For most households, pets are considered part of the family.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when moving them. Before making the decision to move a pet to a new country, several factors have to be considered. First, will the pet be allowed in the destination country? If so, a health or rabies certificate from a veterinarian will most likely be required. Know how long the certificate will be considered valid and if a pet will need an entry permit for the country.

Age and breed are factors that will impact whether or not a pet can move abroad. Discuss it with a 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 the consulate to learn the details about quarantine and vaccinations.

Cost is another consideration. In most cases duty and quarantine costs must be paid for a pet. During the 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 a 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 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 most likely revert to a quiescent resting state in the dark, closed cargo hold, and the sedatives may have an excessive effect.

“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 affected.

Rather than tranquilizing, pre-condition a 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 the kennel in the house with an old familiar object inside so the pet becomes familiar with it.”

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 meet minimum standards for size, strength, sanitation, and ventilation.

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 mustbe 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 an animal in case it is diverted from its original destination. Pet owners 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.

When taking a bird abroad, all necessary documents from USDA and the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must be obtained 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. Get a health certificate endorsed by a USDA veterinarian. This endorsement is subject to a user fee.

If Your Pet Gets Lost

If a 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 a veterinarian about placing a small tracking device 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 an animal, proceed with the following steps:

  1. Contact animal control agencies and humane societies in the local and surrounding areas. Check with them daily.
  2. Provide descriptions and photographs to the airline, local animal control agencies and humane societies. 
  3. 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 when shipping a pet as cargo, it may be necessary to contact a professional pet shipper for assistance.

Services provided by a professional pet shipper may include the following:

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.