Pets Without Borders: How to Prepare for an International Move

Dog at Seine River
Remon Haazen / Alamy
A dog and owner stroll along the Seine River in Paris.

No matter which language you speak or which sunny patch of the globe they curl up in for a nap, pets have an established place in our lives. From Alaska to Zurich, home is where you are.

But what happens when you move that home — overseas? Or you fall in love with a stray dog on vacation and want to bring her back with you?

Aside from the practical preparations that apply to any move, there's an extra layer of rules and regulations when it comes to moving a pet internationally.

Even as the world shrinks, and we become a more global society, pets are still subject to different travel requirements in different countries — and it’s not always an easy path to navigate. So we decided to look at what any pet owner needs to know for three common scenarios that involve crossing international borders with a furry companion in tow.

Scenario #1: Moving Abroad

Congratulations! You just got word that you snagged that promotion in Paris, or you're finally realizing that dream of relocating to Australia. But before you can even start to think about how to transport your beloved pet with you, you need to first investigate what’s required to import your pet into your new homeland.

Your first port of call for this information may be the U.S. consulate for the country that you’re moving to, or the relevant government organization that oversees animal imports, which is usually a division of customs or a quarantine service.

Keep in mind that these regulations may differ depending on where you’re moving from — rules for importing a pet into the United Kingdom from the U.S., for example, are different from those for importing a pet into the U.K. from Australia.

“The biggest challenge most people face is sorting through the huge amount of misinformation about traveling with pets,” says Rachel Farris, director of operations for PetRelocation.com, which helps pet owners take care of everything from pre-move paperwork to airport delivery and customs clearances. “Trying to determine which airline is the safest, what travel crate they should purchase or what the customs process is in another country can be completely overwhelming.”

That’s why her company's website offers a free, downloadable eBook on the process — along with detailed information about regulations for exporting pets from the U.S. to a laundry list of countries. Although it's a good starting point, you should always make sure that you verify these details with the government service in your destination. A list of embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions can be found on the Department of State’s website.

Most countries require that your pet have a microchip, a health certificate issued by a vet and proof of a current rabies vaccination. But certain countries — like Australia — have more stringent rules: As of March 1, 2012, a new requirement was introduced mandating that all dogs imported to the country also have a Bordetella vaccination. Numerous countries also require that you leave your pet in quarantine for a set period of time upon arrival, and some even have restrictions on the types of breeds allowed into the country.

Bottom line: Do your homework — and check it twice. You (and your pet) don’t want to encounter surprises once the journey has already begun.

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