Taking your pet abroad: Here is what you should know

Pets play a key role in the life of many British families. Recent statistics estimate there to be 51 million pets currently living in the UK. The same data revealed that around 45 per cent of the British population own at least one type of animal.

The majority of pet owners, understandably, view their pet as an integral family member and would take their pet abroad with them. There are owners who would arguably prefer to lose a limb than contemplate a premature permanent separation from their creature companion.

Thankfully, if you are one of these people, then moving abroad doesn’t necessarily have to mark the end of your relationship with your pet. Each year, thousands of families take their pet abroad with them. Both for holidays and relocation.

In fact, last year some 16,000 dogs and cats, 400 horses, 200,000 reptiles, 2,000 birds and 28 million fish travelled through London Heathrow’s Animal Reception Centre (HARC). It is surprising how many people would take their pet abroad, isn’t it? So here are the top tips to move your pet abroad with you.

taking pet abroad concept. Happy diverse couple sit on sofa with favourite dog, have break on moving day, busy unpacking, have mess in new flat, many packages, remove to own house

Important decisions when taking your pet abroad

However, just because you may be able to take your pet abroad, doesn’t mean that you definitely should. Costs can be high and some animals – particularly older ones – may find the whole ordeal too stressful.

In addition to the actual shipping of your pet, which could cost as much as £4,000 for a large dog (even more for a horse), there will be vet bills and possibly even quarantine fees to pay as well.

It can also be a stressful time. For owners as well as animals. While relocating your pet abroad to your new country of residence can be a relatively easy, stress-free process, it can also be lengthy, worrying one.

Your destination will ultimately determine how it will be for you, as will the type of pet you’re looking to relocate. While for common pets like cats and dogs the process is fairly standard, for more unusual pets, such as horses, you may come across additional complications.

Pet abroad concept: a dog holding a bindle with mouth

Taking your pet abroad: a trip to the vets

Before you take your pet anywhere, it will first need to be cleared for travel. This will entail a trip to the vet.

Nearly all countries require an animal entering it to be microchipped and inoculated against rabies. Rabies vaccinations come in one-year or three-year doses. After your pet has been injected, you normally need to wait at least 21 days and then get their blood tested to make sure the vaccination has worked. In some countries, for example, Australia, your pet will not be allowed to enter until 180 days have passed from having its blood tested. Therefore, getting organised early is key.

Depending on where you are planning on moving to, some countries will also require further tests for specific diseases.

Before you take your pet to the vet, you need to be aware of just what is required by the country you are moving to. Therefore, it is essential to contact a pet relocation specialist first. Companies like Transfur Animals will be able to advise you on all the requirements.

A vet will also be able to give you advice regarding your pets’ overall health. If they have concerns regarding how your pet will cope with the journey, then they may advise you not to take it. Do not ignore this advice! No matter how hard the thought of leaving them behind may be.

Once your pet has passed a health assessment then it will get a certificate. This declares it fit for travel. The certificate needs to be dated within ten days of the date you intend to travel.

Horizontal shot of domestic animal sits on stack of carton boxes, relocates in new abode, poses in spacious empty room with no furniture, white walls. Taking pet abroad concept

Destination considerations when taking your pet abroad

Where you are moving to will play a key role in just how smooth it will be to take your pet abroad with you.

Within the EU

At the moment, taking a pet to an EU location from another EU location is likely to be extremely straightforward, especially for cats and dogs. This is thanks to pet passports. These passports are similar to health certificates, but allow cats and dogs a lifetime of travel between two EU countries.

The mandatory aspects required to take your pet to most EU countries are simply to ensure that it has been microchipped, inoculated against rabies and possibly been given a ‘fit to fly’ guarantee by your vet.

However, post-Brexit procedures for taking a pet abroad to the EU has changed as new terms have been drawn out between EU and UK officials. Pet passports issued in the UK are now invalid and pets travelling from the UK to the EU will require the following:

  • A microchip
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Tapeworm treatment if required
  • An animal health certificate issued within 10 days of travel

Portrait of a cat with a Pets Passport

Moving pets to the USA and Canada

Thankfully, recent changes in the legality of travelling with pets to the USA and Canada has meant that it is now becoming far easier to take your pet with you to North America. Pets are typically required to have the same vaccinations as if they were travelling within Europe.

Heading to Australia or New Zealand

For long-haul destinations, for example, Australia or New Zealand, the process is not so straightforward. Not only will your pet often travel on a different flight from you, but there is also a possibility that they may need to spend some time in quarantine. This could be as long as three months if officials are not satisfied that all required checks have been fully undertaken.

Once again, it is essential to talk through your options with a pet relocation specialist the moment you decide you want your pet to accompany you on your journey.

Creature comforts

Golden retriever on hill enjoying evening sun walk

The good news for those of you who are determined to take your pet abroad with you when you emigrate is that you don’t have to be concerned for their comfort.

Your pet’s safety and happiness are key to all pet transporters and airlines that relocate animals. And new guidelines mean that no matter where you are heading, your pet’s comfort is guaranteed.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) launched a new standardised global certification programme to improve the safety and welfare of animals travelling by air.

The Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators for Live Animals Logistics (CEIV Live Animals) provides assurance that CEIV Live Animals certified companies are operating to the highest standards in the transport of live animals.

“Last year, millions of animals travelled safely and securely by air,” explained Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President of Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

“Animal owners and shippers rely heavily on airlines to carry their precious cargo. As an industry, we have a duty of care to ensure that standards and best practices are in place around the world to protect the welfare of these animals.”

His sentiments were echoed by Air Canada Cargo Vice President, Tim Strauss. “Whether it is a family relocating with their pet, a flock of sheep relocating overseas, or zoo animals travelling to support conservation efforts, transporting animals by air is a complex and highly planned operation. Ensuring that animals travel in safe, healthy and humane conditions requires coordination across the supply chain, Air Canada Cargo is delighted to be part of the CEIV Live Animals program.”

Pet relocation specialists are keen to point out that nearly all animals cope fine with long distance travel. Most sleep or rest for much of the time and the special IATA-approved crates that they need to travel in afford them plenty of room to move about.

Undoubtedly, there’s much to consider when taking your pet abroad. But by contacting a pet relocation specialist, doing some research and saving money on currency transfers, there’s no need to fear saying goodbye to your pet when starting a new life.