Moving Pets Overseas

WARNING: Service Post

Those of you with kids and no pets may not “get” this post.  But for those of us with pets and no kids, the notion of moving overseas brings one thought to the forefront.  What about the pets?

Even our friends with no pets, who knew how much we dote on our dog and two cats, asked what we were going to do with the pets.  For some it was assumed that we’d leave them behind, because there is no cost effective way to take them along.  And they are, after all, only animals.  For pet owners this is like abandoning your ten year old on a trip to Detroit because she might need to eat on the way.

When Kalpana and I made the decision to move to Dublin, it was with the knowledge that we’d take all three pets, and that their safety, health, and security would likely be one of the most expensive parts of the move.  We weren’t wrong.

From the moment the decision to relocate to Dublin was made, the clock was ticking.  Ireland no longer insists on forced quarantine for pets arriving from countries with a low incidence of rabies.  However, they do require strict documentation beginning at least six months before the pet’s arrival.  From what I understand, this practice is becoming more and more common around the world.

All pets (entering Ireland – and presumably other countries) must be microchipped with a European standard (or other local standard) microchip.  If they have a US, or another regional chip, it doesn’t need to be removed, but they must be re-chipped, or you must buy and carry a scanner with you that can read their chip.  Believe me, it’s easier just to get them re-chipped.

The pets must then be inoculated/re-inoculated (yes again) against rabies, and then have blood drawn for a rabies titre test. This is a measure of the rabies antibody in the pet’s blood.  They must be shown to have a certain level of rabies antibody six months prior to their arrival in country (in our case, Ireland).

For us, all went well except for Fiona (the dachshund).  Because Indiana does their canine rabies vaccinations on a three-year schedule, dogs at the end of their three-year vaccine often have a low level of rabies antibody in their system. That was the case with Fiona, and she failed her first titre test. Since she was re-inoculated the same day as her initial (failed) titre test we tested her 21 days later (to give the new inoculation time to take effect) and she passed with flying colors.

But Fiona was now three weeks behind the cats in terms of the earliest date she could arrive in Ireland without going into quarantine.  We opted to split the difference.  We would all travel 11 days later than the earliest date that the cats could have traveled, and, upon arrival in Dublin, Fiona would be whisked away from the airport and put in quarantine to finish the final ten days of the six month time frame from the date she passed her rabies titre test.

Once the rabies hurdle had been vaulted, I had to arrange for each pet to have an airline safe, properly ventilated kennel with multiple water dishes.  We had an older kennel that worked fine but only had ventilation on three sides.  A few strategically drilled holes on the fourth side and this 15-year-old kennel was good to go.  Two other kennels were purchased along with extra water dishes and some cheap throw away towels from Goodwill.  We now had enough bedding and water dishes (to be filled and frozen before hand) to be able to replace any soiled linens or spilled/melted water dishes without trouble on the drive to the airport (and just before handing the pets over to the air travel representative).

Because we were flying Aer Lingus, we were required to work with a company called Pet Express to book our pet flight tickets and coordinate all of the Irish import paperwork.  Whether required or not, I cannot stress the value of this service highly enough.  This particular company has been in the pet travel business (domestic and international) for decades.  They knew what paperwork must be taken care of, when it should be done, as well as who needs to sign which forms, and in what order.  If you had to figure all of this out yourself you’d go crazy just doing this (much less dealing with your other moving logistics nightmares).  With their help, we had everything signed, dated, stamped, and ready to go, so that on the day we traveled everything went according to plan, and there were no surprises.

One very important factor to keep in mind is that the most dangerous part of flying your pets is not time in the air, but time on the ground.  Airlines are acutely aware of their responsibilities to pet owners and their pets (if for no other reason than losing a pet is an atrocious marketing and PR faux pas), so most (if not all) planes that carry pets are now climate controlled.  Not so the baggage carts, tarmacs, and all baggage areas of the airport.  Pets are far more likely to be forgotten someplace hot and airless on their way to/from the aircraft, or when being transferred between flights.  For this reason alone direct flights are almost always safer than connecting flights.  Also, If your pet is sensitive to air travel, (just like some humans) they’ll only have one take off and one landing to deal with.

