Welcome to another installment of The Expat Diaries, a place to share expat stories, adventures and travel tips with others! Link up your posts and be sure to visit a few bloggers. For those of you who are new, this blog hop takes place on the first Thursday of each month. The next link-up is scheduled on October 3rd. Today I’m going to be discussing tips for moving a pet abroad.
Because moving a pet will always be different depending on your timeframe, the airline and the country you’re relocating to, you should give yourself enough time to prepare. Like I mentioned before, we moved Malcolm from the UK to the USA and we had many factors to consider. Here are some tips:
1. Quarantine requirements?
When we moved to the United Kingdom in 2011, pets from certain countries were required to stay in quarantine for 6 months. The law has since changed which is great for pet lovers, but if we ever move someplace that requires Malcolm and Ollie to stay caged up for that long, we won’t move them. Yes, I just said we would definitely take them will us, but this is the only thing that would prevent us from doing so. If we move abroad again we will most likely be in a location for 6 months to a year, so it wouldn’t be worth relocating them if they had to spend that entire time in quarantine. In this situation, I’d talk my loving parents into babysitting for a while (you would do that, right parents?!)
2. Plan ahead and know the exact date of your move
I promise this will make your life a lot easier. Make sure you have enough time to prepare and if you can, travel during the milder months. We got stuck flying Malcolm during the summertime, but if we had to do it again, I’d travel during the springtime or fall. One of my biggest concerns was Malcolm overheating — and if we were traveling in December, I’m sure I would have been paranoid about him freezing.
3. How will your pet be traveling?
The most time-consuming part for me was researching different airlines. I had heard horror stories from other expats and wanted Malcolm to be treated properly by airline staff, and I wanted to know he would be safe both on and off the airplane. I decided on KLM after reading reviews on different websites and finding out they’ve transported Olympic horses. I also liked the fact that they required Malcolm to fly to Amsterdam a day earlier than us so he could stay overnight at their pet hotel before the long haul overseas. This was an extra cost but it allowed him to rest, go on walks and eat before another flight.
Some airlines and countries allow pets to ride in the cabin, others require animals to fly as cargo. Malcolm was too big to fly in the cabin so he flew in a ventilated, temperature-controlled, pressurized area in cargo. There are different size requirements and charges associated with this, so check with your airline.
4. Will you be using a third party or contacting the airline yourself?
Since I was worried about messing up paperwork and booking Malcolm on the wrong flight, I used Passport for Pets to relocate him. They helped me with preparations and actually built a custom-made kennel for Malcolm based on his measurements. This kennel had a separate water and food dish (required by airlines), was sturdy, and large enough for him to comfortably turn around and stretch.
5. What are the crate requirements?
Like I said above, Passport for Pets actually built a custom-made kennel out of wood for Malcolm, but most airlines don’t allow these. Most require hard, plastic crates that meet IATA requirements. If I look at KLM’s in-cabin crate requirements, pets must travel in a hard-shell kennel, no higher than 70 cm. Pets must be able to stand up and lie down comfortably, and total weight of pet + kennel must not exceed more than 13 lbs. Research, research, research!
6. What paperwork will you need?
We were required to get a health certificate from our vet so many days before our flight (again, varies between airlines) and also made copies of all Malcolm’s vaccination records. We didn’t need a pet passport but got one anyway just in case we would be coming back to the UK with him.
The airline you’re flying with will be able to tell you about paperwork requirements, and if you go with a pet relocation company like we did, that’s even better. They’ll be able to help you with country requirements.
7. Is your furball ready for the long haul?
– Get your pet used to his/her crate if possible. Malcolm and Ollie are both kennel trained and consider their kennels their safe little dens. This is most likely because they get treats every time we put them in.
– Withhold water and food a few hours before the flight. You don’t want your pet to have a full bladder and be completely uncomfortable the entire time! Also, don’t change their food days before the flight. You know what I’m talking about… when you switch food, sometimes your pets get upset tummies and diarrhea. Again, uncomfortable.
– Airlines don’t allow toys or a bunch of blankets in the crates (you don’t want your pet to choke on part of a stuffed animal or get overheated from too many blankets) so we put a single shirt on the floor for Malcolm to cuddle with. It didn’t take up much room and it had our scent on it which helped calm him.
– We did not sedate our dog because most airlines don’t allow this if they’re traveling cargo, plus I wasn’t going to give Malcolm a medication if I wasn’t right there with him. Just the thought of Malcolm being “out of it” in a kennel beneath a plane scares me. When they’re sedated they could have temperature and breathing issues!
8. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions
I called Passport for Pets, KLM and our vet to check on timeframes and paperwork requirements all the time. I wanted everything to go smoothly, plus it made me feel a lot better. On the day Malcolm had to travel from Edinburgh to Amsterdam alone and stay at the pet hotel overnight, I requested the pet hotel phone number from KLM. They don’t usually give that number out, but I was able to talk to one of the workers and have him check on Malcolm.
When we were flying from Amsterdam to Washington, DC the next day and Malcolm was booked on our same flight, I asked the KLM workers to notify me when Malcolm was placed on the plane and when he was being taken off. I probably annoyed everyone there, but I wanted to make sure he wasn’t being left in a hot vehicle or on the tarmac.
Relocating a pet takes a lot of preparation and can be stressful, but hopefully these tips will help you if you’re ever in this situation. Let me know if you have any questions!
Filed Under: Dogs, Expat, Travel