Moving Overseas with Pets
Before you make the decision to move your pet to your new
country, several factors have to be considered. First, will
your pet be allowed in the destination country? If so, a health
or rabies certificate from your veterinarian will most likely
be required. Know how long the certificate will be considered
valid and if your pet will need an entry permit for the country.
Age and breed are factors that will impact whether or not
you take your pet abroad. Discuss it with your veterinarian
and consider the age, temperament and breeding. Most countries
require some time in quarantine, which can last anywhere from
a few weeks to one year. Check with your consulate to learn
the details about quarantine and vaccinations.
Cost is another consideration. In most cases you will be
required to pay duty and quarantine costs for your pet. During
your pre-move visit, speak to a local veterinarian, and if
quarantine facilities are required, survey them at this time
because such facilities vary in care, cleanliness, and staff.
It is desirable to have a veterinarian on staff in case your
pet develops problems.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association
(AVMA), transport of sedated pets may be fatal. Over-sedation
is the most frequent cause of animal deaths during airline
transport and accounts for almost half of all deaths. Except
in unusual circumstances, veterinarians should not dispense
sedatives for animals that are to be transported.
Little is known about the effects of sedation on animals
that are under the stress of transportation and enclosed cages
at 8,000 feet or higher, the altitude at which cargo holds
are pressurized. Additionally, some animals react abnormally
to sedatives. Although animals may be excitable while being
handled during the trip to the airport and prior to loading,
they probably revert to a quiescent resting state in the dark,
closed cargo hold, and the sedatives may have an excessive
"An animal's natural ability to balance and maintain
equilibrium is altered under sedation," noted Dr. Patricia
Olson, a director of the American Humane Association (AHA).
"When the kennel is moving, a sedated animal may not
be able to brace and prevent injury."
Increased altitude can also create respiratory and cardiovascular
problems for dogs and cats that are sedated or tranquilized.
Brachycephalic (pug or snub nosed) dogs and cats are especially
Rather than tranquilizing, pre-condition your pet to its
travel container. According to the Air Transport Association,
"As far in advance as possible, let your pet get to know
the flight kennel. Veterinarians recommend leaving it open
in the house with an old familiar object inside so that your
pet will spend time in the kennel."
Pet Travel Requirements
Age: dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and must
have been weaned before traveling by air. Kennels: kennels
must meat minimum standards for size, strength, sanitation,
Size and Strength - kennels must be enclosed and allow room
for the animal to stand, sit, and lie in a natural position.
They must be easy to open, strong enough to withstand the
normal rigors of transportation, and free of objects that
could injure the animal.
Sanitation - kennels must have a solid, leak-proof floor that
is covered with litter or absorbent lining. Wire or other
ventilated subfloors are generally allowed; pegboard flooring
is prohibited. These requirements provide the maximum cleanliness
for the animal in travel.
Ventilation - kennels must be well ventilated with openings
that make up at least 14% of the total wall space. At least
one-third of the openings must be located in the top half
of the kennel. Kennels also must have rims to prevent ventilation
openings from being blocked by other cargo. These rims - usually
placed on the sides of the kennel - must provide at least
three-quarters of an inch clearance.
Grips and Markings - kennels must have grips or handles for
lifting to prevent cargo personnel from having to place their
fingers inside the kennel and risk being bitten. Kennels also
must be marked "live animals" or "wild animals"
on the top and one side with directional arrows indicating
proper position of the kennel. Lettering must be at least
1 inch high.
Animals per Kennel - Each species must have its own kennel
with the exception of compatible cats and dogs of similar
size. Maximum numbers include 2 puppies or kittens under 6
months old and 20 pounds each and of similar size, 15 guinea
pigs or rabbits, and 50 hamsters. Airlines may have more restrictive
requirements, such as allowing only one adult animal per kennel.
Be sure to check with the airline you are using.
Feeding and Watering While Traveling
Instructions for feeding and watering the animal over a
24-hour period must be attached to the kennel. The 24-hour
schedule will assist the airline in providing care for your
animal in case it is diverted from its original destination.
You as a pet owner are required to document that the animal
was offered food and water within 4 hours of transport, and
the documentation must include the time and date of feeding.
Food and water dishes must be securely attached and be accessible
to caretakers without opening the kennel.
Birds Traveling Abroad
Bird owners who take their pets with them are generally
exempted from some of the USDA quarantine and foreign certification
requirements for imported birds. This exception applies only
to U.S.-origin birds and is permitted as long as the owner
makes special arrangements in advance.
If you wish to take your bird abroad, you must obtain all
necessary documents from USDA and the Department of the Interior's
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before departing the United
States. Such preparation is especially critical for birds
covered by the treaty known as the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species. You should get a health certificate
endorsed by a USDA veterinarian. This endorsement is subject
to a user fee.
If Your Pet Gets Lost
If your pet should turn up missing during transport (highly
unlikely, but anything can happen), immediately speak to airline
personnel. Many airlines have computer tracking systems that
can trace a pet transferred to an incorrect flight. You can
also speak to your veterinarian about placing a small tracking
devise under the skin of your pet which can be read at most
shelters and veterinarian's offices for loss at anytime.
Should there be no report of your animal, proceed with the
Contact animal control agencies and humane societies in the
local and surrounding areas. Check with them daily.
Provide descriptions and photographs to the airline, local
animal control agencies, and humane societies. Help can also
be sought from radio stations. Leave telephone numbers and
addresses with all these people or businesses.
Professional Pet Movers
Due to new security regulations implemented by the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA), flights originating in the
U.S. are only accepting cargo on passenger aircraft from individuals
who meet FAA's requirements as a "known" shipper
or from registered Indirect Air Carriers (IAC). This means
that if you want to ship your pet as cargo, you may need to
contact a professional pet shipper for assistance.
Services provided by a professional pet shipper may include
Pickup and delivery - between airport, kennels, quarantine,
veterinarians, and home
Flight reservations - with emphasis on airlines and schedules
that are best for the well-being of your pet
Flight kennel sales - the correct type and size in accordance
with regulations and to meet the country and airline requirements
Health and/or veterinary certificates - every country has
its own set of regulations and these change frequently.
Domestic and international documentation - consulate legalization,
import licenses, transit permits, etc.