In our case, we felt so strongly about only subjecting the pets to a direct flight that we drove five hours to Chicago for our flight (rather than 45 minutes to Indianapolis where we would have had to connect through Newark, NJ).

In the end, our pets seemed to tolerate the air travel quite well.  They all hated the five-hour car trip to Chicago and soiled their kennels, and spilled water dishes (as planned).  But upon arrival in Dublin, the cats looked fresh and fine.  They took to the new house just fine, and have settled in nicely.  Fiona seems quite healthy, but has had some trouble with separation anxiety after coming home from quarantine.  But even this is settling down.

As someone who was extremely worried about moving pets overseas, I have to say that with great pre-trip healthcare and documentation from our very supportive vet and her staff, logistical help from Pet Express, and the ability to start planning seven months in advance, the process of moving three pets overseas was not awful for us, or the animals. That said, I cannot imagine how difficult this process must have been in the days before email and the Internet.

For the record, our pets are all healthy except for Fiona, the dachshund, who has epilepsy and has to have regular medication. Yet arrangements were easily made for her to get her regular dosages during transit.  Fiona is six years old.  One of our cats is 2.5 years old, and the other is 11 years old.  So it’s safe to say that, with proper planning and support, moving pets internationally can be done with any reasonably healthy pet that is anywhere from juvenile to moderately seasoned.

Pet Express will tell you that when you take the time to follow their guidance, and plan ahead, “If you put a healthy animal on the plane, you’ll get a healthy animal off the plane.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

  • The Logistics of International Moving
  • 5 Things I Hate About Dublin/Ireland
  • 5 Things I Love About Dublin/Ireland
  • USDA Insanity

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
This entry was posted in Before We Go, International Moving, Pets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Moving Pets Overseas

  1. Kay Connelly says:

    If you don’t mind sharing, what is the approx cost of the tickets and other paperwork/fees?

    • Kay,
      As with everything airline related,I’m sure these figures vary by destination, time of year, and date of travel. Then you have to factor in size of pet and their crates, So mileage will definitely vary with this, but…

      For two large (12-15lb.) cats, and a miniature dachshund, traveling one way direct from Chicago to Dublin during “high” season our airfare and Pet Express facilitator fees were something over $1700.

      We talked to someone else who paid well over 2K to fly an 80lb. lab in late spring from Indy to Oregon with a connection in Dallas. Dog size, and connection were definitely a factor in that rate even though it was a domestic flight.

      Then we had $100 here and there for vet visits and shots, $50 to the USDA for paperwork fees. And $150 per pet for the rabies tests.

      Overall, I think it was $800-$1,000 per pet for everything.

      Worth every penny though.

      • Dana says:

        I’ve read on another site that pets need to stay at an Irish quarantine place for 6 months(?!), but you make no mention of that in your post. I’m confused. Can you please elaborate?

        • Dana,

          That other site must not have been updated in many years.

          About 8-10 years ago it was the case that pets had to be in long quarantine. But with modern microchipping and record standardization that’s no longer the case.

          However, the exact timing is subject to change on short notice. When we moved we had to start the documentation practice 6months i advance, but our cats were not required to spend time in quarantine. Our dog spent 10 days ion quarantine, but that’s because her schedule of inoculation happened to be out of sync with the cats, and that was the easiest way to handle he situation.

          The best thing to do is to hire the airline’s recommended pet transport service and trust them to have the most up to date information. For us, Pet Express (the Aer Lingus required contractor) were very patient, knowledgable, and helpful.

          The most important things to remember are:

          1. DO NOT EVER, under any circumstances sedate your pet for flight. Even if you think they’ll be “stressed”, they will not be as stressed as you imagine. And sedation prevents them from breathing properly, righting themselves in turbulence, and controlling their body temperature.

          2. Do everything you can to fly direct. We drove five extra hours to fly direct from Chicago, rather than flying from Indianapolis. Pets are in the most danger on the ground (getting forgotten on a hot loading area in summer, or left in an unheated room, etc.) than in the air.

