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The Overseas Pet – How Do I Move My Pet Internationally?

Posted in: I'm Moving, International Moving, Kids & Pets

International Pet Moving Tips

The What, When and How on Moving Your Pet Internationally

First, why move your pet? Seems like a dumb question, doesn’t it? But there was a time not so long ago that an international move meant finding a new home for Rover. Not any more. Airlines across the board have improved pet travel over the years, making even a long distance move smooth for the whole family, particularly the four-legged members.

Since the enactment of the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act of 2000, airlines in the US have upped their game, making it safer than ever to put your pet on a plane. Still, moving a pet with you to another country is a decision you’ll have to make. Do your research and be sure a move is practical or even possible for your pet.

With all that’s entailed in an international move – and we know you’ve got a long list of things to do – it’s important to know and follow all the steps necessary to take your pet along with you on this adventure.

There are some fantastic pet relocation companies out there. Checkout Family Pet Relocations, World Pet Travel, or PetRelocation for example – they even do corporate pet moves. These folks will handle your pet’s move door-to-door, detail-by-detail. Whether you use a pet relocation crew or DIY it, early planning is a must!

First determine if your pet can fly in the cabin with you.

Each airline has rules on the type and size of pet that can travel in a carrier at your feet in the cabin. If your pet fits the bill, you may want to consider in-cabin travel. A long international flight in the confines of a crate may still be stressful for your furry friend, so do consult with your veterinarian for advice on how to make the long trip more comfortable.

If your pet must make the flight in the cargo area, don’t panic – prepare.

Find an airline that will put your pet in an area of the aircraft that is temperature controlled and pressurized. This may require that your pet travel on a flight or airline different than you.

The cargo area of an aircraft “is actually preferable in many ways,” said Caitlin Moore of PetRelocation, an Austin, Texas, based company that moves pets all over the world.

“Many pet owners want their pet by their side, because they think that will be less stressful for the pet,” Moore said. “In reality, that’s not how it works. It’s pretty stressful for a pet to be in the cabin.”

Noise, the commotion of a crowded cabin, the smell of food, and long waits to board and disembark  all make the cabin not a very pet-friendly place, Moore said. And it’s easier to plan a trip if you can plan your pet’s flight separately.

Choosing a pet-friendly airline ensures that your pet is the last one on the plane and the first one off, and that the pet-designated cargo area is quiet, safe and temperature controlled at all times, Moore said.

Speaking of pet-friendly airlines, some airlines have risen to the top of the heap in the care that they give animals. It’s important to check out airlines before you turn over your pet for flight. Pet relocation specialists have lists of trusted pet airlines that include KLM, Lufthansa, JetBlue, Continental, Virgin, Qantas and United Airlines. United’s PetSafe program offers step-by-step instructions for pet owners, a 24-hour live animal desk, and the ability to track pets from origin to destination. JetBlue’s JetPaws program is another program specifically designed for pets. And Lufthansa has a world-class “animal lounge” in Frankfurt, a luxurious layover for your pet.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals doesn’t recommend pets on planes, but has these suggestions:

  • Put a photograph of your pet on top of its travel crate. You should carry with you the same photograph for identification purposes.
  • The night before your trip, freeze water in your pet’s travel crate water dish. During loading, the water will still be frozen and won’t spill. And by the time your pet is thirsty, the water will be thawed and ready.
  • Drugs to tranquilize or calm your pet are not recommended, because it may hamper your pet’s breathing. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your pet medication before travel.

Get your destination country’s requirements.

Every country has its regulations on animals coming into its borders. If you are moving from the United States to a foreign country, you must follow the regulations of both countries on your pet’s departure and arrival.

Contact the consulate or embassy in your destination country to learn their requirements.  Some countries (and Hawaii) require that your pet be quarantined upon arrival. Some of the quarantines can be long and arduous on an animal. Learn all you can before you make a decision. Be sure to start the process early, so you can get your pet cleared for takeoff in time for the big move.

The Internet is great for quickly learning what’s required, but be sure to check the dates on any online sources. The European Union recently changed their rules on animals coming into the region and some websites are outdated. Do some digging and be sure you’re up to date.

Your vet is your pet’s best travel agent.

Once you’ve figured out the travel requirements, get to the vet. Every international move requires some type of pet passport, a certificate from your vet saying your pet is healthy enough to travel. And each country has its own additional requirements. For example, if you’re moving a dog from the US to England or anywhere in the United Kingdom, your pet will need a microchip, a rabies vaccination, a pet passport, and tapeworm treatment.

Don’t put off this vet visit until the last minute. Rabies shots must be given at least 21 days prior to takeoff. And if there is a minor health issue going on with your pet, you may need to resolve it before being cleared.

Prepare for the trip.

In the flurry of an international move, remember your pet when you’re setting aside essentials. Pack a bag of food, medicine, treats and other necessities. Gather travel and vaccination certificates and contact information in a folder and keep it with you. Get the crate or carrier that’s required. Start to prepare your pet for the change. As cat owners are well aware, felines are very particular about their surroundings and will need some “practice” exposure to a carrier.

Now stop stressing and have a great move!

Paperwork and forms – check! Vaccinations and health clearance – check! Pet-friendly airline chosen and booked – check! Looks like your furry friend is all ready for the big move.


About the Author: Diane Laney Fitzpatrick, from San Francisco, CA, is the author of “Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves,” and the writer telling all the crazy move stories over at It’s Your Move.

Photo credit: istolethetv


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