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Moving with Pets

Relocating your family pet requires meticulous timing, careful planning, attention to detail and a gift for logistics!  It is essential to research shipping options, export & import conditions, as well as documentation and possible quarantine requirements well in advance of the actual move.  You must also allow for the likely expenses involved – and these can mount up.  But set against all this, most of us regard our pets as full-fledged members of the family and would never dream of leaving them behind. 



Bringing your much-loved family friend along on an international assignment helps to maintain a sense of stability for a family in an unfamiliar environment – especially for children.


Pet Moving Checklist

1.        Find out what the requirements for bringing your pet to your destination country are.   You can obtain this information from your moving company (Allied Pickfords Moscow provides this kind of information to its customers), the Embassy/consulate of the country you are moving to, your airline/travel agent and your local vet.  

2.      If import permits are required to import your pet(s) to your destination country, find out what you need to do in order to apply for/obtain the import permit(s).  Start the process early – in some countries import permit applications can take a month or longer to be approved.

3.      If your pet(s) will have to go into quarantine in your destination country, find and make all necessary arrangements with a good quarantine kennel.   Your moving company should be able to recommend one to you.  

4.      Schedule an appointment with your local vet for a checkup.  Refresh vaccinations and have additional vaccinations required by your destination country done.   Remember to start this process early, preferably at least two months prior to your departure.  Certain vaccinations might prevent your pet from traveling for several weeks and/or might have to be administered one month prior to your arrival in your destination country.    You might also have to get a number of blood tests done.  

5.      Obtain vaccination records from your local vet.  Vaccination records come in different forms.  Some countries (e.g. Western Europe and Russia) issue convenient pet (travel) passports for pets.  These are very convenient as they contain all pertinent information of your pet, including a description (breed, age, color, name) and a photo.  Vaccination records are part of this passport.  Other countries such as the United States do not issue pet travel passport; instead the vaccination record will simply come on a piece of paper from your local vet certifying that your pet was vaccinated against a certain disease(-s) on a certain date(s) with a certain vaccine(s).   Also obtain copies of your pet’s health records to take with you to your new country.  This will allow your new vet to access all pertinent health information for your pet quickly.

6.      If you are moving to Russia from a country that uses micro chipping for pets, have your pet micro chipped before departure.  Microchips are not yet in use in Russia, and even though you will find vets that will micro chip your pet in Moscow, the chips themselves are not available in Russia. 

7.      Obtain a health certificate from your local vet a few days before departure.   This certificate is usually issued no more than three days before your pet’s departure from your origin country, but time frames vary from country to country.

Making Travel Arrangements

1.        Call your airline/travel agent as soon as possible to book your pet on all required flights.  In order to obtain a price for transporting your pet(s) from the airline/your travel agent you must provide them with the size of your pets kennel (height, width, and length), the weight of the empty kennel and the weight of your pet.   Provide the airline/your travel agent with your travel itinerary and ask them to check whether the airline(s) you will be using will accept your pet(s) on that particular routing and on the dates required.   Remember that you cannot show up at the airport with your pet without having made prior arrangements with the airline – in the vast majority of cases they will not accept your pet.  Based on the information you provide, the airline or travel agent will put in a request all the way through to your final destinations and will then re-confirm that you will be able to take your pet with you as planned. Even if you are flying to a short-haul destination such as Germany or France with your cat or small dog and want to take it on board with you, you must tell the airline in advance that you will be bringing a pet on board the plane.  All airlines have restrictions on the number of animals that are allowed on board (i.e. not in the cargo hold) on any flight.

2.      Find out whether import duties for pets will apply in your destination country and if so, how they are calculated.  For example, import duties are payable on all animals arriving the Russian Federation as cargo – whether accompanied or unaccompanied.

3.      Reconfirm all travel arrangements 24 to 48 hours prior to the flight – all the way through to your final destination.

4.      Remember that you will need 1-2 hours more for check in when traveling with an animal as extra luggage and even more than that when shipping the animal as cargo.  Make sure you get to the airport well on time to complete all necessary formalities.

5.      If you are nervous about clearing your pet through Moscow airport customs or need help with shipping your pet as cargo, please contact vets Yuri & Valeria.  They can come to the airport with you to facilitate export customs clearance, go to the cargo department with you to handle all necessary formalities and can even ship your pet in your absence.   They can also meet you and your pet when you arrive at the airport in Moscow.

6.      Do not tranquilize your pet without consulting your vet – the vet will tell you what is best for your particular animal given the duration and routing of your flight.  The reality is that tranquilized animals are more likely to experiencing breathing problems. If your pet is traveling on board with you and wakes up in the middle of the journey it can be very problematic to administer another dose of the tranquilizer.

7.      If your pet is not traveling in the cabin with you, tell a flight attendant that you are traveling with a pet and ask a flight attendant to obtain confirmation that your pet is on board.   

8.      If your pet is traveling as unaccompanied luggage (i.e. not on the same flight as you), make sure the person/company meeting your pet at its final destination has detailed flight information (airline, flight number, Air Waybill number, local time of arrival and full information on your pet).