          Plan ahead, and do everything you can to limit your stress on travel day ( that will keep them from worrying about why you are so stressed out), and they’ll be fine.

          See you in Ireland.

          -GK

  2. Pingback: Five Things I Hate About Dublin Ireland | An American in Dublin

  3. An American Vet Student in Dublin says:

    Hi Glenn!

    Welcome to Dublin 🙂 I’m an American veterinary student at UCD who’s been living here for a year and have just spent the entire summer advising incoming vet students on how to get their pets over here safely (because clearly we won’t be leaving them behind!). I’m glad everything went so smoothly for you! I’ll be here for a minimum of another 3 years if not more and hope to continue reading your posts. A lot of what you’ve said so far mimics exactly where I was a year ago preparing to bring my 140lb Newfoundland dog to Ireland and packing up my life. I wish I was as eloquent as you and had documented the process in a similar manner.

    I hope you continue writing despite the backlash on your most recent post – all of which I completely agree with and have a few of my own I’d like to contribute (maybe at some other time)!! You’ll find when you complain to the Irish in person about the things that drive us crazy about Dublin they take it quite well, the internet however doesn’t always produce the nicest responses. Just remember to try and view them as quirks of the country! They’re completely maddening of course, but there aren’t enough of us to result in a change anytime soon 🙂

    I will add of the ~60 current US vet students here in Dublin we spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to find decent affordable pet products particularly cat related since the Irish tend to view cats as less of a house pet and more a barn cat. One of my friends is actually trying to figure out how to pack a high-back litter box in her suitcase on her way back from visiting her family in Boston next week! And decent kitty litter and dog food at a reasonable price is a never ending struggle.

    Anyways good luck to you! Maybe we’ll run into you on campus some day 🙂

    -An American Vet Student in Dublin

  4. KAP says:

    Hi – just stumbled across your blog. I am an American who has been here for 10 years (just finishing a PhD at UCD). Thanks for your post on the logistics of travel with pets. I have two mini dachshunds that I have often wondered how in the world I would ship back to CA if and when our family ever moves back to SF.

    • KAP,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and taking the time to leave a comment.

      Actually getting pets back to the US is relatively easy. I might still use a pet logistics company, but as I understand it there’s very little, if any, paperwork involved in sending pets to the US.

  5. Scott says:

    We are so thankful to have found your blog!! I also greatly appreciate your detailed information regarding moving to Ireland with pets. We live in Indy, and I am considering acceptance of a position in Ireland. (Thanks for the heads up about driving to Chicago so that pets can fly direct.) Currently, our dogs eat Holistic Select brand food, however, I realize this is an Indiana brand, and therefore, it is likely that this food is not available in Ireland. Could you please provide some information regarding some high quality pet food brands that are available in the Dublin area? Thank you!!

    • Scott,
      That’s a great question. I wish I could be more help, but actually you should definitely do some research on this subject before you come. Our dog was on a Hills Science Diet product back in Indiana. When we arrived we put her on Vet Essentials ( only distributed by veterinary offices – not available in stores). We figured that it’s Hills, so it should be just like at home. However, I dog has been having some digestive/behavioral issues since we brought her home from 10 days in quarantine. We’re not sure if the kennel soiling is separation anxiety from quarantine, a food allergy, or, most likely, some combination of the two.

      My advice is do whatever you can to avoid quarantine, and try to get a list of ingredients from dog food manufacturers.

      Sadly, even the list of ingredients may not forestall dietary issues. Manufacturers over here may use the same ingredients ( by name) as in the U.S., but the quality may not be the same. It’s entirely possible that what they call a grain filler, or beef/pork ingredient may not be processed the same way, and will actually be something completely different.

      Sadly, it appears to be kind of a crap shoot. But take a look at zooplus.ie for brands and Internet ordering.

      But, through it all, we love living here, and the pets seem very happy as well.

      Come on over.

