How Do I Get My Pet Around the World?
5 May, 2017
Guest Blog by Sally Smith of Fox Pines Homestead
There’s a small niche in the pet industry of pet transportation specialists….people and companies who move pets. Most people have never heard of this. Not until their employer tells them they will be going to Germany, or Hong Kong or Australia. Or maybe just across the country to San Francisco or Chicago.
All of a sudden, you need a pet shipper. The household good movers have no idea what to do with a dog or cat or bird.
There is a whole network of pet shippers. The International Pet and Animals Transportation Association, has about 200 or so members in the USA, and another 200 + around the world. I like to describe my company as a pet limo service crossed with a pet travel company.
A pet shipper can do everything door to door, or just the parts you need. For international travel, this could include:
- All airline travel arrangements: the airline booking, airline documents, overseeing your pet documents to make sure the pet complies with country requirements
- Arranging for import permits or quarantine
- Collecting the pet at your home, or a kennel or veterinary office
- Handling the final veterinary office visit for the health exam and required health documents
- USDA endorsements on health documents – which are required for most countries
- Delivery of the pet to the airline
- Paying the airline freight costs
- Arranging for an agent upon arrival to handle the customs clearances, collection and delivery to your new home
All of these steps happen in a move where the pet is flying as a cargo shipment. In essence, the dog or cat is traveling on its own ticket, regardless of whether the owner is on board or not. Some countries (primarily those that are islands like the Untied Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan) require pets enter as manifest cargo. They don’t want someone sneaking a pet in who might not have met all the country requirements.
Cargo shipments are considerably costlier per pet than either of the other kinds of air transport. Pets are usually tendered several hours in advance of the flight to personal at a freight building, or in a very few cases at an airline terminal. They fly in the lower deck (the belly) of the aircraft.
Other modes of travel include taking a pet in cabin or as excess baggage. In cabin is just what it sounds like – Each airline had its own rules and restrictions about the kinds of pets allowed in cabin (usually only small dogs or cats) and the size/weight of the pet. Airlines do have fees now for in cabin pets, and they must go through security prior to getting to the airline gate, just like a passenger.
For excess baggage pets, the arrangements are made by the owner directly with the airline when their ticket is purchased. Costs vary depending on the airline, and some have size restrictions. The pet checks in at the counter with the owner and the rest of their bags. In essence, the airline gives a substantial discount for a pet as excess baggage because the owner has already purchased a ticket. So the pet owner really is paying for pet just like an overweight or extra piece of luggage. Pets fly the same way, underneath in the belly of the plane, but are handled within the airline terminal rather than from a freight building.
As for safety, I’ve been shipping pets for 25 years, and having worked in the pet industry all my life, I would not make my living this way if it wasn’t safe. Pets go in specific locations in aircraft set aside for live animals. In many planes the air is the same air as in the cabin – it circulates around. The airlines who handle pets have dedicated staff members who have been trained to handle animals.
Sally Smith is a licensed veterinary technician, who also grooms dogs, ran a boarding kennel and for the last 25 years owned and operator Airborne Animals LLC. She now works from the homestead on her blog Fox Pines Homestead, as well as the shipping business out of NJ.