Four questions to ask before moving your pets abroad

moving abroad pets
Yep. I’m pretty sure this is how we all feel after fifteen hours of traveling.

For lots of people, pets are considered part of the family. It’s just assumed that they’re coming with you on your international adventure.

Not so fast.

No one wants to leave a four-legged family member behind, but moving to a new country is a bit different than loading boxes into the back of a U-Haul. From your pet’s breed to how he handles stress, there are lots of factors to consider.

Keep reading for a list of questions to mull over when you’re deciding whether or not to move abroad with your pets.

Can you bring your pet?

This part of the equation is, in some ways, the easiest because it has zero to do with emotion. Before you do anything else, make sure your new home country allows your species and breed of pet. Check regulations on how your pet may arrive since some countries allow entry only by manifest cargo.  The USDA APHIS website provides information about exporting pets to almost every country in the world. Even if you’re not departing from the U.S., it’s still a useful source for links to many countries’ government websites.

Secondly, double check airlines’ restrictions. Some won’t allow aggressive breeds to fly. Almost all airlines have banned short-nosed dogs (like Pugs and English Bulldogs) from traveling in the cargo hold of airplanes. If your dog is too big to fly in-cabin and not allowed to fly in as cargo, unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do.

What is the quality of life abroad? 

Ok, so your pet can travel abroad with you. You should also consider whether or not they should. Your pet’s quality of life is a huge consideration when trying to decide whether they will accompany you on your international move.

Where will your pet be living? For instance, it’s a difficult transition for a big, energetic dog, who’s used to having a yard, to move into an apartment. Or for a thick-coated breed to move to the UAE, where the temperature averages above 90 degrees six months of the year.

The cost and quality of vet care, as well as if there are places you can board your pet are other important things to research. Read about the local culture’s reaction to pets—some consider dogs unclean and are uncomfortable or afraid of them. Use expat forums (the Resources page lists several) to ask people already living in a place about their experiences.

How will your pet travel?

Like I mentioned above, the species, size, and breed of your pet will most likely dictate whether it flies in-cabin or as cargo. Pet Travel is an excellent resource if you’re trying to figure out which option is best.

Our Boston Terrier has always traveled in-cabin, so I didn’t even think to check restrictions on international travel. However, the rules are very different!

Some major airlines—including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic—don’t allow any type of in-cabin pets. American Airlines does, but not during transatlantic flights. Other airlines restrict pets to flights less than six hours or by different weights. If you’re looking bring your pet in the plane’s cabin, take a look at Dog Jaunt, which has a handy listing of airlines and their restrictions.

Are they healthy enough for the trip? 

Every pet will need a certificate of health from an accredited veterinarian saying that they’re physically ok to fly. I don’t want to be all gloom and doom here, but even if your pet is given the stamp of approval, travel is hard on animals. Being transported in a plane’s cargo hold is a stressful event. As smart as your dog or cat may be, you can’t exactly tell them what they’re about to go through with all the different smells and sounds and strangers. That said, it’s important to consider your pet’s disposition before you put them through an intense experience like an international flight.

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Have any of you brought four-legged family members on your journey abroad? Was it easier or more difficult than you anticipated? I’d love to hear which companies you used and your experience with the transition, so please share your thoughts in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Four questions to ask before moving your pets abroad

  1. We brought our two! A yellow lab and a lab mix. 60 & 70+ pounds. USA to France. Flew Air France I believe. Thankfully door to door transport was coordinated through work, (albeit at a seriously ridiculous cost to the company) pre move vet visits, large crates, boarding on each end, transport. It was still stressful on us and them. It’s an emotional time in general, which doesn’t help! In less than 2 month we do it again. they are older, 8 & 10. Still worry. This time no flight change – which makes us feel better! A drive to Paris…then direct flight to Boston with a couple days boarded with a great person, until we arrive. I’ll worry the entire time!! Luckily most yards here are fenced in, so no problem. They live the good life! The dogs in this village seem to be much better behaved! Many are trained to be off leash and they mind their own business. Ours would be greeting people, stealing baguettes if we let them! Lol! Our fault-poor training!! :-)

    1. Hi, Trish! Oh man, sometimes those employers make themselves useful, right? ;-) I completely relate to how stressful and emotional the whole ordeal can be—I’ll be thinking of you as you all move back to the U.S.

      As for the off-leash part, I noticed that too in both Colombia and in Spain. It just seems more normal for people to have their (very well behaved, I must say!) dogs off leash. My pooch would totally be a baguette stealer if she were tall enough, haha!

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