Emigrating with your pet – your questions answered

Don’t leave me behind!

If you’ve made the decision to emigrate to another country, you’ve likely considered taking your pets with you. You may be concerned that costs will be exorbitant, but this isn’t always the case. The emigration process takes time – for many, a good number of years, so if you are serious about taking your pets, you will have plenty of time to save for these expenses.

We answer some of your questions:

“Should we use a professional pet shipper or handle it ourselves?”

It is in both you and your pet’s best interest to use a reputable, registered pet shipper. The consultants have access to the latest travel information and are advised immediately if regulations or entry requirements in the various countries have changed.

This is a very stressful period for everyone. You are likely to be very busy in the run-up to the move and your pets can pick up on this stress. To spare them the uncertainty of this period, you may want to consider sending them to kennels either 30 days, two weeks or even just a few days before the fight – the choice is yours. Some pet travel companies offer a kennelling service on their premises or use an affiliated kennel.

In terms of preparations for emigration, plenty has to be done in the last month to ensure that your pets are compliant with the protocols required by the country you are moving to. Getting the steps and documentation correct so that your pet is compliant is critical. If a pet is found to be non-compliant at the port of entry, he will be sent back to South Africa at the owner’s expense. This can prove very costly in terms of the weak South African rand, as costs are calculated in US dollars. Sadly, some countries will even euthanise pets who do not comply.

Another important point to consider is that things may not always go according to plan – flights may be cancelled, delayed or postponed due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Reputable consultants have agents in other countries and should be able to resolve issues quickly and let you know that changes have been made to your pet’s flight.

“We want to take our pets with us. What are the costs for quarantine, vaccines and kennelling?”

Ballpark figures cannot be given. Costs are determined by the size of the pet, the country you are emigrating to and what they require in terms of blood tests and quarantine procedures. Your budget and requirements for your pet will also need to be considered.

Urban legends abound when it comes to cost – don’t assume it’s too expensive and you can’t afford it. Do your investigations and get the right information! You may be able to transport a small dog to the United States for under R8,000, while large breeds travelling to Australia may cost in excess of R70,000. Some pet shippers offer a payment plan and you can pay off a monthly instalment in the run-up to your move.

Consult several reputable and registered pet shippers for quotes and compare ‘apples with apples’. The company should be registered with the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA). Registered companies must follow a set of rules and regulations, and you’ll have peace of mind that your pets are in good hands.

“Will our pets be treated well once they are checked in, on the flight and when they arrive at their destination?”

Most airlines do treat live animals with utmost care; however, there are those that are not as dedicated as others. Using a reputable pet shipper will ensure that the best route and best airline are selected for your pets. With experience in the industry, a reputable pet shipper will know which airlines and routes to avoid and which will provide excellent care for the animals.

“Our dogs are going with us. What crates are required for travel?”

Crates must be made according to stringent requirements set out by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The crate may be wooden or plastic. The animal must be able to sit, lie down, stand and turn around comfortably in the crate. Manufacturers of the crates must be registered with the Department of Agriculture and special procedures must be followed during the manufacturing process.

Water containers are fixed to the crate. If the journey is long or you are exporting a puppy or kitten, you can fix one or two small plastic bags filled with food on top of the crate. Some airlines (not all) do take pets out of the crates for walks. If food is supplied, it will be offered outside the crate. The crates of pets going to New Zealand are sealed and pets may not be removed.

Newspaper must be included to absorb urine. Some companies also include a light foam mat and shredded paper for extra comfort. Avoid absorbent housetraining pads as these contain gel, like a disposable nappy. Your pet may rip it open during the flight, exposing the gel inside. You can include a small blanket for your pet or his favourite toy, but there is no guarantee that items will be left in the crates. Some airlines do remove them.

It is also better to allow your pet time to get used to the crate before travel. Some companies offer ‘training crate’ hire. A replica travel crate is brought to your home so your pet can get used to it. If your pets are in kennels for some weeks before the trip, you can request that crate training be done there.

“We’ve heard about health certificates, permits, blood tests and rabies shots. It sounds so confusing.”

This involves all the preparations your pet requires before he can leave South Africa and legally enter another country. The process may take many months, depending on the destination country and what their requirements are.

Veterinary health certificate (VHC) Essentially your pet’s ‘fitness to fly and leave the country’ certificate. It contains your pet’s vaccination details, dates of the blood draws for tests and their results, microchip numbers and address details. Countries differ on when the VHC may be issued – this may be anything from 10 days to 48 hours before travel. It will be prepared by your pet travel company, either in conjunction with your own vet or a vet service provided by them.

Import permit Some, but not all, countries require one. The import permit is issued by the destination country.

Microchipping This is a South African requirement and must be done before the rabies vaccination is given. An ISO-recognised microchip must be used.

Vaccinations and treatments Vaccinations need to be up to date according to the age of the dog or cat. If any other vaccinations are required by the destination country, the consultant will advise you. As per the South African export requirement, the rabies vaccination must be older than 30 days but younger than one year relating to the date of departure. Some countries also require that pets be dewormed and treated for external parasites before departure.

Blood tests There are a number of different blood tests that may be required by the various countries. Blood can be drawn by your vet or the pet shipper’s affiliated vet. Samples must be sent to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute for testing. Your vet will receive the results and these must be included with your pet’s VHC. The rabies neutralising and titration test is the most common blood test required.

Air ticket Pets can only be booked on a flight between 10 and 14 days prior to departure. If a pet travel consultant books the flight, he or she will advise you on the departure times. Pets must check in five hours before the flight. The pet travel service will either pick up your pet at your home or the kennels, crate him and take him to the airport.

State vet sign-off Just a few days before your pet is set to depart, a state veterinarian must review the pet’s VHC and attached documents and sign them off. State vets are available around the country, but if you use a pet travel service, they will arrange this on your behalf. A fee is payable to the state vet.

Information supplied by Hazel Imrie, president elect (Middle East and Africa) for the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) and owner of PetPort South Africa.


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