Planning well in advance is key to relocation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am


If you're leaving town with pets in tow, the top tip is to start planning as far in advance as possible.

'The main consideration is the import requirements for the country the animal will travel to,' says Stacy Tucker of Ferndale Kennels.

'Some countries are easy but others, like Australia, can take five or six months to prepare an animal for entry.'

When British expatriate Karen Jackman left Hong Kong for Australia, she took her cat Harriet with her.

'Do your research to make sure you find a pet relocation service that is experienced in dealing with the laws of the country you are moving to,' she says. 'Australia has particularly strict rules and elaborate processes, so I was lucky the relocation company was completely on top of things.'

Jackman first asked for advice from other pet owners, and went to a vet in Sai Kung, where she lived, to ask how the process worked.

'I initially wanted to do it myself, but it turned out it was cheaper to get a pet relocation company as they have arrangements with the vets and so on.

'I phoned around quite a bit, and ended up with one near Sai Kung. They allowed me to pay them over a six-month period prior to Harriet leaving Hong Kong, which helped a lot. Their fee included the airfare, cat cage, doing all the paperwork, vaccinations and blood tests. They send the blood to the UK to be tested, so it takes a couple of months for that to come back.'

In some countries, pets have to stay in quarantine after arriving, so you must also budget for that extra cost and quarantine must be pre-booked.

'Once you know your destination, and you've learned about its particular requirements, what you need to do is plan backwards,' says Patricia Shuen, a veterinarian at Pet Cares Professional Veterinary Services in Tai Po.

She says most people transport only dogs or cats, though she has helped with rabbits, terrapins and even horses.

Each destination has its own timescale to follow. 'It depends on where your pet is going, as there are different restrictions and customs to consider,' she says.

'A few diseases need to be tested for a month in advance, for instance ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne bacterial infection common in Hong Kong.

'Australia tests for leptospirosis, a severe bacterial infection, and previous exposure to it - and this exposure includes vaccinations. If your dog is going to be exported to Australia, it's important to tell your vet that you don't want the leptospirosis vaccination. Otherwise, your dog will be refused entry.'

'Once I knew how things worked, it was very smooth,' Jackman says. 'I planned the move for Harriet over a six-month period, which gave plenty of time for all her tests and vaccines to be completed.'

Tucker advises getting your pet used to the carrying crate in advance, as it will make the flight less stressful for them. 'Animals can get nervous on long-haul flights,' Shuen says. 'They are not used to the carrying case, or the noise. The cabins are pressurised, but they can still feel the effects of the pressure. Get the crates two to three months in advance, and put their favourite toys in with them.'

Sedatives are not recommended, as they can cause animals to lose their sense of balance, or become agitated when they wake up.

Shuen says common sense should be applied. 'Try not to travel at times of extreme temperatures - when it's hottest in Hong Kong, or when it's minus 20 degrees in Canada.'

A final tip from Jackman: 'It's a good idea to try and send your pet on ahead before you start packing, as pets can sense change and you don't want them running away. The same goes for the other end. After they come out of quarantine, keep them inside for at least two weeks so they can get used to their new surroundings. Once Harriet was allowed outside [in Australia], she didn't know what to make of the back garden. Being Hong Kong-born, her paws had never touched grass before. It was hilarious.'