May 5, 2015

How To Move Your Pet Overseas: The Ultimate Guide

Are you an expat or traveler who wants to take your pet with you overseas?  We are!  

 Moving overseas is  complicated.  Moving a family of 4 even more so.  Now add in moving the family pet.   And did I mention that the move is from Melbourne, Australia to Vancouver, Canada?  Yup, that’s over 13,000km, and a 16+hr flight for us, and now our dog.

First of all, let me tell you that moving overseas with your pet can be either a complicated or a simple process.  Or both.  The key factor is your country of origin as well as your destination country.  Luckily for us, both were in our favour.

So what country is your pet traveling from?

As the import/export requirements go, bringing your pet to Canada from Australia falls into the ‘simple’ category. Because Canadian authorities deem that Australia is a ‘rabies-free’ country, the pet requires no extra vaccinations or blood tests.  (If required, it is both an expensive as well as time-consuming process.)  Canada only requires that the pet have a Certificate of Health (signed by a Vet) and to have documentation that its regular yearly routine vaccinations are up to date.   No quarantine upon arrive is necessary.

But to fly a pet out of Australia can be a bit more complicated

In Australia your pet cannot travel in the cabin on either domestic or international flights.  It does not matter if it is small enough to fit in a portable pet carrier that stores under the seat (which is the usual rule for cabin travel).  Designated service dogs are exempt from this policy. 

Instead you must book your pet to travel in the pressurized cargo area underneath the plane.

Can I book my pet's flights myself?

Members of the general public cannot directly make arrangements to transport pets as cargo with the commercial airlines in Australia. It does not matter whether you plan to be on the same flight or not.

In order for you to fly your dog or cat (or sheep, penguin, seal, tiger, etc) in Australia either domestically or internationally, you must/can only use the services of a ‘Pet Transport Company’.  A quick Google search will yield you a few names.  While this adds to the expense of traveling and moving your pet, we must say that it makes the process a lot more simple.

Which Pet Transport Company to use?

When we made the decision to bring Daisy our 3yr old Bichon-Mini Poodle over to join us 9 months after we’d already moved to Vancouver in August 2014, we chose Jetpets Animal Transport because they were based in Melbourne, which was where Daisy was also located. 

Daisy, as she is about to begin her big journey half way around the world.

Danielle, the Pet Travel Consultant who replied to our initial queries, was patient and friendly and not at all pushy.  She booked the most direct flight that she could for Daisy.  But due to the departure times, Daisy first had to fly to Sydney, Australia (1hr flight), then spend the night (ie a ‘comfort stop’). The following morning, she would board her flight from Sydney to Vancouver.  Arrangements were also made to pick up Daisy from where she was staying with our friends.

The Animal Transport Company, Jetpets, coming to pick up Daisy.


Here’s a behind the scenes look at what happens to your pet after it arrives at the airport:  

So what happens at the Arrivals end?

When Daisy's flight arrived in Vancouver, the Ground Crew transferred her to the Cargo Terminal.  The airline staff again verified her documents which the pet transport company, Jetpets, had provided before departure.  This entire process took about 1.5hrs after landing.  After the staff completed this, they gave us the go ahead to pick up Daisy.

We then went to the Cargo Terminal to pick up the documents and walked them over to the Government of Canada Customs office located about 500m away.  There, a  Custom's Officer checked the documents again, gave it his stamp of approval, and we paid the $31.00 CAD fee. Returning to the Cargo Terminal, we handed over the stamped documents and paid another fee of $55 to the airlines.  This part of the process took another 30min.  

Waiting our turn at the Canada Customs Office

Finally the agent took us to see Daisy. We were quite nervous yet excited.  How would she be?  Would she be agitated?  Groggy?  Would she greet us warmly or be shy or worse, hostile?
Our pet carrier as it sits in the Cargo area, awaiting our pick up.

Handle with care!

It took about a split second for Daisy to realise it was our daughter's face peering into her crate.  Then she got excited and animated, eager to come out and greet us.
Daisy takes a tentative peek at her visitor.

