Moving abroad can be an exciting but arduous endeavor.
The challenging task of bringing your beloved pet can certainly add concern and extra stress to the preparations.
Serious logistics are involved, such as obtaining the proper documents, deadlines for health checks. It is a challenge of physical and mental preparing your pet for the move.
Moving from the United States to Thailand was an easy decision for me. However, preparing to bring my beloved dog along presented many obstacles and challenges to overcome. Ultimately, protocols, restrictions, and necessary documents will vary from country to country.
This article will be an overview of what to expect and a general framework on how to proceed.
As I outline the protocols that moving abroad with a pet will entail, be prepared to do diligent research to ensure that all requirements are met for the specific country you are moving to.
Check the Requirement
Importing your pet to another country can be complex and stressful.
Be informed of necessary protocols that will vary from county to county.
This will include specific health checks, vaccinations, and restrictions on certain dog breeds.
Other logistics, such as how your pet will travel, i.e., accompanied with you in the cabin, or separately as cargo, will require a different import/export permit.
It’s best to have a plan in place to avoid any mistakes or last-minute snafus.
Before planning to move your pet abroad, research to ensure that your pet doesn’t fall under any restrictions for the specific country you are moving to.
Two common examples to inquire about are:
Some countries may restrict certain dog breeds.
For example, in Thailand, Pitbull breeds and American Staffordshire Terriers are strictly prohibited from being imported into the country.
Most countries will have a specific minimum age requirement; for example, Thailand requires that your pet must be at least four months of age or older to enter the country.
As I mentioned above, every country will have its own health requirements, such as necessary vaccinations and specific health tests that need to be administered before entering. Some countries may even require you to microchip your pet.
For example, when I move to Thailand, I need to have that my dog vaccinated for Leptospirosis, which is a vaccination not required in the United States.
Note that necessary vaccinations and tests must be met within a specific timeframe.
I suggest you work closely with your veterinarian to ensure that all health requirements are met within the required timeframe.
Get Import and Export Permit
Once you have all the health and necessary documents in order, you can now apply for an import/export permit.
Note that when applying for the permit, you must decide if your pet will be traveling with you or flying separately as cargo, as this will require different permits.
Proof of Documents
Throughout the moving process, you will need to present all the necessary forms and documents multiple times to the proper authorities during your travels.
My advice is to organize the necessary paperwork in an easily accessible folder; this will help the process go more smoothly.
Check Airline Protocols
Finding an airline that meets all your requirements and expectations can be challenging.
Finding the right airline for you and your pet may ultimately be determined by whether your pet is flying as cargo or with you in the cabin.
Every airline will have different rules and regulations, such as the maximum weight of the animal, specific crate dimensions, and restrictions on certain breeds.
In many cases, most airlines had unrealistic crate dimensions that were too small for my dog to fly comfortably. Once you identify an airline that can meet your and your pet’s traveling needs, communicate often during the preparation process.
It is helpful to establish a point person from the airline to communicate with to ensure all specific requirements and expectations from both sides are met.
Pets Traveling as Cargo
Nearly all airlines will accommodate pet travel by cargo; however, not all airlines will meet your expectations regarding the comfort and safety of your pet.
Some airlines are well-reviewed and known for their above-and-beyond accommodations for pets traveling in cargo.
Look for attributes such as specially trained staff, and do not hesitate to inquire about any concerns you may have. Emirates Airlines and Air Canada are known for their exceptional pet care.
They have specially designed cargo holds that are temperature controlled and well-ventilated and provide specially trained staff to ensure your pet’s comfort and needs are met.
Pets Flying In The Cabin
With the exception of service dogs and ESA (emotional support animals), very few airlines will allow your pet to travel in the cabin with you.
My beloved dog Zoe is certified as an ESA dog; however, she is also a short-nose breed and can be prone to health concerns, such as problems breathing when traveling in cargo.
Due to health concerns, most airlines outright restrict short-nose breeds from traveling in cargo. And in some cases, due to health concerns, some airlines won’t let short-nose breeds fly at all! With possible health concerns, flying my dog in cargo was simply not an option for me!
As you can imagine, I was determined to find an airline that allowed my dog to fly with me in the cabin.
Another challenge you may face is that most airlines have specific requirements, such as the maximum weight of the pet, as well as specific crate dimensions allowed within the cabin. In my personal experience, there were many hurdles to overcome; however, with persistence and diligent research, Singapore Airlines was able to meet and accommodate all my needs.
However, it almost didn’t go as planned…
Be Prepared for Surprises
Even after months of consistent communication and approval. Only a few days before my flight, Singapore Airlines contacted me and informed me that my French Bulldog was considered a restricted breed from flying.
At first, I thought the restriction was due to my dog being a short-nose breed; however, after further inquiring, they informed me that they were concerned about potential aggression from my dog. This notion stemmed from the negative association of “Bull” breeds, such as Pitbulls.
For those who know and love French Bulldogs, these dogs are known for being extremely friendly and typically present no aggressive tendencies.
Thankfully, I had countless communications via email stating that my dog was a French Bulldog prior to their approval, and ultimately they decided to allow my pet to fly.
Preparing Your Pets
Moving to another country can be overwhelming, including for your beloved pet, and there are many nuances you may not think of when preparing your pet for the move. Let’s talk about particular challenges you may face.
Especially if your dog is traveling with you in the cabin, they must be on their best behavior!
If your dog presents behavioral problems, such as showing any signs of aggression, the airline has the right to refuse your pet from boarding the plane. If you feel your pet may behave poorly, consult a professional dog trainer to help mitigate bad behavior before the trip.
Running Your Dogs Energy Out
Before boarding the plane, running out your pet’s energy with a literal run or vigorous play session to tire them out can help reduce their stress and anxiety during the flight.
This can especially be helpful for dogs with high energy levels and help mitigate behavioral problems.
If you are like me and never did any proper crate training with your dog before traveling, you may be presented with a challenge.
Luckily, there are many experts and helpful information to be found on the internet. Individual pets will respond best to certain training methods. In my personal experience, using treats got the best results.
Consulting With Your Veterinarian
If you feel that proper training is not enough, or perhaps your pet suffers from mental health issues, such as anxiety, then you may want to consult with your veterinarian regarding any medication that can be safely administered to help your dog cope during the trip.
Acclimating Your Pet
Once you arrive, acclimating your pet to their new home abroad can present another set of challenges.
It may take time for them to get used to their new environment, such as unfamiliar stimulants, or differences in climate, they can even be sensitive to the different behavior and customs of the culture.
However, dogs can be quite resilient; with time, stability, and the loving care you provide them, they will soon begin to feel comfortable. After all, wherever you are, is their home.