in nature with my pup. Walking amongst green giants covered in moss, a crystal clear river running alongside us providing water for my pup and a cool down for me. When I’m not in my happy place I’m teaching high school Medical Science or writing lifestyle, pet, and travel pieces.

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