Emigrating with pets: what you need to know

Emigrating is a stressful decision for any family but even more so if you have pets. Most of us would love to take our pets along but there is a lot to think about. Firstly, it can be a costly business. Secondly, it takes a lot of planning. And thirdly, it can place a lot of additional stress on you and the family. If you do decide to take your pet, don’t make the mistake of leaving the planning for your pets’ move until last. It’s as complicated to get a pet passport as it is to get humans to another country.

Legal requirements

  1. Up-to-date rabies vaccinations are essential and must be done by an authorised veterinarian.
  2. You will need a pet passport or travel permit containing information about your pet’s health status, vaccination information, and health tests completed. The cost of a passport will depend on your veterinarian’s fees, microchipping, tests, and the fees for completing and endorsing the necessary forms.
  3. Microchipping needs to be done prior to any vaccinations/tests for the vaccinations/tests to be valid. Test requirements vary from country to country but your veterinarian should be able to assist you with these and with creating the required ‘passport or permit’.
  4. Many countries also require an Import Permit which they’ll charge for.
  5. The United States has specific requirements for dogs imported from countries where foot and mouth disease and screwworm occur.

Set a timetable

It takes 6-8 months to prepare a pet for export to Australia or New Zealand and both countries have quarantine requirements. Your dog or cat will need to be booked into a registered quarantine facility for a minimum of 10 days.

It currently takes at least four months to prepare a pet for export to the EU. The recent Brexit vote is expected to affect pet travel to the UK as it will no longer be bound by EU legislation and may strengthen its requirements for pet import.

When it comes to legal issues, your best bet is to check directly with the embassy or consulate of the country to which you intend immigrating before you start the process. It can take many months to complete all legal requirements.

Pet carriers

Each airline dictates its own travel policy but all demand airline-compliant pet carriers. These must have waterproof bottoms, secure fasteners, food and water troughs and ventilation on at least three sides. Your pet must be able to stand up and turn around comfortably in the carrier. All inside edges must be smooth or rounded.

EberVet Vetshops can order airline approved crates and carriers for you, depending on the size and needs of your pets. Please ask our trained assistants for help.

Get your pet used to the carrier by putting his/her favourite blanket and food in it several weeks before departure.


Sedation, except under certain conditions and carried out under veterinary direction, is usually not recommended as most tranquillising drugs have the effect of lowering blood pressure. This also occurs naturally at high altitudes.

The combination of altitude and drugs is potentially fatal in old, chronically sick or stressed animals. Calming the animal by darkening the container and putting it in a cool, quiet place when not in the aircraft, will help most pets.

If you aren’t taking your pet with you, PLEASE take plenty of time to find him or her a loving home to go to. Don’t simply abandon your beloved animal in a shelter. Pets are the family we choose. They deserve our protection.

For more useful info on emigrating with pets, go to http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/live-animals/pets.

*Text by Dr Hilldidge Beer, veterinarian and CEO of the EberVet Petcare Group and of EberVet Vetshops