9.      One very important thing to remember is that animals may not be exposed to temperatures below –12 oC (10 oF) or above 30 oC (85 oF).  Some airlines refuse to transport pets during the peak summer months and at certain times during winter.  In particular this applies to all major US carriers.  Even if you have booked and have received confirmation from the airline that everything is okay and your animal will be able to travel, there is always a slight possibility that due to weather conditions at either origin and/or destination, the airline might refuse to transport your pet when you arrive at the airport.  Plan ahead for such contingencies, e.g. have relatives accompany you to the airport who can take the animal and ship it to you at a later point in time if such an emergency situation arises. 


Travel Kennel

Make sure you own/purchase the right kind of kennel for your pet well in advance of your departure.  The kennel must be sturdy, have a good, securely locking door, must be well ventilated, leak proof and most importantly, it must be big enough for your pet - according to IATA regulations your dog or cat must be able to stand up and move around inside the kennel full size, head up!  If your kennel does not comply with IATA regulations, any reputable airline will refuse to transport your pet.   

Please consult with your vet and your airline/travel agent before buying a kennel for air transportation.  If you already have one, show it to your vet and ask him/her to confirm that it is the right size; alternatively measure the kennel and confirm with your airline/travel agent.  


If your pet does not belong to the “Been-There, Seen-That Travel the World Club for Pets”, familiarize your pet with the kennel.  Leave it open somewhere around the house, preferably with a familiar blanket or toy inside so that the animal becomes accustomed to the carrier.  If the animal is still showing signs of concern, a good tip is to place a piece of clothing belonging to the family member the animals is closest to inside the carrier.  This will usually calm the animal down and help to overcome any separation anxiety.  Start slowly by coaxing your pet into the kennel, then lock the door and keep the pet in the kennel for increasing periods of time each day.  


Prepare a note with the following information and attach it securely to the top of the kennel:

-          your pet’s name

-          your pet’s breed

-          your full contact details at destination and/or contact details of the person who is meeting your pet upon arrival


You should also mention what kind of food your pet normally eats, how often it is fed, walked, etc.   Also remember to mention any medical problems your pet might have and how they are normally treated.   Writing the note in the name of your pet (i.e. “Hi, my name is... .  I am very sweet but scared of traveling...) should make people who will care for your pet smile and take extra good care of your four-legged friend during layovers.


For dogs you must also firmly attach a leash to the outside of the kennel. 


If you are shipping your pet as cargo, all original travel & vaccination records must also be attached to the kennel.  


Different Kinds of Pet Shipping Arrangements


Depending on your travel plans and destination there are several ways to ship your pet.  Please note that allowances and restrictions vary from one airline to the other – some airlines will allow you to take your pet on board of the plane (this normally only applies to cats and small dogs because of weight and size restrictions for carry-on luggage), others do not. 


The possibility of taking your pet on board the plane with you can also depend on your origin and/or destination (e.g. pets are not allowed to travel in the plane’s cabin if you are traveling to destinations in the UK, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand).


Some airlines transport pets year round, while others implement embargoes for pet shipments in the cargo department during summer months (this particularly applies to US airlines such as Delta; they will not transport any animals to any destination during about mid-May to late August) and certain periods in winter.  If you travel to a US destination during summer months, you might have to choose a non-US carrier in order to transport your pet.  If upon arrival at the airport of entry in the United States you have to fly to your final destination using a domestic carrier, you must make sure that this carrier will transport your pet.  If it doesn’t you might choose to travel to your final destination by car, or use a pet forwarding company in the United States to ship your pet to your new home.  Restrictions like these can also apply to other airlines and destinations during certain times of year - in particular to destinations with very hot (or cold, for that matter) ground temperatures. 


And lastly, consult your vet on the traveling fitness of your pet: certain breeds of dog (the ‘pug-nosed’ kinds in particular, including Pekinese, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Boxers, Lhasa Apsos, Shar Peis and other similar breeds) do not travel well in hot weather or to hot climates; older pets might require special attention and travel preparation.  

On-Board (Passenger Cabin) versus Cargo Hold Shipment. Airlines generally transport animals in the cargo hold of the plane and advise the flight crew that animals are on board the aircraft.  However, depending on your destination and the airline you are using, you might be able to take a cat or small dog on board with you – provided the weight of you cat or dog plus the kennel do not exceed a certain allowance, the kennel complies with airline specifications and fits under your passenger set - if it is too big, you will not be allowed to take your pet on board.   Please remember that this requires a very small container, which might not be very comfortable for your pet, especially if you will be on a long-haul flight. 


Normally airlines have restrictions on the number of pets that are allowed on board (i.e. in the passenger cabin) per flight and you will only be allowed one pet per traveling passenger.  You must inform the airline of your intent of taking your pet on board with you when you book your ticket.      If you have traveled with your pet before and know that it does not like traveling or being confined in a kennel for long periods of time (and especially if you are going on a long-haul flight), and particularly if you own a very vocal animal that has no hesitation in expressing its displeasure loudly and often, you might want to opt for shipping the pet in the cargo hold of the airplane.    Your pet might actually be more comfortable and calmer that way and so might you and your fellow passengers.


