We moved from Astana to Miri, Sarawak last week. We are currently settled in a hotel waiting for our new home to be ready and our shipment (our tiny, tiny shipment) is waiting at Astana Airport for a suitable cargo flight. Our dogs are also settled here in Miri. Borneo is a rabies free island so we have had to put them in quarantine. The whole import/export process was, in fact, my largest worry but it seemed to go smoothly.
As a family we have moved pets internationally for 20 years or more – in fact one of our dog crates dates back to a 1993 move from Nigeria to Turkey – a family heirloom that all our pets have used at one time or another.
|Bessie and Perdita in Astana|
The UK is famously tough to bring animals to. In years gone by my parents took their dogs to the Netherlands and lived there with them for 6 months before bringing the dogs into the UK under the EU pet import scheme. These days the repressive (and unnecessary) quarantine has been relaxed as long as you can show a pet passport and rabies blood test. Import still requires you to jump through more hoops than just about any other country, however. A friend is bringing her dog from Astana to UK – she has to provide a ‘third party country certificate’ which Kazakhstan refuses to offer. Her cargo handlers (UK insists owners fly pets as cargo not as excess baggage) have said that the authorities at Heathrow sometimes waive this requirement but if they decide not to her poor dog (who has no infections whatsoever), will have to go into quarantine.
The import to Malaysia was, in actuality very simple. I spoke with a local vet in Miri who arranged for all the import certificates to be put in place. In Kazakhstan we had to go to the Veterinary Ministry to apply for an export certificate. On our first visit we took a local colleague with us to help translate and ask questions just in case it was complicated. The people were very friendly, however, and the most difficult part of the process was finding the address and we did the rest of the process by ourselves.
A few days before we flew we had to get our vet to issue a health certificate. We had sold our car and at 27 weeks pregnant I was not walking both dogs on my own any more so the whole family plus dogs piled into a street cab, not the easiest to flag down with dogs in tow. Once we got to the vets I was rather surprised to find that they did not even want to see the dogs and were happy to fill out the certificate based on their passports only.
|Our certificate of veterinary health - no actual inspection|
of animals required!
Two days before the flight we had to take the certificates to the Vet Ministry who used them to issue the Export Certificate 24 hours before the flight. This is a trilingual document but the extra information was filled out in Russian only so we had to translate it to English for the Miri authorities.
|Our Export Certificate from Kazakhstan.|
The day of the flight all we had to do was place the dogs in their crates and hand them over to the airline with documents and payment. The transfer in Almaty was handled by the airline but we had to make the transfer between international and domestic terminals in KL. In Miri we handed the dogs over to the vet officer and quarantine officials to go off to start serving their term. It was a great relief to see them safe and sound – our younger dog had never flown before so we were worried that she would be upset, our older girl is getting infirm and we were worried that the stress and the heat might be too much for her.
We saw them a few days ago when our vet came to take bloods for the rabies test. In Sarawak the length of quarantine depends on the time since the last rabies injection. Our younger dog has only about a month and a half (if her bloods meet the test) but our older dog’s injection date means that she may have to be in for three or four months. She has, however, a full history of rabies injections and we know her bloods meet the test standards so she hopes that the time can be reduced. In the meantime they are in the kennels together which makes the process a lot less lonely. We are also allowed to visit whenever we want which will also help.
|Bessie relaxing in quarantine.|
The whole process is sadly expensive and stressful but pets are part of the family and we (and many people we know) could not be without them.
Tips for relocating with your expat pet:
- Panic – this will be the most stressful part of the move.
- Make sure that all your locally required vaccinations are up to date.
- Check your host country’s export process.
- Check your new country’s import process – colleagues who already live there may be able to recommend a good local vet to help with the process.
- Get any further vaccinations required by your new country.
- Get a handling agent if necessary (as in imports to the UK).
- Check any airline restrictions on your pet.
- Panic again – most of the export/import process can only be done last minute and you will stress until the papers are in place.
- Make sure that you have the correct size crate for your pet. IATA standards are instructive.
- Habituate your pet to their crate, keep it in the living room/their sleeping area and feed them in there. If your pet is nervous start with the bottom half for a few weeks and then add the top half.
On the day:
- Take your dog for a long walk – feed and water early in the day but not just before they go in the crate.
- If your animal is nervous consider using a calming spray/rescue remedy etc. Put something that smells of you in their crate – I usually line the crate with our towels - they smell of us but it does not matter that they wil be ruined.
- Make sure that the crate has your pet’s name prominently displayed. Sellotape a package of copy certificates/passports to the crate but keep all originals and at least one further set of copies with you. Have your contact numbers on the crate together with a contact number for a responsible individual who is not flying and will be contactable throughout the travel period.
- Write on the crate the time of the last food and water – most pets in transit will be given a small amount of water at convenient times during the process, this will not be much, however, as the animals will not be allowed to leave their crate. If the animal is travelling for more than 12 hours most airlines will give a small light snack in addition to water but do check this.
- Have some light treats/water with you when you collect them as they will be hungry and thirsty.
- Make a big fuss of your pet.