Safety, childcare, education, and spousal employment are all top-level concerns for relocating families, but it is also important to keep in mind the host of considerations that come along with relocating pets. These furry, scaly, or feathered family members often face their own set of immigration requirements, which can vary widely from country to country. Well before departure, it is crucial to establish a plan to make the transition for you and your pet as smooth as possible.
The first step on your journey will be to consult the embassy or consulate of your destination country to determine the Ministry of Agriculture or equivalent organization that oversees pet importation. Specific regulations vary, but generally include the following procedures and documents:
- Official health certificate from your home country veterinarian, confirming a clean bill of health.
- Vaccination certificates for any immunizations required by the destination country. For dogs and cats, this typically means rabies, but can include other immunizations depending on the destination.
- Pet microchips, increasingly required worldwide, are tiny chips that are implanted beneath the pet’s skin. Each stores a registration number that can be used to access your pet’s medical records and other information from a microchip registry.
- Pet import permits are required to bring pets into some countries. To obtain one, you must apply to the appropriate ministry—generally a Ministry or Department of Agriculture—well in advance.
- A quarantine period may be required upon arrival, during which your pet will be held for a period of time and examined by a local doctor to ensure it is healthy. Quarantine can last anywhere from a few days to over a month. In some cases, an in-home quarantine period may be required, during which your pet must remain in your home.
Once you have confirmed the proper import procedures for your pet, be sure to also check with your airline, as rules for traveling with pets may vary. Some even allow you to bring small pets with you on your flight as a carry-on.
In addition to the general requirements above, there are also a number of special considerations that must be taken into account. For example, pets from countries that are considered at high risk for a certain disease often must obtain additional vaccinations, or may be banned from entering the country altogether. Some countries also prohibit certain breeds of cats and dogs. Finally, before departure it is important to talk to your veterinarian about your plans to ensure that your pet will be able to tolerate the stress of an international relocation, as well as the new environment and climate of your destination.
Exotic pets require unique considerations, as different regions may have their own listings of endangered or regulated species. Animals commonly kept as pets in your home country may require a special permit, quarantine, or be banned altogether in your new home.
While the guidelines above provide a general outline for relocating with pets, Living Abroad offers a number of detailed, country-specific resources to help ease your pet’s travel and transition into your new home. For an in-depth overview of importation concerns, customs requirements, and other considerations, consult the Taking My Pet section of the International Relocation Center. Additionally, we also offer a listing of helpful links in the Pets section of our Country Resources directory. Arming yourself with the proper knowledge will ensure that relocating each member of your family—including the four-legged ones—is as simple and smooth as possible.
Written by James Cafferty, International Content Manager