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Taking your Pet Abroad – the Complete Guide


Summer has already begun. Many people have left for vacation, and still more will be ready to head out to cooler pastures after Ramadan. If you would prefer your pet to stay in the Kingdom, then appropriate arrangements must be made. However, if you would like to take your pet along with you, then the idea of travelling abroad with your pet can be quite overwhelming. How much would it cost? How soon should I start processing the papers? Will my pet be onboard with me? What documents do I need?  With the long list of what might seem like a never-ending endeavour, Sonja Svensek sheds some light on what pet owners should do if they wish to take their pet abroad.

Check Whether your Pet will be Allowed to Fly with You

The first thing to bear in mind is that different countries have different rules and regulations regarding the import of a pet.  Check online what is required as rules do change. Note that some exotic animals will not be allowed into specific countries. Parrots for example cannot be brought into Saudi Arabia, and certain animals are prohibited into the EU. Once you have been informed of the countries’ regulations, check with the airline you are flying with to  enquire about cost and whether you can take your pet onboard with you. Generally pets (weighing no more than 6 kilos) can be taken on board with you on most airlines as long as its carrier meets the airlines standards and can be put under the seat in front of you. Some airlines will allow small dogs onboard with you too, but others will not. 

Import Permits

If you are travelling to Europe, countries will require a blood test which should be done at least 3 months before your departure. This is why planning ahead is key-which depends on the destination you are flying to. Some counties will not allow your pet entry unless you show proof of an Import permit which is obtained by a vet in the country you are going to. This means having to research a local vet to fill out forms and send you the original for you to sign via courier mail post. Alternatively you can have a friend or relative pick this up and meet you at the airport to present this import permit. If this is required by law, and you don’t have one, your pet will be held in quarantine until you can present one.

You will need to get your pet microchipped.

Health Certificates

For most countries, your pet needs to be micro chipped and a rabies shot needs to be recent usually within the last 6 months before departure.  A week before you travel, (and not before) you need to obtain a Health certificate from your vet which confirms your pet’s health and that it is fit for travel and that your pet doesn’t have any health issues which would stop it from being allowed into the country. A health certificate usually costs between SR 100-200 from your local vet.

Get the Go Ahead from the Ministry of Agriculture

Once you have the health certificate in hand, head to the Ministry of Agriculture with your pet. It is a new regulation where they require to see your pet. It is a relatively straight forward procedure where a MOA representative will stamp and issue you an Export permit. 24 hours before your flight, head to the customs department at the airport which will issue you with a final export approval. It is always a good idea to inform the airline you are flying with, that you are traveling with a pet, and on the day of your departure to head to the airport at least 3-4 hours prior to your flight to ensure that all goes smoothly.

Your pet may be allowed in the cabin with you.

Boarding the Plane

If flying with Saudi Airlines, the check-in counter will direct you to the appropriate counter to pay for your pet and obtain an additional form which they will help you fill it out. Saudia Airlines charges SR 480 for a cat which is their standard fee however this could be subject to change. Generally cats do not travel well. So it is advised not to feed your cat on the morning of your flight.  Regardless of whether your cat is in the cargo hold or with you in the cabin, have a cloth over the carrier so your cat doesn’t get even more stressed by seeing all the people and movements around. Also ensure your cat carrier has a label with your name and address on it.  If you know your cat will act very stressed and constantly meow and cause disturbances, you might want to consider a mild tranquilizer before travelling. Check with your vet first.

Disembarking

Once you arrive at your destination, no matter how tempting it is to let your pet our of its carrier, only do so in the safety of your home. Give them time to adjust.

Should I ask the Vet to take care of all the Paperwork?

Some vets offer the service of taking care of all the paper work for you at high cost between SR 1500-3000 when you can do so for free if you plan ahead and manage your time in advance. Do seek your vets advice to assist you whenever possible as they can talk you through what is required and when. Its also beneficial to join animal welfare organization groups online where you can network with people who have been through the experience and could give you first hand advice and tips on making it easier for you. Some say certain airlines are better at handling pets than others, so it’s suggested to get advice from those who have flown with their pets abroad.

Give yourself Time to Plan

You hear many stories of people happily travelling with their pet around the world on numerous occasions. The bottom line is you CAN travel with your pet, just do a little research beforehand to learn what is needed and plan ahead.  If time is not on your side, you can ask a veterinary clinic to assist you with boarding your pet and arranging the papers and flight arrangements to send you your pet via cargo hold. Some people have used a relocation agency to take care of all papers which can be helpful for those who don’t have time, but be warned that this service can be quite costly.

Though it might seem like a long process to get your pet’s travel documents sorted, if you plan ahead and make the necessary arrangements well in advance, you will lower any risk of having missed something important that is needed for your pet to travel.

For further information you might find the following articles helpful:

 General information and useful tips about travelling with your cat

 If taking a pet to the United Kingdom

 If travelling with your pet to the States 

Join PIN Care group to network with fellow pet travellers

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