  6. This is the third blog, of urs I read. Nevertheless I love this
    1, “Moving Pets Overseas | An American in Dublin” the very best.
    Thank you -Sheree

  7. Cathy says:

    I’m so glad I cam across your blog – I am moving to Ireland for one year and have a six year old Siberian Husky. I have had so much anxiety over what to do – she’s so attached to me that I feel like I have to bring her with. I live in Chicago but have toyed with the idea of driving to New York (she does great in the car, we’ve done a few long car trips together) so that the flight is shorter for her. I have so much anxiety about something happening to her in cargo or sitting on the tarmac in September when I’m meant to move. Also, I have a ton of anxiety about her getting quarantined due to her breed and how much exercise and human interaction she needs. I’ve read on the Irish Dept of Agriculture that if she has the proper microchip, shots, blood work results, etc. and everything checks out with the vets at the quarantine she will be released within hours. Supposedly this is a new change as of Jan 2012? Just wondering what your thoughts are and if you have any advice. As you can tell, I’m super anxious about this being a negative thing for her, and I don’t know anyone who has done anything like this before!

    • Cathy,

      You are in luck.

      If you fly direct on Aer Lingus from Chicago, the flight is not ,uch longer than from NYC. Also Aer Lingus requires you to use a company called et Express who are very experienced, and know all the tricks for proper pet transport. They are who we used. We shipped two cats and a dog with no trouble.

      Make sure she has a proper European standard chip (it’s got a different numbering system) even if you have to have her re-chipped.

      With Pet Express she’ll be kept in air conditioning up to the last minute before she boards. She be the last on and first off the plane. And actually she may be waiting for you at Lissen Hall (the vet facility) by the time you clear customs, gran your luggage and get a ca to take you there. Ours were sitting quietly in their kennels ready to go.

      Our only hitch was a rabies vaccination timimng issue with our dog. But if you tsart well in advance (NOW) and follow Pet Express’ instructions to the letter, you should be fine.

      Take her with you. Pets are too important.

      Modern planes are much better for pets. They have climate controlled pet quarters.

      Also, DO NOT sedate her. They are much better off without it. When sedated hey have a hard time controlling the temperature, and righting themselves in turbulence.

      Hope that helps.

      Bring her over and we’ll introduce her to our dachshund.

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  9. james says:

    Hi and thanks for the blogs. I have two cross breed small dogs for ten years that I need to take back to Ireland. I am nervous as hell. I fear they will die in cargo. Can you reassure me?

  10. Anna Rodgers says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am in the opposite position and exploring moving to the States but I have a Tibetan Spaniel. Did you look into any possibilities by ship? It seems Tibbies are banned on all airlines because of their ‘pug’ type nose and I also know she’s such a rotten traveller that it might not go well for her and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Swimming not an option either 😉 Any advice? Thanks x Anna

    • Anna,

      I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Actually have you thought about a repositioning cruise. I’m serious, look into taking your dog on a cruise to the U.S.

      I don’t know what lines allow dogs, but I do know that in the off season, rather than moving their vessels to the winter area (Alaska to the Caribbean, or Florida to the Med, etc., cruise lines offer significantly reduced rates rather than send the boat empty. They may be boring if you are stuck looking at nothing but water, and having no ports of call, but the upsides are that you also often get a much larger baggage allowance, and may be able to take your dog.

      I know a family of four who were relocating to Paris for a year from Indiana. The husband hates to fly, so they drove to Ft. Lauderdale, caught a repositioning cruise to Marseilles, and then drove to Paris. They took all of their gear by boat.

      Hope that helps.

      Best,
      Glenn

  11. Michaelle says:

    Thanks so much for all this info and your blog! I am in the process of fixing my house to rent so I can take an adventure and move to Ireland (possibly in 4 years) for a time. I also have three pets (Siberian husky and two black cats) and was wondering how much and exactly what the process is. The rest of your blog truly helps as well! Thanks so much, and keep blogging!

    • Michaelle,

      Unfortunately, that process is a bit different for everyone. It really depends on the animals you are moving, where you are moving from, and when. The rules for pet importation to Ireland have changed significantly even in just the three years since we moved.

      That’s why I recommend using a reputable pet moving company like Pet Express. I’m not paid anything for recommending them. They simply made the process very easy and relatively stress free. They were worth every penny.

