Bringing your dog along with you to live in another country may seem like a daunting task. If you’ve found this web page, then you’re probably already waste deep in useless drivel about how hard it is, advertisements for dog shipping companies, and these seemingly legit websites that will give all the documents you need to handle the process for just a small fee.
Well, I am here to tell you to take a breath. It’s not that hard. You can do it yourself and you don’t need to spend crazy amounts of money either. What if I told you that I brought a 130lb mastiff from California to live with me in Cambodia and I spent less than $500 on the whole process? Including the cage and the flight.
Here is a list of the documents you will need to exit the U.S. with your dog (and for entering most countries)
- Proof of rabies vaccination more than 30 days, but no greater than one year before travel
- International Health Certificate prepared by a USDA certified Veterinarian within 10 days of travel
- Approval Stamp on Health Certificate from USDA office (you can find a USDA office near you online. USDA Regulations is a good resource of information for USDA regulations.)
- Copies of your dog’s inoculation records
Pay attention to the small details above, they are important. Rabies vaccination needs to be less than one year old, but greater than 30 days. The International Health Certificate must be done within 10 days of travel. These details are vital.
Here is where it does actually get a bit tricky. Each country has its own specific regulations for what you need to enter with your dog. There is no easy answer here, except do a bit of internet legwork. Check some message boards about the country you are moving to and be sure to look for an official government website which lists the documents you need and explains the process. If you are finding it difficult to locate the information you need, then try sending e-mails to the embassy and agriculture, livestock, or customs departments. Many countries will require a Lepto vaccination which a lot dogs living in US cities don’t have. Some countries may require a pre-issued import permit. Also check with your airline as some airlines have regulations of their own. All of this you can do yourself, just put the time in, send the e-mails or make the phone calls, and don’t get crazy.
My destination of choice was Cambodia, unfortunately, because of the aforementioned large size of my dog and his giant sized crate; I couldn’t fly into Cambodia and had to go to either Thailand of Vietnam.
I choose Vietnam and learned that I needed a pet import permit issued by Vietnam’s Department of Animal Health. I made many attempts to call and e-mail the Department of Animal Health in Vietnam, but to no avail. I only got response to my many e-mails and it was just a pamphlet with less information that I already had. I decided to just go ahead without it.
I highly recommend Japan Airlines for traveling with your dog. They have one of the cheapest prices, and better yet, they take good care of your dog. They will let you know how your dog is after he is boarded at each destination and, if there is a long enough layover, they may let you walk your dog. Hats off to them for their great service in this area and they even have a frequent flyer club for pets.
Arrival in Vietnam was easy. After a 20 hour flight, my dog was waiting for me near the luggage carousel happy and healthy. Nobody asked any questions as I wheeled him though customs and out the airport. After months of worry, it was finally over; cheap and painless to boot. We hopped in a taxi and started on our way to the Cambodia border where the crossing would prove to just as easy. I showed them a photo of my dog and his health certificate and we walked right in. It was that easy and you can do it too.
So let’s go over a price run down.
- International Health Certificate: $110
- Rabies Vaccination: $35
- USDA Approval Stamp: $24
- 48” x 34” x 36” Crate: $150 (store gave me a 20% off coupon, original price $210)
- Japan Airlines Cargo Fee: $175
Total Cost: $494
One of the biggest issues with moving a dog is rabies, so if you are moving to an island nation or some other country that doesn’t have rabies you will have to read How to Avoid Quarantine When Entering Japan with Your Dog as they have additional regulations. These countries have strict quarantine rules to prevent the spread of rabies. Don’t worry though; the aforementioned article has some great secrets to teach you how to avoid leaving your pet in some government quarantine facility.