Expat pets: do what Johnny Depp says
Last year Johnny Depp and his then-wife, Amber Heard, featured in this remarkable video for the Australian Customs authorities. The video was recorded as ‘punishment’ for failing to declare their Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo. Johnny’s performance was less than convincing, but the celebrity couple’s involvement not only helped them to avoid a hefty fine, it also highlighted the difficulties of travelling abroad with pets.
Since our readers are unlikely to have the same get-out clause if they get into trouble when relocating with pets, we propose five simple pieces of advice:
1. Check out the rules and regulations
The critical question: will your pet will be allowed into your host country? Taking dogs and cats along with you is accepted by most countries, but not all. Many place unexpected restrictions on certain species. Australia, for example, will not allow rodents into the country, so exotic pet owners need to check out the rules of the country they are travelling to.
Some countries have agreements that simplify the process significantly. Moving between EU member states is made easier by pet passports which are standardized throughout European member states. Pets must be vaccinated and health-screened against certain diseases before pet passports can be issued.
The one thing you cannot do is try to cut corners. Failing to declare pets to customs, or generally contravening biosecurity rules is taken very seriously. Offenders are typically fined although, in extreme cases, the animal may be put down.
2. Talk to the airline
Pets are normally transported as “live animal” cargo. In this case, the animal will be carried in the specialist cargo hold of the plane which is heated and pressurized. Such arrangements may be made by a specialist ‘pet shipping’ company or you can, of course, handle this directly with the airline. Not all will allow pet travel, and some may place certain restrictions on certain types of pet. Then again, others may be more flexible, with some airlines even permitting pets to be shipped as “accompanied baggage” (but only if you are on the same flight as your pet).
3. Get the right crate
The crates used to house your pet during the flight (which should be direct if possible) must meet the current IATA regulations – but bear in mind that more exotic pets often require more exotic (and therefore expensive) accommodation during the journey. You may consider getting the crate a few weeks in advance of your journey to give your pet a while to become accustomed to it. Crates should also be the right size, they should be comfortable, and their ‘contents’ should be clearly marked on all sides. However, note that the cost of the pet’s flight depends mainly on the volume of the crate – so giving your pet more room may leave a little less room in your budget.
4. Make your pet comfortable
While living quarters are perhaps the main factor in the in-flight comfort of your pet, there are other steps you can take to make him or her as comfortable as possible. Ensure, for example, that there is enough water available during the flight (although most airlines will not allow the animals to eat as this is deemed to be a choking hazard). If they have a favourite toy, blanket or another suitable item, it may be placed in the crate with them.
Animals are also often relaxed by the presence of natural pheromones, which are widely available in spray format, although sedatives are not normally allowed.
5. Don’t forget about the journey home!
It may be a few years away, but you may find that border control regulations are stricter on the way back. In the UK, for example, incoming animals (whether British or not) must all be micro-chipped and fully vaccinated. You should, therefore, ensure your pet receives all necessary boosters during your time abroad.
Make life easy for yourself
As with most aspects of a relocation, you may find that an experienced and reputable relocation partner will handle the safe transportation of your pet along with your other belongings. As pet transportation is one of frequently requested extras, FAIM certified movers often work together with trustworthy agencies specialised in relocating your furrier family members.
You will find the process easier if you start earlier. Talk to your vet at least six months prior to the intended departure date, and start researching the entry requirements for your new host country as soon as possible. After all, if Amber and Johnny had got organised in time, the whole problem – and possibly their most regrettable screen performance ever – would have been avoided.