      In the meantime, here’s an article that I wrote elsewhere that might give you a bit more insight:
      http://blog.apex.aero/inflight-services-2/chew-toys-coach-tackle-air-travel-pets/

      I wish I could be more specific about your situation, but I really can’t.

      I’ll give you the same advice I give everybody: Fly direct, DO NOT sedate your pets, and give yourself plenty of time to plan ahead and have a stress free flight day.

      -Glenn

  12. Gabriella Sperati says:

    Hello! I hope you’re fine!

    I’m italian and i’m planning a trip to Ireland this year with my boyfriend to improve our English.
    I have two cats, and they will with me. I have a question I can not find the answer anywhere. I will rent a house and would like to know if in Ireland there is a custom of leaving free cats (with traditional tours of the neighborhood alone) or generally put grid / network in the windows.

    Can you help me with this? If it is an apartment in a high place, I do not know if there is such a custom, but I think is most safer to put networks!

    Thank you for your attention. I hope you have a great weekend and thank you for helping !Very interesting your blog!

    • Hi Gabi,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and for asking a great question.

      There are a couple of things, related to your question, that you should know about cats in Ireland.

      First, the Irish, overall, aren’t “cat people”. They’re “dog people”. While many people do have cats, and you can certainly buy food and other supplies for them, and the vets take excellent care of them, the Irish simply prefer dogs to cats. And, many, possibly because of their agrarian (farming) tradition and history, seem to think of cats as mainly outdoor animals, or only useful outdoors – keeping the rats and mice under control.

      As a result the standard practice seems to be to have mostly outdoor cats. I don’t do that. I think cats are healthier and safer overall when kept inside.

      The other thing to know about Ireland is that almost all houses don’t have window screens. Because of the cool and damp weather, we don’t open windows that often. And because of that most windows are not designed to ever have screens added at any time. They’re just not built that way. Most can be cracked open a bit, and depending on the size of your cat, they shouldn’t be able to get out.

      So, for cat owners, the only option seems to be to let them go out, or keep the windows mostly closed.

      I hope that helps.

  13. Page says:

    Hello!

    Thank you for your post. It is very helpful.

    While I’ve seen all of the requirements for transporting pets, I see conflicting posts about quarantine. If I transport my cats from Chicago to Ireland, they have their rabies, blood test, microchip, pet passport, all documentation and vaccines, will they be quarantined? I saw somewhere online that your pet will be quarantined for 6 months but I read somewhere else that if you prep 6 months before, with proper documentation and vaccines, your pet is ready to go right after they land in Dublin. Any feedback you can give would be greatly appreciated. I don’t want my babies quarantined longer than a day!

    Thanks so much! Page

    • Page, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Check the date on the posts you’re reading. I suspect that many of the 6-month quarantine comments are older. As far as I know, in Ireland you no longer need to quarantine your pets at all, provided you do all of the advance paperwork, vaccinations, microchipping, etc. in the proper sequence and far enough in advance. You should start this process at least 7-8 months in advance. It can take that long to get everything done. And, be aware that the sequence of chipping, vaccination and testing are critical. Also, quarantine and documentation requirements vary widely from country to country and change frequently.
      These are the reasons why I recommend using a pet relocation service. They are up to speed on changes in requirements, and will coach you through it.

      Also, you need to be aware of the vaccination requirements where you live, and how that could affect your pet going through this process.

      For us, living in Indiana, the way they administer the rabies vaccination caused us trouble:

      In Indiana they give rabies injections to dogs only every three years, but cats get it every year. When we had all three of our pets (one dog and two cats) tested for the level of rabies vaccine in their systems, the cats passed and the dog failed ( because she was at thge end of her three year sequence). If we had known, we would have given her her booster a few weeks early and thn had the pets tested.

      But because she “failed” the rabies titer test we had to give her her booster, and wait three weeks to test her again. So, now, the date that the three pets could enter the country was “off” by three weeks.

