A few years after adopting Pussa and Soph, my fellow Pet Parent and I moved from Australia to Singapore for work. It probably comes as no surprise that at the top of our list of items to relocate were 2 cats, way ahead of an apartments-worth of household chattels.
As we all know, life is a strange thing and when it came to contemplating the move I was pretty comfortable with relocating the cats having worked for a few years in the cargo department of an international airline. The airline I worked for transported lots of animals so sending our two Favourite Felines as unaccompanied minors was an easier decision for me than for a lot of people because I had a fair idea of the process.
If moving overseas is something that is, or might be on your radar, and you want to take your pets then there are a number of things to consider before you pack up your life.
What to consider before moving overseas with your pets:
- The age and health condition of your pet. Undoubtedly there are many aspects of the move that may distress your pet, so they need to be in the best of health to handle it. Furthermore, the importing country will have their own health requirements that your pet will need to satisfy for you to be able to import them into the country;
- What your new living arrangements are likely to be. Have you been living in a house with your cat free to roam the backyard and beyond, but when you move likely to be living in a high rise apartment with no prospect of puss getting outside? Are there restrictions on having pets in certain types of accommodation? This was the case for us in Singapore. Furthermore, when you first arrive in your new country you’ll probably be in some kind of temporary accommodation like a serviced apartment or hotel, neither of which are likely to welcome 4 legged children. Who can you leave them with while you sort out your new permanent home?
- All animals being transported (with the exception of assistance dogs) out of (and within) Australia travel as cargo and you will not be able to have them in the cabin with you. This prospect can upset some people but it’s very rare that things go awry during transport. Your pet will be secured in the cargo hold beneath the tail of the aircraft, the captain is notified that the aircraft has live animals on-board so the temperature of the hold is adjusted accordingly, and they are the final items to be loaded onto the aircraft so as to avoid unnecessary distress to your pet;
- Use a cage that meets IATA regulations. I can’t stress this enough. The plastic one that you got from the $2 shop that you use to ferry puss from home to the vet and back is not going to cut it for use on a commercial aircraft. Amongst other things the locking mechanism is not secure enough and the plastic is thin resulting in those cages not being robust enough to withstand the handling. In fact, airlines will refuse to accept your pet if it is delivered for uplift in a cage that does not meet the regulations;
- Some airlines may allow you to book your pet’s travel direct with their cargo department (the airline I worked for did), however I would strongly recommend you use a freight forwarder who specialises in animal transport. Not only do they know exactly what needs to be done and when, but they will have arrangements in place with another agent at the receiving port to accept your pet on arrival. This will be really important for release through customs and quarantine at the other end, as well as the logistics involved in getting your pet from the airport to your new home. When we left Australia we used Jet Pets and they were brilliant;
- There is every likelihood that your pets will need some vaccinations before they travel. Often within tight timeframes such as within 3 days of departure. Because the vaccinations that are required are often not the run of the mill jabs that a vet will administer, my advice is to see if you can find a vet that is also government-certified since they will be very familiar with the vaccinations required by various countries. If you are a Sydney local we used 4 Paws Vet in Neutral Bay;
- With Australia having a very strict quarantine regime (just ask Pistol and Boo what happened to their Pet Parents) make sure you consider the degree of difficulty involved in bringing your pet back when you want to come home. Australia categories countries from which your pet is coming from as 1, 2, 3 or non-approved. Group 1 is the least complex and it basically covers animals coming from New Zealand. Group 2 requires an import permit, meeting vaccination requirements, plus a stay in quarantine (as at June 2016 this is 10 nights for cats and dogs) on returning from places like Singapore, Japan and many of the Pacific Islands. Group 3 countries include most European countries, the UK, the US & Canada, Hong Kong and parts of the Middle East. These countries have similar requirements as the Group 2 countries, including the quarantine time. Any other countries not listed under the above categories are non-approved countries which prohibits you from importing directly from these countries. This would include countries like China, Korea, and Sth Africa. There is an ability to get your pet back from a non-approved country via a Group 2 or 3 country but it’s difficult, more expensive and will take a while. Decide before you leave Australia if you’re up for that;
- The cost. This is not an insignificant consideration as the whole exercise will run into thousands of dollars per animal for the round trip. There are many costs associated with an international move of animals beyond paying the airline to uplift them. A massive component is the cost of the import permit and compulsory quarantine stay on return to Australia. As at June 2016 the import permit will cost a minimum of $480 for the first cat (or dog) and then $240 for each animal in the same consignment. That’s just to give you permission to bring them in, you haven’t paid for the 10 night stay yet. That’ll be, a rather jaw dropping, $1,200 importation levy plus $29 per night for each animal. There are also additional fees for vet inspections, and other rather vague fees for “quarantine entry” and “document clearance”. Essentially it means that you’re looking at more than $1,600 for each animal assuming all things go well. Apparently this is cost recovery. Two humans could stay 5 nights at the Hilton in Sydney for less than that! Oh, and now there is only one quarantine facility which accepts cats and dogs for all of Australia which is in Melbourne. That means another flight for your pet if you’re not picking up from Melbourne.
There’s a lot to consider if you’re taking animals with you on an overseas move and frankly, many people thought we were a bit bonkers. I think life would have felt pretty lonely if they hadn’t have come with us, and nor would we have given them the opportunity to experience life as an Expat Cat.