Excess Luggage versus Cargo. Depending on your destination and the airline you are using, you might be able to take your pet as excess luggage.  This means that you will check your pet along with your other luggage at the usual check-in area at the airport and that you will pick it up yourself at your final destination and is generally the most convenient way of traveling with animals.  In most cases, you will be able to check your pet all the way through to your final destination, but to be sure, please check with your airline beforehand.   If you change airlines or even airports along the way, you might have to pick up and transport your pet to the next departure point yourself.  Shipping a pet as excess luggage is reasonably cheap, you will be charged a certain amount per kg total weight (i.e. kennel + pet). 

If, however, your are unable to travel on the same flight as your pet, your pet will be shipped as cargo and will have to be taken to the cargo air terminal for check-in and pick-up.  Cargo shipments are a lot more expensive than excess luggage and required more planning.  In most cases you will have to put in a written request to the airline well in advance of the planned shipping date.   On the departure date you will have to arrive at the airport with your pet(s) long before the flight’s departure and it can also take a long time to clear your pet(s) through customs at the other end.    At Moscow’s international airports, for example, it generally takes between five and eight hours to clear animals through customs at the cargo terminal.  


Also remember that many countries charge import customs duties on animals arriving as cargo.   Russia, in particular, charges 25% of the amount indicated as freight costs in the Air Waybill for animals arriving at Sheremetievo II airport and between 30% - 35% for animals arriving at Domodevodo airport.  On top of that the airport’s charge various cargo handling and transaction fees that can easily amount to another $50.


Please also note that in certain countries all animals must enter the country as cargo and cannot travel as excess luggage – regardless of whether you arrive in the country on the same flight as your animal(s) or not.  This, for example, applies to all dogs traveling from Russia to South Africa, as well as to all animals traveling from Russia to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and other countries imposing quarantine restrictions for animals.    British Airways will accept animals as excess baggage for connecting flights originating outside the United Kingdom but only if your layover in London is no longer than 42 hours. 


For long-haul cargo shipments we recommend using British Airways or Lufthansa. Both airlines have dedicated Animal Reception Centers (London Heathrow and Frankfurt International Airports respectively), which will take good care of your four-legged friend during the stopover.   


For flights from London to Moscow we recommend using Aeroflot. 


If in doubt please contact Valeria Shishmaryova, our vet Yuri Shishmaryov’s wife, at either (+7 095) 200-03-88 (home) or +8-501-439-39-56 (mobile; when calling from Moscow) or +7-501-439-39-56 (mobile; when calling from abroad). Valeria is Moscow’s number one English-speaking pet travel expert with over ten years of experience in this field.  She will provide you with all the advice you need to safely get your pet(s) to and from Moscow and can also meet you at/accompany you to the airport when you arrive in/leave Moscow with your pet(s).   


At Home in the New Home


Dogs and cats (and other animals for that matter) encounter many of the same problems that people do when moving into a new place.  They must become used to a colder or warmer climate, a new house and neighborhood, new people, unfamiliar sights and sounds and water that might not agree with them.  Once accustomed to these changes, the animal will settle down and be content. 


It is advisable to keep the animal confined until it realizes that this is the new home and that the family is going to stay.   Please remember that cats should never be let outside in Moscow; this includes cats living at residential compounds such as Pokrovksy Hills and Rosinka – there are too many stray dogs outside that pose a real danger to cats and rat poison is very common.   Dogs should also not be allowed to go outside unattended.  


When moving from Russia to another country where it’s safe for cats to go outside, you should still keep your cat inside your new home for at least three weeks to let it get used to its new surroundings and to associate them to you, food and safety.   Start by letting the cat out in a confined environment for short periods under your supervision.   You could walk with your cat using a harness or leash.  Place some food outside so that the cat associates home with food.  Make sure your cat always wears an identification tag and that the information provided in the tag is up-to-date (new address and phone numbers).   Regularly de-worm your cat and always keep your cats vaccinations updated.    If possible, have your cat micro chipped.   The same basically applies to dogs – all dogs should wear identification tags at all times in case they get lost and of course vaccinations for dogs must also be up-to-date all the time.    Particular problems for dogs include ticks.   More information on how to avoid ticks is provided in the next section (Valeria’s Pet Advice Corner).


To speed up that “at home” feeling, bring the pet’s familiar blanket/basket/bed, bowls, toys and a small amount of your dog’s or cat’s favorite food.    Wherever possible put these items in the same location as they were in your old home, e.g. food and water bowls in a particular spot in the kitchen.


Your pet(s) may be slow to adapt to the new home and might show some distress.  Symptoms may include indoor-soiling, excessive grooming or not grooming altogether, excessive barking or meowing, destructiveness or self-mutilation, depression, loss of appetite, hiding or aggression.   If the symptoms do not disappear within several days, please consult with a vet.


Once settled in your new home, it is advisable to locate a competent veterinarian.  When you have chosen one, give the vet or the vet’s office your pet’s veterinary record or have a new one completed.  Having this information on hand will save time and confusion should your pet require emergency or other treatment.   Also keep your vet’s phone numbers handy.   Information on recommended vets and veterinary clinics in Moscow is provided at the beginning of this chapter.   


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