7 Tips for Moving Overseas with Pets

How to successfully bring your furry friend with you!

By: Christine Hall, GMS,


Helping families move internationally is something I’ve loved doing for the past 3 decades.  These days, having to relocate to another global city is part and parcel of being in business, especially if you work for a major corporation.

These corporations are my corporate clients and they want to make moving abroad for work as easy and pleasant as possible for their assignees’ families.  In many cases, their pet is a very important member of family – and for that reason a number of my clients expect my firm to also provide relocation assistance for these furry VIPs!  But not everyone is that lucky.

When assignees are relocated overseas they often face the tough choice of what to do with their family pet.  Sometimes, they end up leaving the pet behind but there are ways to successfully bring your animal with you – even internationally!

There are benefits and downsides to bringing or leaving your pet but if you’re considering moving your pet overseas, here are some basic guidelines to follow.

1.Check with the Country’s Consulate

Rules vary greatly in different countries regarding the import of animals, and these regulations often depend on your country of origin.  First, determine if you can bring your pet at all. In some countries, certain species of dog and cat are accepted, while others are not.  Refer to the country’s consulate for recent official requirements.

2. Assess the Living Environment Abroad

Contact a local person and ask questions about the community (this is where a local relocation consultant comes in very handy!).  Do apartment and house rentals accept pets?  Are vet facilities available?  Is animal care affordable?  In Japan, clients with dogs have revealed that vet clinics are extremely busy, and it’s hard to get an appointment.

Are there kennels where you can leave your pet while you’re away? What’s the local attitude towards pets? Make sure to do your research on your country and neighbourhood.

3.Create a Timeline for Tests

To import a pet, most countries require a stringent sequence of medical tests.  The timing of each stage is extremely important, and failure to adhere exactly may result in headaches and extra costs.

Some of the requirements for a dog or cat can include having a microchip, rabies vaccinations, and blood tests at prescribed stages.  There may also be a 180-day waiting period after the blood tests before the animal is allowed entry without quarantine.

4.Meet with Your Vet

Schedule an appointment with a vet experienced in preparing animals for overseas travel.  That person may already be familiar with the procedures, which lightens your burden to ensure they are done properly.  Discuss your pet’s overall health and age as well as potential problems with moving abroad.

5.Contact Your Airline

Airlines have different regulations for transporting animals internationally.  Contact a representative directly to clarify specific issues or concerns.

It’s also important to know that rules for transporting your pet may change at different stops on the travel itinerary.  For example, one set of rules may be in place for flying your dog from Los Angeles to Tokyo, but once in Japan, the rules may be different from Tokyo to Okinawa.

6.Secure a Pet Carrier

Ensure you have the proper animal carrier for an international flight.  Many airlines require the carrier to be approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).  In some cases, you may be able to rent one directly from the airline.  In any case, an airline representative can explain exact dimensions needed based on the species and size of your animal. You should expect to pay considerable transport, handling and holding fees.

7.Follow the Details

Once you start the complicated process of expatriating your pet, follow the directions exactly.  Don’t remain confused by a requirement; speak to someone who can clarify.  The consequence of making a mistake, even a small one, can be costly and frustrating.  We’ve heard of clients having problems clearing their cat at customs because one signature on their documentation was signed in the wrong colour ink!

Keep multiple copies of the documentation.  Set aside money for unexpected fees and problems you might encounter along the way.  Finally, have a backup plan in the event you can’t move your pet as planned.

Whatever your reason for moving abroad, you should connect with a Saunders 1865 relocation expert for a free consultation.

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