Taking Dogs Abroad: What You Need to Know

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Marisa Fasciano
Content Specialist
Marisa is a communications consultant based in New York with a background in social research, diversity education, and nonprofit development.  She has lived and traveled abroad extensively‚Ķ Read more

Taking dogs abroad can be a stressful experience, but with a bit of preparation the process can go much more smoothly. 

In this guide, we take a look at pet owner Faith Ryan’s journey across borders with her two dogs to explore some of the key things you need to think about – namely, planning for medical requirements, preparing for air travel and sending money abroad to cover costs. 

An Example of Taking Dogs Abroad

Faith needed to relocate from New York to Honolulu for her husband’s job as a real estate developer. They consider their dogs, a four-year-old pointer mix named Bailey and a one-year-old shepherd mix named Ginger, their “babies.” They had no doubts at all about taking their dogs abroad.

However, Hawaii is the only state in the US with rabies-free status, and it intends to keep it that way. That means all dogs, cats and other carnivores travelling there must complete a rabies quarantine until it’s clear they don’t have the disease.

After receiving a rabies blood titer (a test that checks for an immune response to rabies), Ginger and Bailey were prevented from entering the state for 120 days. They could either remain on the mainland for that period or at the Honolulu quarantine station.

Faith chose to hang back with Ginger and Bailey in New York for a few months while her husband started his new job. By the time leaving was inevitable, the dogs only had 30 days left in their waiting period – a more tolerable separation for everyone involved. Soon, they will be reunited with their original family in their permanent island home. 

Faith at quarantine facility.jpg

Faith pays a joyful visit to Ginger and Bailey at the Animal Quarantine Station in Halawa Valley.

Know the Rules about Rabies

Faith’s experience of taking her dogs abroad highlights an important point. Several countries, including Australia, the UK and Japan, claim rabies-free status. Other countries fall under the categories of either rabies-controlled, meaning that they have a low incidence of rabies, or high-rabies. The US (other than Hawaii) and most European countries are considered rabies-controlled.

Countries with a high risk of rabies infection include China, India, the Philippines and Ukraine. Whether or not moving a pet to a foreign country requires a rabies quarantine or related procedures, such as a vaccination and microchip insertion (to record vaccination dates), depends on the status of both the country of origin and the destination country.

In general, moving a dog from a country with a lower prevalence of rabies to one with a greater prevalence is easier than the other way around.

Carefully Plan Your Pet’s Air Travel 

Another challenge that Faith confronted when moving her dogs was finding an airline that would fly them from New York to Honolulu. She discovered through research that not all airlines or airports allow large dogs (Ginger and Bailey each weigh about 70 pounds), and her only option turned out to be United Airlines from Newark Liberty International Airport. She used United’s PetSafe service, which is designed for animals that can’t travel in the aircraft cabin.

There are a few things to keep in mind when your pet travels on a long-distance flight:

  • Some airlines don’t transport pets during especially warm or cold months, because the outside air temperature affects the temperature of the cargo area.
  • There may be restrictions on the type of crate that the airline will accept (for both the cabin and cargo bay), so be sure to check the kennel requirements of your chosen airline.
  • Familiarise your pet with the crate ahead of time so that they’re less anxious on the long trip. Include a favourite toy or an item that smells like you.
  • Airlines vary on the type of pets they accept. For example, some will take cats and dogs but not birds.
  • If you prefer to leave the details of sending your pet abroad to someone else, consider using a pet relocation service. The extra cost may be worth it, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by other aspects of relocation (read our guide for expats).

Cover Your Pet’s Expenses with an Online Money Transfer Service

Sending your pet overseas safely and comfortably is a major undertaking, so you’ll need a safe, secure and efficient way to pay overseas expenses. Faith spent $500 per dog for the 30-day stay at Honolulu’s quarantine station, and the same amount to fly them there. Other potential costs include health certificates, vaccinations, microchips and an airline-approved crate. 

If you need to transfer money between your home country and your new country to cover your pet’s expenses, try an international money transfer provider. They typically provide better exchange rates and lower fees than banks.

If you’re looking for more information about moving abroad, check out our guide for expats or our guide to buying property overseas to find out how an international money transfer provider can help.

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