Home Emigration Focus: How to Keep Pets Safe when Moving Abroad

Emigration Focus: How to Keep Pets Safe when Moving Abroad

Posted by on September 8th, 2017.

Emigrating with pets

Moving abroad can be a wonderful experience, but sometimes getting from A to B can be a little stressful. It can be particularly annoying when flights get delayed and the schedule goes awry – but your pets might find it even more frustrating than you do.

When it comes to transporting pets across the world, there are a few things to be aware of to keep cats purring and tails wagging throughout the journey.

As well as preparing your pet for the journey, you also need to make sure that they’re allowed to travel abroad in the first place.

Different countries have different laws when it comes to welcoming pets, so in this guide we’ll be looking at the biggest countries in Europe as well as the US, Australia and New Zealand.

First Things First – The Pet Passport

Before setting off to any of these countries, you’ll need to make sure that your pet has a ‘Pet Passport’.

This is similar to passports used by humans, but mainly acts as checklist of all the relevant treatments that your pet must have had.

As EU members, France, Germany, Italy and Spain all have the same requirements. The first stage is to get your pet microchipped with a 15-digit model. In the UK, dog microchipping was made compulsory in 2016, but you might still have an unchipped dog or cat.

In either case, a microchip can be fitted by a vet to meet this requirement. There is typically a small fee for the service, but Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Blue Cross and the Dogs Trust can chip pets at no cost. Australia and New Zealand both need pets to be microchipped before transport, but the US doesn’t. In this latter case, however, getting a pet chipped is recommended as it can help to identify your pet if it gets lost, for example.

The next step is getting proof of the animal being rabies-free; the UK is on the small list of countries considered free from the disease. This means that you only need proof of vaccination after the chip was fitted, which can also be taken care of at a vets.

That said, laws in New Zealand and Australia mean that your dog or cat will have to be quarantined for at least ten days after arrival, with any blood testing or tick removal being paid for at your cost.

As the UK is still part of the EU, the health certificate part of the passport is relatively minor. This just needs to be updated by a vet and signed by you, to confirm that the pet’s transport is not for sale or transfer purposes; requirements on this step are similar for the US. Australia and New Zealand have a slightly different system when it comes to permits, which will be covered in their sections below.

There is a certain age required for transporting dogs and cats overseas; for the EU nations, rabies vaccinations (allowing travel) cannot be administered to puppies or kittens under 12 weeks. For entry to the US and New Zealand, dogs must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before entering the country and ideally after they are three months old.

This next point is a dog-specific one – there are a number of breeds that are banned by certain countries, although these lists are not universal. Most of these breeds are descended from working or hunting heritage, but due to variability its best to check with the specific country in question to see if your dog is allowed entry.

Because of efforts to tightly control non-native species, Australia and New Zealand both have strict lists banning certain species, as does the US.

General Tips

We’ll go into the specifics for transporting your pets across the world in a bit, but for now, here are some general pointers on moving pets abroad.

For car trips, the RSPCA recommends keeping your pet secure but comfortable for a long journey, as well as treating them to frequent stops if they are prone to car sickness. Hydration is also a must here and leaving pets in a car during high temperatures should be avoided at all costs.

It is advisable to only give pets a light meal before setting off, as well as giving them time to rest after eating and before leaving.

When travelling by train to and around Europe, it can be good to take pets to a train station or on a train beforehand, to aid in familiarisation.

As well as getting pets ready for the trip beforehand, the RSPCA also recommends travelling early in the morning or late at night, when it will be cooler and less busy.

These tips also tie into ferry crossings, should you decide to take a ship across the channel to the other side.

For flights, additional advice includes taking the quickest and most direct route to your destination, as well as ensuring that the airline you use has a good record of transporting pets.

Pet flight containers can be slightly different to regular pet carriers, so if possible aim to get your pet acclimatised to the container they’ll be flying in as much as possible before heading off.

