So you want to take your dog along when moving countries.
At this point, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to the trial that is the world of live cargo. Here’s a basic checklist that could help, based on my experiences:
>Assess whether you and your pet are better off if he stays back home. Factors you’ll need to consider are the quarantine regulations, the duration of the journey, whether he is too old to handle it, how you’ll take care of him once there, and his quality of life if you leave him behind, and of course, who you’ll leave him behind with and whether they have the time or knowledge to take care of a dog. Your parents possibly don’t need the extra hassle, and it’s not fair to your pet to leave him with friends who have never had a dog! Bear in mind that keeping a pet is often more expensive abroad than it is in India and you will probably need to take out good pet insurance to cover medical and other costs. There will be a monthly premium and the excess may be too high to cover things like claw clipping and general checkups. Of course, if like me you have every intention of dragging your pooch to wherever you go, the choices become easier!
>Check export requirements. I remember that we had to get (a) a vet’s assessment together with certificate (b) vaccinations (c) a license done before we could despatch our own bag of slobbers.
>Check quarantine regulations. The UK at present has a 6 month quarantine period, and other countries have varying amounts of time. The relevant government site for that country should be able to give you the details.
>Check which airline flies pets. British Airways came to our rescue. The way the quarantine mechanism usually works is that the quarantine kennel will have to come and pick your dog up from the airport and take him straight to the facility. So you’ll have to coordinate flight timings with the quarantine kennel. They may (a) not be able to pick up your dog at particular times or on particular days (b) be fully booked and not be able to take in your dog at during a certain period (c) have a preference as far as airlines are concerned.
>Check what the airline needs from you. IATA guidelines require them to carry live cargo under certain conditions only. You need to pay to get the actual text of these guidelines from the IATA site, but I assume you are not a professional transporter and the airline site should suffice! What we did do- and it’s a PAIN and a half- is get the container and take it down to the airlines office to show them the size and the specs, together with the dog. You ideally want to avoid a situation where it’s 2:30 am, you’re at the airport with your dog and the mammoth container, the airline refuses to take him because the guidelines are not met, and you’re leaving in 2 days yourself. The only course of action I can then see would be to (a) pull out all your hair strand by strand and possibly (b) call in your favours and take a loan because by gad, you’ll need it for the reschedulings and rebookings that you’ll have to do for yourself and your dog.
See if either the quarantine kennel or the airline can make do with a certificate so that your dog is not vaccinated twice for the same thing in the space of a few days.
>It’s a good idea to use a moving service that deals with pets as well so you can at least outsource some of the fiddly bits like obtaining the crate and getting the domestic paperwork to them.
>The flight is likely to be at an unearthly hour so make sure you can reach there with your dog and the container. If your dog is anything more than a tiny terrier, your container is likely to be massive, so make sure your car can take all of you at the same time! If you are going by taxi, check in advance that they will take the dog and the container, because you don’t want nasty surprises at the nth hour. You will have to reach the cargo area, so it’s a good idea to do a dry run. Very few people will have visited the cargo area before- it’s often got heavy security so if you know what to expect on the day you could factor in enough time.
>Keep your pooch calm. It’s a good idea to put in used clothes of yours with him to calm him down with the familiarity. Check with your vet whether sedation is recommended. Our quarantine kennel advised us against it due to the chance of suffocation and also loss of control (due to which a dog can hurt itself in the cage), so we didn’t sedate our dog. I’d recommend getting him used to his crate in advance by keeping it in your house for a few days, so he doesn’t panic when you load him onto it. It was the hardest thing I did, loading mine into that crat and sending him off- in my case the chap who carried the crate into the bonded area had clearly had a drop too many, and almost dropped the crate. That was not a salubrious beginning.
>Once your pooch is loaded up safely, don’t be shy- follow up with the airline if you are concerned. We kept following up with them and the pilot was good enough to inform us that the temperature in the cabin where our dog was kept, was at a constant 17 degrees centigrade because that is what was recommended for labrador retrievers in their Standard Operating Procedure Manual! Now our pooch was a dog who spent his growing months barking at the AC for it to be switched on, but nevertheless 17 degrees was a bit cold for a dog who grew up in the scorching heat of Delhi. We had to ask them to crank it up a bit. We were very grateful they had bothered to consult a manual though.
Our pooch did arrive safely despite a delay at the airport before customs. He managed to make it to the quarantine kennel, where he promptly proceeded not to eat or poo for three days. But that’s another story.