3 July 2014

Relocating With Your Expat Pet.

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 process is broadly similar for any international relocation – country A will issue an Export Permit and Country B an Import Permit.  You book the pet excess baggage on your airline and collect them in the airport arrivals hall when you get to your destination.  Each country has its own ins and outs, however, and these complicate the process.

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. 

 Other potential complications involve airline regulations on temperature and dog breeds (snub snout dogs cannot travel in high temperatures) and certain ‘dangerous’ breeds may be subject to import/export restrictions.  It is always worth checking with your airline and vet ministries in host and host to be countries to see that your import can happen.  Rules can also change at the last minute – some people in Astana found out just prior to a move to Indonesia that the import from countries with endemic rabies have recently been banned from import.  Their pets have had to find new homes.

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:
  1. Panic – this will be the most stressful part of the move.
  2. Make sure that all your locally required vaccinations are up to date.
  3. Check your host country’s export process.
  4. 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.
  5. Get any further vaccinations required by your new country.
  6. Get a handling agent if necessary (as in imports to the UK).
  7. Check any airline restrictions on your pet.
  8. Panic again – most of the export/import process can only be done last minute and you will stress until the papers are in place.
  9. Make sure that you have the correct size crate for your pet.  IATA standards are instructive. 
  10. 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:
  1. Take your dog for a long walk – feed and water early in the day but not just before they go in the crate.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. Have some light treats/water with you when you collect them as they will be hungry and thirsty. 
  6. Make a big fuss of your pet.
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  1. Your dogs are very cute! Hope you get settled in soon :-) #ExpatLifeLinky

    1. Thanks Meg, luckily the 'doggie daughters' have settled well.

  2. Hi, i am so glad to find out this article And it is so helpful to me!! I am planning to relocate my 6 rabbits from Kuala Lumpur to Miri. However, this is my first time and my pets too. But i don't know what to do until i read your blog. May i have the local vet contact number in Miri who arranged for all the import certificates? THANK YOU VERY MUCH :)

    1. Enjoy your move. Miri is a lovely town but definately a town and much quieter than KL. The lady to contact is Dr Betty who is on 012 8004 6000. Good luck with the move.

    2. Thank you!! Best wishes to you too!

  3. A wonderful read. We have travelled several times now with our cats and your advice is spot on. Particularly the panic ones! We've also noticed that there's always something that will go wrong. One of ours nearly didn't make the last move as the vet had got a piece of the paperwork wrong, we actually bribed another vet and an official with the help of a local friend in the end! But they are our family and we wouldn't dream of leaving them behind!

    1. Such a nighmare. Our poor pets are still in Malaysia while we are in the middle of relocating. WE can't wait to get them to join us.

  4. Hello,
    its great to read your article. Thank you for posting. We are currently thinking of relocating to Astana and i am desperately trying to find out how 'pet friendly' is it. For example if flats are dog friendly, if there are plently of places to walk with your dog. If there are good kennels where we could leave the dogs if we needed to travel back to the UK and if you can employ dog walkers during the day when you are at work.
    If you possibly had any time to reply i would be very appreciative, and any names, numbers of websites would be truly helpful.
    Thank you in advance for your time,

    1. Astana is pretty decent really. We did not have a problem getting a landlady to agree to us having a dog. MOst Kazakh pet dogs are small so she was a little shocked to see my 'medium' dog as she thought my little collie was huge. Friends have lived with pet dogs in apartments all over the city with no problems at all. I found a really good kennels (nothing great to look at but they cared for the dogs professionally) and I gave the details to the Astana INternational Club, they should be on their website under pets. I can't remember the name but they were a little way out of the city. We have also used the Zoo Hotel near the railway station but the dogs always came back with fleas when they stayed there.
      You should have no problem finding a dog walker, our housekeeper used to take the dogs out during the day if we were at work or you could employ someone specifically. You can usually find details of people looking for work through the AIC or someone at work can help you.

      For pet supplies try the pet shop in the basement car park of the Khan Shatyr shopping centre. The lady there can help you with details of dog walkers, groomers etc. For vets we went to Zoosphera 1 Petrov Street near Eurasia (details on the AIC). We tried a few others but these were the best.

      Winters are really hard on dogs, Bessie suffered quite badly from the cold, particularly on her paws and needed a thick coat and booties (we used Pawz silicone booties that still let the dog feel the ground but insulate them a little from the ice). NB if travelling from the UK make sure that your Rabies injection is renewed after 1 year not 2 or 3 as your UK vet says, my Kazakh vet said that for export from KZ you can run into trouble if the inoculation has not been done annually. Perdie the Kazakh dog never seemed to feel the cold at all and was quite happy in heat or cold.

      Enjoy Astana.

  5. It is a procedure transporting pets from one country to another. We bought our little dog with us when we moved from South Africa to Greece, we were lucky that my husbands parents looked after her for a few weeks until we were settled here and made sure everything was done that needed to be done at the last minute. She had to travel in cargo and was a little shaky when we picked her up, but was so happy to see us.

    We did think about leaving her with my husbands parents as they would have given her a good home, but she was a fantastic little dog and I couldn't leave her. She went on to live until she was nineteen, not bad for an extremely tatty little dog we picked up at a rescue center.

    A lot of dogs do get transported from here to the UK, mainly for adoption in UK homes. Transporting them isn't as difficult as it once was thanks to the passport system.


    1. Yes the UK is really much better than it was, it used to be a complete nightmare and we resisted returning there full time for many years simply because of the quarantine.

  6. Interesting read I always wondered about the time in quarantine at the other side

    1. It varies so much country to country, there is only a 7 day quarantine in peninsular Malaysia but the rules in Borneo are much more strict.

  7. Thank goodness we only relocated to France from the UK with one cat and one dog and everything went OK, with both animals travelling with us in the car/van. A very informative post and thank you for adding it to #AnimalTales

    1. I sometimes think shorter moves are more stressful because there is so much to do at once (and you get tempted to do more by yourself as well).

  8. yes it was the most stressful part of our relocation, moving the cat and dog, however we paid agents in South Africa and Dubai to handle all the paperwork, it added a fair bit to the bill, but like you' I'd sold my car so the agents did all the running around

    1. We have agents this time as we have been told it is difficult to get the animals in to our new country. The cost is truly, horrifically eyewatering, however, so we will be trying to do it ourselves if we can when we move on.

  9. Such a great tips of relocating our expat pets. There was such a nice ideas in your blog that shows great insights for Pet Travel. Thanks for making it so wonderful blog.

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