Once outside, she gave us a few nuzzles and licks and energetically ran around in the deserted parking area.  With no surprise, she also took the opportunity to relieve herself. (Note: the inside of her crate was surprisingly clean with no sign of having been soiled.)

Did our pet have jetlag?

We are happy to report that Daisy's first 24hrs after her journey was completely uneventful.  She immediately seemed like her old self--eating, exploring and sleeping as normal.  She did not show any signs of distress nor nervousness as a result of her travel or her new environment.  
Less than 24hrs after her 16+hr journey and Daisy is all smiles.

We are over-the-moon that our family is all together again. But most of all, we are relieved that our decision to have Daisy travel such a long way did not have any negative effect on her.  Jetpets came through for us! We are looking forward to having many more happy adventures with Daisy in the future here in North America.

Daisy, the expat dog, on an outing after having arrived in Canada.

Thinking of moving overseas with your pet too?  5 tips and hints:

1.  If you decide to use a Pet Relocation Company, find one that is local to the country that your pet is currently located in.  Flights often needs to be booked within the country of origin.  If you use a company located elsewhere (say at the destination country), they would end up contracting the services of another local animal transport company anyway and tack on their fee as well!  Ditto for moving companies that will ‘offer’ to make the arrangements for you—get a quote direct from the Pet Transport Company yourself to compare.

2.  Have your pet’s vaccinations, flea and worm treatments up to date on your own before departure.  If this is not possible, the relocation company (eg Jetpets) would likely be happy to organize this for you.

3.  The pet will need to travel in an ‘airline approved pet carrier' (crate).  If possible, try to get your pet accustomed to the pet capsule before traveling. Ensure that the crate is big enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in with ease. (Use this calculator to determine the size you need.)  From what I could tell, pet relocation companies in Australia including Jetpets, provide the crate as part of their package.  This is good as it makes it fool-proof to ensure that you meet the airline requirements.  

Make sure that water is accessible to them while in the crate.  Based on our experience we recommend attaching a pet water bottle to the crate rather than an open bowl to minimalise water spilling into the crate due to turbulence or the pet knocking it.

Also, provide a familiar toy or blanket in with them.

4.  Do not feed your pet on the day of travel but a little pet treat is ok, as is water.

5.  Try to be calm and positive towards your pet immediately before departure.  Your pet will pick up on your vibes.

3 Things to Consider Before Deciding to Move Your Pet Overseas:
1.  Consider how long you intend to be gone.  If you intend to return to your country of origin, look into regulations for the Import of Live Animals (for coming back to your home country)  before you leave. 

For example, there are stringent conditions for importing a dog to Australia, which includes a mandatory quarantine period upon arrival (the minimum period is 10 days although the actual the length of stay is based on which country the animal is coming from) as well as proof of rabies vaccinations and blood tests to prove an absence of rabies.  The fees for quarantine of a dog or cat in Australia are $149 AUD per day along with other fees and charges.

2.  Consider the breed of your animal and whether it is suitable to fly.  For example, many ‘snub-nose’ breeds such as pugs, chow-chows and Himalayan and Burmese cats have an increased risk of breathing problems at altitude.  Many airlines have restrictions against their travel. 

3.  Time of year that the pet might be flying.  For the pet's safety and comfort, try to avoid the middle of winter of summer.  In fact, some airlines will not transport hairless breeds of cats and dogs during winter months at all.

Have you moved internationally with your pet?  Are you considering it?  Share your experience in the 'Comments' section below or just tell us what you thought of our article!


  1. I wish we could bring our dog with us. But with all the moving it's just not feasible. Maybe one day... This is a great resource, thanks.

    1. Yes, being away from your pet is one of the hardest parts of travel I think. Thanks for visiting us Erin :)

  2. Hey thanks a lot for sharing this. I was looking for articles to buy a airline pet carrier and i came across your post. Really appreciate your efforts in providing such details. Thanks once again for sharing this post.

  3. Oh, thank God I've I ran on to this post, I'm moving to Canada in September with two dogs, so I'm quite relieved there is no need for additional vaccinations. Thanks a lot for the info!

    1. Hi Beverly
      Hope your move goes smoothly! Where are you moving from and where are you settling in Canada? And what sort of dogs do you have?