When providing water in a flight container, ensure that it can’t spill easily, or at all if possible (gelled water can be used as a substitute for a water bottle).

In any case, it’s good to have a vet check up on your pet before departing to make sure that there aren’t any underlying problems that could worsen during travel.

The Dogs Trust also have some pointers when taking dogs abroad;

‘If your dog is staying with you during the move then confine him to one secure room, so that escape and injury cannot occur to him whilst people are going in and out of the house. Leave him in a quiet area with his familiar unwashed bed and possessions. Remember to put an identification tag with your new address on his collar.

Make sure that he is safely secured in the car or vehicle that he is to be transported in to the new house with a dog guard, travel crate or car harness on the back seat. If it is a long journey, make sure that he gets regular toilet and water breaks’.


When travelling from the UK to Europe, all three conventional travel options are available, as you can drive through the Channel Tunnel, take a ferry or get a direct flight.

Taking these in turn, the Channel Tunnel route is mainly beneficial for a UK-to-France move, but can also be used to reach the other EU countries that we’re looking at.

The Eurotunnel train service is well-practiced at taking pets from one side of the tunnel to the other, having transported over 2 million pets since 2001.

The company has dedicated areas to exercise dogs on the journey and they are allowed to travel in the owner’s car while in transit.

If you wanted to go from the UK to continental Europe by sea instead, there are a large number of ferries that can be used to facilitate an overseas journey with pets.

Different airlines going from the UK to EU have different policies on pets, but Lufthansa deserves particular mention. The airline operates on a ‘fast lane’ principle, where pets and animals are the last onto planes and the first off.

This method of operating minimises the risks to pets travelling in the cargo hold, but cats and dogs of a certain size can also travel in the cabin on flights.


Realistically, getting from the UK to the US with pets is only really viable via plane, unless you want to fork out for a luxury crossing to New York on the Queen Mary 2.

US airports thankfully have some extra amenities for pets compared to other terminals in the world. Since 2016 it has been required by US law that busy airports (seeing over 10,000 passengers a year) have a ‘relief area’ in some shape or form – this can be as basic as a patch of grass or extend to a small park, but some airports really go the extra mile to make your pets feel welcome.

These are primarily dog-focused, but some of the larger airports have relief areas for cats as well. This is most embodied in the Paradise 4 Paws company, which has pet-centred facilities set up in Chicago, Dallas and Denver, along with a planned expansion in New York’s John F Kennedy airport.

In the near-term, however, JFK already has a major pet facility in place for those looking for luxury – The Ark. Considered The Ritz for the four-legged, The Ark is for those looking to give their pets a soothing and pampered entry to the country.


As an island nation with experience of the damage invasive species can cause, Australia has strict quarantine arrangements for pets entering the country.

As well as meeting the requirements for a valid import permit, pets also need to be quarantined for at least 10 days in the Mickleham post entry quarantine facility. This is located in the city of Melbourne and as such, you will need to fly from the UK to Melbourne Airport; the carrier does not matter.

The Australian authorities have a long checklist of what needs to be done before and after setting off, with separate guidelines for both dogs and cats.

New Zealand

As with Australia, New Zealand also has firm measures in place to carefully manage any introduced species, even if they’re domesticated.

In 2016, the NZ government announced plans to rid the islands of all predator and pest creatures, from rats up to possums and even feral cats. As then-Prime Minister John Key stressed, however, domesticated felines are safe from this national open season.

In another shared policy point from Australia, pets imported into New Zealand need to be quarantined on arrival for a number of days. There are more options available here, as the facility distribution means that you can fly into Christchurch on the South Island or Wellington or Auckland on the North Island.

In addition to getting your pet’s paperwork in order, you will also need to notify a vet in advance of the trip. There are quite a few steps in this process, so it’s best to work your way through the official list.


We hope that you’ve found this an informative exploration of how to transport your pets overseas. If you have any currency transfer needs while emigrating, we’re always here to lend you and your pets a helping hand (or paw).

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