Planning a move abroad with your pet?


24 December 2020

The moving process is complicated enough, but even more so when you’re relocating overseas with your pet. Regulations vary greatly by country, airline, and even the type of pet. Because there are so many details to sort out and different things to consider as you plan the big move, you want to be fully prepared.

We’ve outlined the steps you will need to take if you’re thinking of bringing your much-loved pet overseas to live with you.  

Regulations for importing a pet vary from country to country so the first thing to do when planning a move abroad is to research the animal import laws of your destination country. A good place to start is the Department of Agriculture of your intended destination.

It’s also a good idea to contact the appropriate consulate several months before your planned move date to get the most accurate, detailed, and up-to-date information. Some countries, for example, will not permit certain types of animals or breeds into their country, such as exotic animals or particular dog breeds. 

In addition to getting familiar with your new country’s pet import laws and regulations, you need to pay particular attention to timelines as well. There are often pre-travel veterinary requirements which will need to be followed up to six months before the planned departure date and so early research is essential.

It’s important to note that quarantine may also be imposed in some countries, unless your pet is coming from a rabies-free country, so be sure to factor lengthy quarantine periods into your relocation timeline.

Consult with your vet well in advance about your pet’s impending travel plans. They should be familiar with the requirements for your pet based on your destination. 

Moving your pet within Europe is relatively straightforward, thanks to standardised pet passports across all European member states. The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets to travel between the EU and some other countries without the need for quarantine, provided certain health requirements are met. These include:

  • been micro-chipped
  • been vaccinated against rabies
  • had treatment against tapeworm, where necessary
  • a valid European pet passport, when travelling to another EU country or an EU animal health certificate, when travelling from a non-EU country

For pets travelling outside the EU, country-specific paperwork, procedures and quarantine requirements apply. Most countries will require your pet to have an official health certificate issued by your vet. Nearly all countries require imported animals to be immunized against rabies and some require vaccinations and tests for a number of other diseases as well.

Find out the details of required vaccinations for your chosen country of residence, and the specific dates your pet must receive them prior to your move. 

Different airlines have different regulations for transporting pets in addition to the country-specific requirements. Some airlines allow small pets in the cabin, but in many cases your pet will need to be crated in the cargo. The cargo hold for checked baggage may be affected by air pressure and the outside temperature, so think about the time of year you’re travelling and get detailed information from the airline about the air pressure.

Whether in cabin or in the hold, in all cases your pet must travel in an approved travel carrier. Crates must conform to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animals Regulations and must be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. The IATA website provides all the information on the regulations.

Make sure your pet gets acquainted with the crate well ahead of your flight. Ideally, you want to have a couple of months for crate training. Ultimately, the goal is to give your pet good associations with the crate so that it feels safe and comfortable in it. Leave the carrier open and encourage your pet to explore it by leaving treats and favourite toys and blankets inside. Feed your pet in the crate and get it to sleep in it. When the carrier becomes a safe place for your pet, it will be very comforting during the stressful trip to your new country.

And finally, the cost involved in relocating your pet to a new country can be an expensive undertaking, but if your furry friend means the world to you, then it will all be worth it. 

In addition to paying for transportation, you also have to pay for the health certificate and vaccinations, as well as for the certification by a vet. Some non-English speaking countries also require that the health certificate be translated and notarised at a consulate. Other items you may need to purchase for your pet include a microchip transponder and the pet crate.

Note: COVID-19 has made flying with pets more challenging, as some airlines have temporarily suspended their pet transportation programs during the pandemic. Make sure to check individual airline’s specific policies before you plan to travel.

Remember to also consider your own health needs when relocating overseas with international health insurance for you and your family.