Moving can be a daunting process under normal circumstances, add the words “to another country, with a dog” and it can go from daunting to overwhelming. Hopefully this post will help those of you out there looking to take your furry friends overseas. In my case, I’m transporting my dog to London, England. I was not prepared for the cost so I wanted to write this post to warn and prepare other movers.
My dog is a 15lb Jack Russell Terrier. She’s small, and she cost me… *you had better be sitting down for this*…$1,147 (£681!) It’s slightly less but remember, the banks will ding you for exchanging money so the nice exchange rate you see on the internet or punch in on your iPhone doesn’t apply. Yes, that’s right, my wee little doggy has a ticket that’s almost double the price of mine. This extortion is because I’m flying into England. Apparently, I was told that only the UK and Hong Kong require such high shipping fees because pets fly via third party carriers and MUST be shipped separately. This means they aren’t in the cargo hold of the same plane you are on, but take off at the same time as your flight on a different plane. Had this move been to another EU country, I could easily half that amount. The costs listed on several airline web pages and cargo sites were inaccurate and provided little to no information and didn’t pertain to the UK. You have to call around endlessly to get the real price. I called the same carrier several times and was quoted three different prices. It was frustrating to say the least. Now onto the nitty gritty…
England has “lightened up” on their strict quarantine of six months.
As of January 2012, you may bring a pet into England without quarantine provided you do the following:
1.) Make sure you pet has been microchipped BEFORE you vaccinate for rabies.
2.) Have the rabies vaccination administered no later than 21 days before your flight.
3.) An EU Pet Passport or Third Country Vetrinary Certificate.
4.)(Dogs only) Tapeworm treatment administered 1-5 days before your flight.
5.) Flying via an approved carrier.
While this may seem “easier’, I can tell you, it wasn’t. If you are not 100% on top of this, you will run into problems. Many vets are unaware of the requirements and are not up to date on the facts. I was fortunate in that regard because my vet had sent other animals abroad so he was familiar with the process. I asked around at a few other vet clinics and I had to educate them – this was scary. It is such a meticulous procedure; you need to have confidence your vet knows what he or she is doing.
Fortunately, I had Buffy microchipped in 2010, and vaccinated with a 3 year rabies vaccine in 2011 that will last until the end of 2014 so I had step one and two resolved. A 3 year rabies vaccine is acceptable for UK transport. In Canada, the Pet Passport is unavailable. The Pet Passport is issued if you are coming from an EU country. What you are issued here is the Third Country Vetrinary Certificate.
Pet Passport/Third Country vet Certificate: Canada is not part of the EU, but it is a “listed” country, meaning, it is not considered high risk for rabies provided the steps above are followed exactly. I called the CFIA (Canadian Food and Inspection Agency) and obtained a blank copy of the certificate that was filled out by my vet. *insert photo* The certificate must be filled out in BLUE INK, and then MUST BE certified by a CFIA vet before your flight. What this means is that the day of the tapeworm examination, your regular vet reads your dog’s microchip, notes the time, date it was read, and the registration number, does the tapeworm examination, writes down the time and date the tapeworm was administered and the company that manufactures the medication, then proceeds along with a “fit to fly” check of your animal and finally signs and stamps the “fit to fly” document.
“Fit to Fly”: where is that listed in the 5 steps you ask? It isn’t. It’s listed as a note near the end of a long list outlining what you need to do on the official website or something you find out from your pet transport agency. I found out from the agency I hired to fly Buffy – some airlines require, IN ADDITION to the above steps, a certificate/letter from your regular vet stating the dog is “Fit to Fly” or they can deny your dog’s flight.
Airline Approved Pet Carrier/Travel box: Almost all travel boxes are “airline approved”. This is BS, plain and simple.
Cutesy mesh bags are not approved to fly a dog in cargo, EVER. No matter what the tag says, please check with airline and transport company or your pet isn’t going anywhere. It MUST be a hard box, with a hard top. The kind that open from the top and side are unacceptable. You have to have a door that does not open from the inside and a water dish that hooks onto the crate from the inside. You must also have the sides screwed down, not just the plastic “clips” that snap shut. Lastly, ensure your dog MUST be able to stand up, and turn around in the crate. If the crate is too small you will be charged to hire a larger crate or your pet doesn’t travel. Lastly, take a lead (leash), collar and harness with you – these cannot travel with your pet inside the travel box, nor can toys and big blankets because they are a danger to the animal if it gets distressed while in the air. You’re allowed to put a old blanket or towel in the travel box; if your pet soils it, it will be thrown out upon arrival.
Pet travel agencies: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Some agencies take care of the process for you from start to finish and even ship the dog to your new home but that costs much more money. One agency quoted me $2,300! This suits the person who doesn’t have the time or doesn’t want to be bothered with sorting this out alone so they hire a pet transport company to do the dirty work for them. I’m not Donald Trump, so I cut my costs by half through a lot of research. The travel costs are determined by size and weight. Luckily for me, my dog is small so my costs are lower but I still was incredibly shocked by the price. I had assumed it might cost in the $500-600 range but never imagined it would be over $1,100 to fly a 15lb. dog. After calling and emailing around for quotes, I hired a great agency. They were extremely helpful and made this difficult process a lot less stressful. There was a lot of back and forth in terms of emails and phone calls because they meticulously check and re-check your documents so there are no hold ups that could impede your departure. After paying all this money, if anything goes wrong, you have to pay for shipping the pet back to the country of origin or your pet ends up in quarantine.
Documents: Make copies of all your documents because the originals fly with your pet and you will need the waybill and documentation to pick them up on the other side at Pet Reception.
There were a lot of things that “cropped up” in this process making it extremely frustrating and difficult. The “Fit to Fly” surprise, the shipping cost, vet appointment costs, purchasing a correct travel box because the one I had wasn’t approved, the checking and re-checking documentation, finding out the tapeworm medication had to be from an special approved list etc…Add to this the time difference in which I had to accomplish everything. I am 5 hours behind London (GMT-5) so I had to have all my calls and emails sorted by 12:00pm EST.
To say that they made it easier to take your pet with you is really a joke; in my opinion, it’s not made to encourage you to take your pet at all. It is extremely expensive, time consuming and tricky. It would’ve been cheaper to buy another dog in the UK than fly Buffy but I love my dog and can’t imagine starting my life there without her so I was willing to make the effort. Sound harsh? It’s honest. I’d rather people know what this really looks like so they can make an informed decision rather that paint a simple 5 step process that is anything BUT simple in reality.
My next post will be about the pick up process on the other side of the pond! Until then, bon voyage and good luck!
Link to the UK’s official quick n’ dirty guide to flying with your pet: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad
Lady Haye Pet Travel Agent: http://www.petravelagent.com/