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