Whoever said “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” clearly never had a dog! 😉
As I was deciding whether I wanted to uproot my life and move abroad, my first and largest concern was WILL I BE ABLE TO BRING ARYA WITH ME? If the answer to that question was “No”, then I wasn’t going to do it. To be honest, for a couple years, I just assumed that “No” would be the answer…
Well, thanks to this handy thing called the internet, I was able to turn that willful ignorance into knowledge! There are tons of websites dedicated to educating pet lovers like you and I in the various ways to get your best friend by your side in your new home!
Import regulations vary from country to country, so I recommend doing research before booking your flight! If you are dead set on a certain location, you should be able to figure out what the requirements are for your destination country on these websites. Of course, the country’s own consulate webpage will usually carry the most up to date information, so triple-check yourself when you can! While planning my travels, I bounced between three different websites (pettravel.com, petrelocation.com, and the Czech Consulate webpage) just to be safe! The last thing you want is to be going through Customs at your destination and have them tell you your dog doesn’t have the proper requirements!
Here’s a list of 10 Steps To Move Your Dog Abroad:
1. Is this the right move for your pup?
This needs to be the first question you ask yourself. There are obviously plenty of benefits to having your pup by your side, but is it really, truly, the right thing for your dog? Is your dog healthy enough to travel? Would the stress of the trip impact your dog in a negative way?
This was something that I went back and forth on for weeks. Distance, time, and the number of stops on my flight absolutely contributed to my decision making process. Even though Arya is young and healthy, she can be a nervous traveler. I worried that the stress of the flight would be too much for her.
Ultimately, the idea of leaving Arya behind in the US with my family for a few months would be fine, but I knew that I wanted to travel for longer than that. Having her healthy and by my side was the right decision for us.
2. Crate Training–it’s never too early to start!
Once you’ve made the decision that bringing your dog along in your travels is the right move, the next step is crate training. The majority of airlines require that your pet travel inside a crate or carrier, depending on the size and weight of your pet. Depending on which airline you book your flight, they will have specific requirements for the crate, so make sure you check their website for specifics.
Slowly introducing your dog to the crate is the best way to go. You want your dog to feel safe and comfortable in their crate, especially since they’ll be traveling it in for several hours. Whatever best motivates your pup (Arya is incredibly food motivated), reward them anytime they interact with their crate. There are tons of resources out there for crate training best practices, but the earlier you start, the better for your pup! Eventually it’ll feel like home, which will ease their anxiety (and yours!) while traveling.
3. Check with your Airline! See what fees and processes they require.
When I was searching for flight deals, I also wanted to make sure I was choosing an airline that was highly rated for their pet policy and treatment of animals. All I could think of were the horror stories of pets not surviving the flight…however unlikely that scenario might be. What can I say? I’m a crazy dog mom!
Most airlines will require you to call and notify them that you’ll be flying with your pet. Be sure to check your airline’s pet policy on their website to ensure that you’ve completed all of the steps for you and your dog to board and fly without hassle. The last thing you want when you’re checking in for your flight is to be surprised by an extra fee or not have a copy of that document for your pup!
4. Import Laws and Regulations in your destination country.
This is where all of those websites come into play! Depending on which country you’re trying to enter, they will have specific requirements, mainly dealing with vaccinations, microchips, and possibly quarantine. For instance, the UK has much stricter guidelines than the rest of the EU, so make sure you do your homework! There are also services (for a price) that will help you with any paperwork and transport issues you might not feel comfortable doing on your own.
5. Check if your hotel/hostel/airbnb/apartment is dog friendly!
Before you lay down your credit card, make sure you’ve asked the question! Most search engines have a filter for “Pet Friendly” on their sites, so just double check that you’ve clicked it. There are also websites like BringFido.com that can help you narrow down your search.
6. Microchipping! A necessity!
I never thought I’d spend so much time at the Vet’s office than completing these next three steps! Most countries require that your pet is microchipped and using a specific ISO standard. Double check that your local Vet has that specific microchip before implanting it in your pet. When I went through Customs, they scanned Arya’s microchip right then and there, so do not neglect this step! Some places still accept tattoos, but a microchip is the better way to go!
Customs also will look at a your pet’s inoculation records, most specifically your Rabies certificate. I had to ensure Arya received her Rabies vaccine at least 21 days before our travel date and after the microchip had been implanted. Fortunately, our Vet was able to complete this on the same day, which saved us an extra visit (and more money). Some countries will also require a Blood Titer Test, depending on where you are traveling from.
8. International Health Certificate!
Now that you’ve gotten all the vaccinations and the microchip, now your Vet gets to fill out paperwork! Yay! This was honestly my most expensive Vet visit (which barely involved the Vet interacting with Arya…go figure!). There are very specific ways that the Vet needs to fill out this paperwork and it must be completed within 10 days of travel. Your Vet has to be accredited by the USDA (for Americans) and the paperwork had to be signed in blue ink.
9. Export laws in your home country (check with USDA)!
Now that you’ve gotten all of the paperwork completed, you need to get everything stamped, signed, and approved by the USDA. You can either mail the paperwork to them (has to be original copies) with a check and they’ll send it back to you, or you can make an appointment at your local USDA office and have it done right then and there. Since this step also has to be completed within 10 days of travel, I opted to visit a local office and get in done in person.
Once you’ve gotten all of these documents approved, I recommend putting them in a folder that’s in your purse or carry on for easy access once you go through Customs at your arrival airport. I also made copies of everything, just in case someone wanted to hold onto them (or I lost them). This bundle can now be referred to as your Pet Passport! 🙂
10. Get to the airport EARLY!
OH MY GOSH! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE! Depending on your airline and your destination, you want to make sure that you get to the airport with enough time to go through your normal check-in process PLUS any additional time it will take to get your pup checked in. I was encouraged to arrive about three hours before my departure time, which was EXACTLY enough time for me to check-in, get Arya squared away, go through security, get to my terminal, and board the plane!
Exhausting, right? I will not lie to you, it is definitely stressful and a lot of work making sure that everything is done properly. That stress pales in comparison, however, to the comfort of having my best friend by my side as we both embark on this new adventure together!