Indah's Article: Traveling with Pets
By Indah in Siena
Moving countries is never a simple matter. Moving countries with your beloved pet(s) can be a bit more complicated. In November 2003 I moved from the Netherlands to Indonesia and brought my two cats with me. In October 2004, I made another move to Italy because of my husband’s work and the cats came along with us. From my experience, making sure well in advance that vaccinations and travel documents are in order help reduce the worries of travelling with pets.
Make sure your pet’s vaccination is up to date. Our vet in the Netherlands issued a EU Pet Passport for our cats prior to our departure to Indonesia. This passport contains vaccination records and health check ups for the cats. Please note that rules for travelling with pets differ from each country. In April 2004, when we began the preparation for our move to Italy, our vet in Jakarta informed us about the new European regulations for the movements of pets within the EU and from third countries (this new regulation took place in July 3, 2004), which means that before travelling, pets must be:
- identified by a microchip*
- vaccinated against rabies *
- blood tested at an EU approved laborato
The blood sample must be taken at least 30 days after vaccination and 3 months before the animal travels to a EU country. The blood test result must show that the rabies neutralising antibody titre was equal to or greater than 0.5 IU/ml. The blood test for our cats was sent to a lab in Scotland since no such laboratory was available in Indonesia.
* accompanied by a certificate issued by a vet (some countries stipulate that this certificate should not be more than 2 days old, other countries stipulate a term of 8 days) or, if re-entering the EU, by a EU pet passport certifying compliance with the above conditions. The 3-month period referred to above does not apply to the re-entry of a pet animal whose passport certifies that a satisfactory blood test was carried out at a EU approved laboratory before the animal left a EU country.
Always see to matters such as vaccinations and travel documents
well in advance. Bear in mind that some countries impose
strict quarantine regulations
on every animal that enters the country.
Some airlines will allow you to bring pets in the cabin, however on some international routes this is not possible. In this case, your pet must go into temperature-controlled holds in the aircraft. On our move from the Netherlands to Indonesia, the cats travelled in the temperature-controlled holds of KLM (Amsterdam – Jakarta) and for the move from Indonesia to Italy, they travelled on Malaysian Airline (Jakarta – Rome). You can have the option to transport your pet as checked in luggage (on the same flight) or to transport them on separate flights. From my previous experience of moving countries, transporting the pets on a separate flight was the best way to not have to deal with luggage, jet lag and the confusion on where to go to pick up the pets in a new airport all at the same time. Knowing that the cats have gone through a long flight, I also want to be alert and ready to deal with any surprises. For our moves with the cats, I flew about a month in advance, and during that time the cats were under the care of family members until their scheduled departure.
Hiring a pet transport/pet mover is also worthwhile. The pet transport can recommend the best travel carrier, help with travel documents, arrangement for care during transits, and assist the pets through customs and quarantine check ups at departure and arrival airports. The pet transport companies we used in the Netherlands (www.exel.com) and in Indonesia (GROOVY PET) also provided us with door-to-airport and airport-to-door service. For the cats’ move to Italy, Groovy Pet in Indonesia assisted with all the travel documents to enter Italy, unfortunately, however, we were not able to locate a pet transport company in Rome to assist with the customs and quarantine steps at Fiumicino airport. Finally we hired B.A.S. Handler, a cargo handling company at Fiumicino to assist the cats on arrival. I contacted the company a few weeks in advance and was asked to fax them all the travel documents. Once they made sure with the Ministero della Sanità that all the papers were in order, I was told to come to their office at Fiumicino on the morning of the cats’ scheduled arrival in Rome. We paid 200 euros to B.A.S Handler, which covers assistance through customs, veterinarian fee at Fiumicino and IVA. The cats arrived early morning in late October 2004, and after several hours of waiting for them to get through customs & check ups, the cargo handler staff drove the cats to the office where we’ve been waiting. It was a happy reunion!
By the way, in the summer of 2000 I took my Jack Russell on a holiday to Italy. That time I was still living in the Netherlands. We flew BASIQAIR from Amsterdam to Florence, and Mila travelled with me in the cabin. When I booked the flight over the phone, I was told that I would have to pay 50 euros for bringing Mila on board. However, when we checked in at Schipol airport, the lady at the counter waived the fee, and Mila was allowed to travel for free. Mila travelled in a soft-sided travel bag and had to be placed near my feet. Since I was travelling with two friends of mine and we were sat next to each other, sometimes I would pick up Mila (still in her soft travel bag) and put her on my lap. She loves looking outside of the window and was quiet & relaxed the entire time. It’s always better if you’re travelling with your family/friend, so they can occupy the seats next to you. Mila is now enjoying her old age in a quiet farm in Holland with my relatives.
If possible, arrange to arrive a few days (or weeks) earlier than your pets so that you do not have to worry about jet lag, luggage and nervous pets all at the same time.
Getting your pets ready
The most important thing is to get your pets familiar with their travel carrier. Three weeks before departure, I would put the carrier in the living room to give the cats a chance to get used to it. Once the cats got used to going into the carrier (and even sleeping in it), we took them for short drives around the neighbourhood.
Allow your pet to get used to the travel
carrier/kennel a week or more before the flight.
Day of travel
These are several tips given by our vets and pet movers:
- Do not give your animal anything to drink at least 4 hours prior to departure.
- Animals may suffer from airsickness. For this reason you should stop feeding your pet at least 12 hours prior to departure.
- Do NOT sedate your pet for the journey, as it will take longer for the animal to adjust to its new surroundings and could result in the animal becoming under cooled (hypothermia).
- Attach a label with the animal's name and feeding instructions to the side of the kennel.
Prior to boarding, the movers made sure that the cats have enough fresh water (in a bottle with a special lid that doesn’t spill) and some dry food in their carrier, and changed the newspaper lining of their carrier if needed. During transits (for both moves, the cats transited in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which has a very good pet service) the cats were also fed and cleaned.
Our globetrotting cats have adjusted well to their new home in Siena and we all hope to stay put for a while.
- Health regulations, airlines, etc: Pet Travel (http://www.pettravel.com)
- To assist with customs & quarantine checks at Fiumicino airport : B.A.S. HANDLER (+39 0665011505)
- Animal Clinic in Siena: San Prospero Ambulatorio Veterinario, Dott. Donatella Piccini, Viale Trento 8/10 – 53100 SIENA (0577 289103