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World Travel With Your Pets

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Here is your primer on overseas moves with your non-human family members.

by Rachel Howard-Collins, Army spouse


Overseas moves are complicated, especially when your family includes dogs, cats or other cuddly (and not-so-cuddly) creatures. Pets often accompany their human family members on PCS orders overseas, which requires planning—and sometimes, a little luck. Does moving to Germany with your German Shepherd seem overwhelming? Here’s the scoop:

 

The Basics

Do start early. Most destinations require documentation by a veterinarian that the animal is up-to-date on all vaccinations. Some vaccinations have a waiting period before the pet can travel (a pet must receive the rabies vaccine, for example, at least 30 days but less than one year before travel).  If you have a puppy or kitten that isn’t old enough for this requirement, you’ll need a waiver. You’ll also need a health certificate from a veterinarian within 10 days of your flight.

Do speak up. When you’re talking to the travel office about your travel arrangements, you should mention that you plan to take Fluffy and/or Fido. Most airlines have restrictions on the number of pets per flight, so the travel agent will need to be aware of your plans.

Do mention your pet’s breed, if known.  Does a bulldog hold your heart? Some airlines won’t fly with snub-nosed dogs and cats, like Lhasa Apsos or Himalayan cats, or they may only fly with them at certain times in the year. Even snub-nosed crossbreed animals fall under this rule. These airlines aren’t being snotty: Flying is a higher risk for animals with snub noses, because they have more delicate respiratory systems. So some airlines don’t fly them at all or fly them only when weather is mild. 

Do save, save, save. Shipping animals overseas isn’t cheap and the military doesn’t pay to ship your pet. So plan ahead to avoid sticker shock. Each year, animals are abandoned by military families who didn’t realize they’re responsible for shipping costs. Is Fido a big boy? Save even more—airlines generally charge per pound.  For an average cat to fly on a commercial flight, plan to spend several hundred dollars.

For a large dog, the costs could exceed $2,000—and that’s for a one-way flight. Also, you must buy a crate that matches the airline’s specifications, which can be pricey. One bright spot: As we go to print, United Airlines agreed to lower its pet travel fees for military in response to a petition from military families!

Don’t sedate your pet. Some airlines will not accept a sedated animal because the effects of sedation at a high altitude are unpredictable. Many veterinarians feel that sedation is risky during flight, according to information from the Army’s Veterinary Command. If you are really concerned about your pet’s reaction to flying, discuss your options with your vet long before the flight.

Do plan your pet's feeding.  The airlines require you to certify that your pet had food and water within four hours of take-off. You must document the date and time of feeding, according to the Army’s Installation Management Command.

They’ll also require a 24-hour feeding schedule attached to your pet’s kennel, just in case the aircraft is delayed or diverted. You’ll provide food and water dishes, which will be securely attached and accessible to caretakers without opening the kennel door.

Adult cats and dogs must be fed every 24 hours and given water every 12 hours; puppies and kittens, ages eight to 16 weeks, must be fed and watered every 12 hours while traveling. 

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