      In the end the dog passed (three weeks later) and our solution to the three week travel discrepancy was that we all traveled 1.5 weeks later, and the dog did 10 days in quarantine. It wasn’t ideal, but it seemed ther best we could make out of the situation.

      If you pet does have to do time in quarantine,be prepared for the fact that you may not be allowed to visit them.

      This is NOT the kennel being “mean”. It’s actually best for your pet. There are lots of reports of animals who see their owners after a long stressful flight, and then have to watch their owners “abandon” them again upon leaving the kennel. This second abandonment has stressed dogs to the point of heart attack. So, it’s generally best that they don’t see you before going into quarantine, and for the first week thereafter. It seems cruel, but that’s just us thinking like humans and not animals.

      HOpefully you’ll be able to avoid any quarantine though.

  14. I have a dog named Joe and he is eight-year old. I can’t imagine to move to another home without him. This is absolutely impossible. He is like my brother. Now, we should move to Australia because of my job and I hope that he will like his new home. Wish us luck!

    • Goo Luck Christy & Joe.

      I’m sure he’ll be fine. Just take your time, follow instructions, and do everything you can (other than giving Joe sedatives) to reduce stress on moving day.

  15. John says:

    I think part of the problem is finding a place to live that allows dogs. We moved to Dublin from the US about 3 weeks ago and are having no luck finding a place to live. It seems like Dublin, maybe Ireland as a whole is not very dog friendly. With only 1 more week at out Airbnb accommodations, we are not sure what will do if we can’t find a place in the next few days. Pretty sad after all this planning that we might have to give up and go back home.

    • John,
      If it helps at all, I don’t think it’s just the dog.

      It’s very hard to rent at all in Dublin now. As a result, landlords are being extra choosy for all sorts of reasons.

      Best of luck.

  16. Eleanor says:

    Thank you so much for the info! I’m moving to Dublin it two months so I really needed the experience of someone that been through all of this. Wish me luck! 😉

  17. Rebs says:

    Use newspapers and recycle your papers from work and mail for kitty litter. Line the box with the newspaper, and roll it up as wear gloves to throw away in a bag. Then, you never need to worry about kitty litter.I have not bought kitty litter in decades.Its so much faster and cleaner to use recycled papers. My mom bought me kitty litter, and I regretted using it as had so much more work to do to clean up abs vacuum. You can also make homemade cat food, and eggs or if can fish, are usually the cheapest proteins. Of course, buy regular cat food; but you can save money, add bioavailability diets and get by, if can’t find cat food being sold. Make sure, you study all the diet needs for making food, so do not skip any necessary nutrients for health! Aside, there needs to be boats/ cruise lines that allow pets to move around the world. That would be such a business niche that is soooo needed. I sure hope it happens, soon for I want to move out of the USA with my small refuge; for there is no way that I would abandon them. If anyone knows of ships that allow more than one pet to move ( dogs and cats), please tell me. Thanks!!

  18. Traci says:

    My family and our 2 cats are moving to Ireland in March and all your information has been so helpful to me! I’ve been in contact with Pet Express and have been quoted 2,900 to ship both cats Yikes! After recovering from the shock I asked about other fees and was told there would be an entry fee of 200 euros?? I was wondering if you were charged customs entry fee for your pets when you arrived and how much was it?

    • Hi Traci,

      I’m glad you found the blog helpful.

      Yes. I remember that there was some sort of fee. I’m not sure how much. But if Pet express is quoting that mount, their information will be more up to date than my records.

      Sorry to be the confirmation of yet another expense during this time.

      Best,
      Glenn K.

    • John says:

      It’s sad the price that they charge. When we moved our dog to Dublin it cost $2000. Moving him back to the states, only €150 and it was only a year later.

      • Traci says:

        I agree, and the price they quoted me sounds exceedingly high for just 2 cats. World Pet Travel was also recommended, so I will get a quote from them also.

        • Hi Traci,

          Yes it is high, but remember that it includes their airfare as well. When getting other quotes make sure it’s not just the agency fee, but also the airfare.

          And, if flying Aer Lingus you MUST use Pet Express (at least that was the airline’s policy when we moved in 2011).

          Good luck.

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