Travelling and Transporting Pets Abroad

To leave or not to leave, that is the question that many pet owners will ask themselves when flying overseas. To leave would mean having to see who would be willing enough to care for their furry friend; yet not to leave, well, that would result in stringent planning to ensure all becomes well. For those who are undecided, let us look at what pet travel entails, with my focus being on UK travel.

Decisions, Decisions…

It has been estimated that approximately 2 million domestic animals travel on commercial flights every year (figure excluding COVID-19 times). Often pet owners arrange pet travel and/or shipping for reasons related to mobility access, long business trips or for when they migrate overseas. For instance, many BNO holders have found themselves deciding whether to leave or take their pets in their move to the UK – including Youtuber Coco哥.

For owners who choose to ‘not to leave’ their pets they enter a complex decision of which airline they are to use, and therefore, they must first check the requirements. For example, British Airways (BA) allow passengers to travel with their recognised assistance dog free of charge in the cabin of their BA flight. However, emotional support dogs and pets must travel in the hold or as cargo which could prove problematic for pets and their owners as to how safe this is healthwise and logistically. The same principles apply to the Asian airliner Cathay Pacific (who are experienced in transporting special cargo).

dogs as cargo
[Dogs as cargo] | © [CNN]
There are different couriers for different circumstances. For pets travelling from the UK, BA recommends PetAir UK, and for those travelling to the UK (such as HK BNO holders), IAG Cargo or Ferndale Kennels can help with the transporting and relocating of animals from across the world. Couriers will help with the booking of flights, arranging of documentation, and providing ‘‘safe’’ delivery of their pets from departure to arrival – with prices starting from £200 or HK$2000 for each pet with a markup price of 5-90% extra depending on the company and circumstances. This is on top of an airliner’s additional fees for transporting the animal as baggage onboard. Added together, the cost of rehoming a pet could be more costly than a person’s flight home.

Cathay Pacific's prices for pet shipping
[Cathay Pacific’s prices for pet shipping] | © [Cathay Pacific]

Pet Travel, Transport and Transparency

Pet owners must also follow strict rules related to pet travel when travelling in and from the UK. DEFRA (the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) states the rules of entrance for a pet dog, cat, or ferret to an EU or Non-EU country (since Brexit), and for if owners are bringing a pet into the UK through their Pet Travel Scheme.

For entrance into or return to Great Britain, or travel to an EU country or NI the pet needs:

  • A microchip
  • Animal health certificate unless you have a pet passport
  • A valid rabies vaccination
  • Tapeworm treatment, common for pet dogs

Note that for pets arriving in Great Britain must arrive no more than 5 days before or after the owner, and they will need to fill a declaration form to confirm that they are not going to sell or transfer ownership of the pet.

For travel to a Non-Eu country from the UK the owner must have:

  • An export health certificate
  • An export application form for each country of entrance

You may also need to adhere to a Travellers’ points of entry

‘‘Your pet may be put into quarantine for up to 4 months if you do not follow these rules.’’

The type of pet and its origins is also a cause for concern for DEFRA and airlines such as BA and Cathay Pacific in which non-standard animals must follow different rules – and the bringing of a banned breed of dog could result in it being taken away and destroyed.

At the moment, many airlines have stopped transporting live animals because of the threat of COVID-19 – with International Pet and Animal Transportation Association suggesting that people should wait until it is safe to travel and/or rehome their pet. Although this setback will give people plenty of time to plan with care and diligence, given the risks, rules, and the cost of rehoming a pet. In the words of Polonius to Hamlet: ‘‘though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.’’

Featured image: | © Google 

Is the cost of transporting a pet reasonable for what it is worth? Let us know below.

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Claudia Mok
Claudia Mok
Editor in Chief for Travel Radar: She is experienced at taking creative, analytical approaches to travel, transport and aviation.


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