Today, I would like to talk about international pet relocation. The expatriate community with pets in their families has grown exponentially over recent years and questions regarding the process and costs of relocating the pets to other countries is constant worry.
We get folks coming to us almost daily with quotations in their hands, amounting to thousands of dollars, and almost at the breakdown point – feeling helpless and fearing that they have to leave their beloved family member behind. Just today, a woman came in with a quotation of $6,000 to relocate her cat to Canada. I was absolutely livid to see this.
While navigating the rules of exporting live animals are often hard, it is not impossible and in fact becoming easier with each passing year. There few things you have to know and understand, like each destination country will have different requirements and regulations, quarantine requirements and periods and so on. Frankly, even when I first faced the question of pet travel a few years ago, I was so overwhelmed that my partner and I both decided that with a sizable pet “army” living with us, we were pretty much stuck here. However, pet relocation is becoming more and more affordable to pet owners as long as all the correct procedures are followed for both the local export process and also those of the destination countries.
A word of caution: there is no way I can cover all there is to know about pet relocation in my small column here. There are few things I would like to point out that might be a bit helpful to pet owners to understand the confusing world of international live animal transportation.
Proper updated vaccinations, including core ones and rabies is the first step. Without those your pet is not only at risk of getting sick, but it will not be allowed to travel. Ensure, that its vaccinations are up to date and not expired. In your pet’s health book your veterinarian would include the stickers of vaccinations administered, dates of expiry of the vaccination (this is indicated on the vaccination sticker itself), a batch number of a particular vaccine and a date for the next booster – the time when you must bring your pet to your vet to repeat the vaccinations to keep it property protected.
Next must-have is a microchip. In fact, I suggest that you microchip your pet as soon as you can – this way not only you are one step closer to completing the travel process, you can also register your pet in any database (there are few perfectly reliable databases available in Cambodia). In case your pet is lost, it can be easily identified and returned to you. A microchip also serves as your pet’s unique ID during the travel process, so all the documents will not only have the description of your pet, but also their unique microchip number – which can be scanned at the departure and arrival airports. Micro-chipping is a very quick and painless procedure and can be done as soon as your animal is 8-weeks-old. Ensure that the microchip is ISO certified and when implanted, ask the person who did it to scan it for you to see if it works.
Once your pet is microchipped and fully vaccinated, your next step is to understand the import requirements of your destination country. A serology test (sample of RNAT blood test) is required by the majority of countries, although Malaysia, the US and Canada do not require one.
There are many veterinarian clinics that can do the test for you in Cambodia, but you must ensure that the laboratory they use to process the blood test is recognised by the country of your destination (there is no such laboratory available in Cambodia). There is a list of the accredited laboratories available online. BioBest and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have worked well for us, but there is a more extensive list of accredited laboratories that your veterinarian should be able to give you and advise on the best option for you to use.
Once the serology test is drawn and sent to the lab, you will have to wait between 6 and 8 weeks to get a result and the officially stamped certificate. For some countries you have to wait between 3 and 4 months to be able to travel from the date of the blood draw, while others might have different time frames – Taiwan, for instance, requires 180 days. Also note that while the serology certificate for the EU is valid for several years as long as you ensure that your animal receives its annual rabies booster on the exact same date as the one shown on the serology certificate, other countries, like Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan recognise the test results only for year or two. This is something you should keep yourself updated on, as rules and regulations do change rather often and so do the requirements of each country.
If your animal has passed the test, you can move to the next step: getting the permit to export your pet from Cambodia. Your veterinarian will apply to the Ministry of Agriculture and ask for formal permission to allow your pet to travel. The certificate from the Ministry is only valid for 10 days before your actual travel so this is something you will need to do once you have booked your ticket.
Finally, not more than 10 days before you travel, you must visit your vet with your pet for the final checkup; your veterinarian will do a full heath check and ensure that your pet is deemed fit to travel and will issue you issue a formal veterinary certificate. However, even here there are caveats: for instance, Hong Kong requires that the local vet follows the Hong Kong issued form or follows the exact wording, signed and stamped by your vet.
As you are preparing all your documents, one more thing will be required of you – the IATA certified crate of appropriate size for your pet. International Air Transport Association (IATA) has an official, internationally recognized, set of guidelines that covers everything regarding live animal air travel. You may, if you wish, order their catalogue, which is revised and published every year.
Unless you are into getting extravagant looking crates, IATA crates do not need to be fancy as long as they fit its official requirements. The most important issues are security, appropriate size for your animal and their comfort.
Here I would like to point out that we have heard the horror stories from our clients: like cats escaping from crates in Thailand airports en route from India and found two days later in the middle of the runway; or the crates being too small for the animal and thus, not allowed to board the plane at all. So the simple rule is your animal must be able to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably inside their crate. The crate should have a metal bolts to hold it together on all sides. We always suggest to go to the airline office with the crate and your pet few days or even weeks before your flight to ensure that all is approved long before your departure.
Also, there is may be huge difference in pricing between taking your pet with you on the same flight as an extra (or check in) luggage and sending your pet unaccompanied, or as “manifested cargo”. Airlines often calculate the price of transportation differently – with a check-in luggage it can be a fixed price per piece (I paid $250 for a pet cat on Qatar Air a few years back when I flew from Iran to Cambodia). If an animal is flying alone as manifested cargo, the calculation is done based on volumetric weight of the crate rather than actual weight of the crate and your pet. This could amount to thousands of dollars.
Most importantly, there are many pet relocation companies that can help you navigate the world of pet travel and some are very good and very affordable. However, I really urge you to be a smart and informed customer to avoid overcharges and disappointments. Visit few places that provide these services, talk to few people who either have done the process or know more about it. Speak to your vet and ask as many questions as you can.
There is an excellent Facebook page called Expets Cambodia (https://www.facebook.com/groups/495286467345705/), which I highly recommend to anyone who is looking for information on traveling with your pets. It was set up years ago by an expat called Martin de Porres – who has now moved four of his animals to Australia. The information on this page is free and the resources are limitless. Do join and always
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