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How To: Take Your Dog Overseas (or Into Australia)

I’ve had some fantastic reactions when I tell people I’m taking Loki on this trip with me. I’ve had to say the same thing so often that I almost have it down as a script.

People: So, I hear you’re going overseas.
Me: Yeah, yeah, it’s a pretty big adventure.
People: Sounds great! But what are you doing with the dogs?
Me: Well, Loki’s coming with me!
People (jaw drop, stunned silence): Wow! So, does he have to go into quarantine when he gets there?
Me: Nope!
People: Oh, great! But isn’t it like, three/six/forever months quarantine for him to come back?

 

So, although we’re not safely in Europe yet, I thought I would write about the process I’ve followed and the information I’ve found out about flying Loki there (and back again). Of course the best places to check are with your government’s import/export departments (though I understand government speak can be infuriatingly unhelpful), or with a dog transport company. I know that you don’t necessarily have to use an animal transport company and it seems quite normal for people flying to/from anywhere but Australia to just book them a ticket and off you go, but for my first time, I’m definitely using a company. Dogtainers will be overseeing Loki’s transport and they have been absolutely brilliant from the get-go. Happy to answer my hundreds of questions, super helpful and friendly and knowledgable, I’ve felt in really safe hands with them even before I paid them a dollar. They have 24 hour support, will pick Loki up from my mum’s place when I’m not there, and will send me a photo of Loki before he gets on the plane. That’ll probably make me cry but it’s ok.

So, what did I learn, and what did I have to do?

Vaccinations

The first thing was that Loki needed to be microchipped. Which he already was. But, if your dog (or cat, or whatever) isn’t microchipped, you aren’t going to be able to fly them anywhere. Do that first. Then, it was on to Loki’s rabies vaccination. This had to be done at a government approved export vet, and had to be done at least 21 days before departure. No last minute trips for Lolo. The vet must vaccinate them against their microchip number – the vet I used checked about 7 times that the microchip number matched the number he’d written on the vaccination certificate. I’m still mildly terrified that a number is going to be wrong.

This post really isn’t the most fun or exciting to read so here’s a nice sunshiney picture of Loks. <3

This process above pretty much ensured Loki would be able to travel to the UK (or anywhere in Europe). However, there was one other critical step I wanted to take care of now, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it later. Because Loki is travelling to group 3 countries (eg., pretty much anywhere except NZ), he would have to be overseas for 6 months before being allowed to come back. Obviously this isn’t a big issue for us, but I wanted to make sure that we could come back at any time, if we needed to. There’s a way to avoid this and have a nice, short, 10 day quarantine when we return. No less than 30 days after Loki got his rabies vaccination, we went back to the export vet and got a blood test done. The blood test confirmed a high level of rabies antibodies, and this little test means he can get back to Australia on (relatively) short notice. If I hadn’t done this test in Australia, I could have done it in Europe, but we would have had to have waited 6 months from then before he could come back. Rabies can take 6 months to show up on a dog, hence the need for them to wait.

In summary:

From Australia: 

  1. Microchip
  2. Rabies vaccination
  3. Get antibody blood test (after 30+ days)
  4. Fly dog back whenever
  5. 10 days quarantine in Melbourne.

From Elsewhere to Australia:

  1. Microchip
  2. Rabies vaccination
  3. Get antibody blood test (after 30+ days)
  4. Wait 180 days.
  5. Fly dog over.
  6. 10 days quarantine in Melbourne.

It also looks like there are a heap of other tests they need to do before they can come into Australia, but those only seem to be relevant coming in. These are mostly for external parasites and seem to need to be done at least 21 days after treatment, and within 45 days of export. And then some internal parasite treatments. This guide is actually pretty helpful.

Administration

There are forms for import and export that need to be filled in, as well as fees that various airports charge, or taxes for importing the dog into the country (this is new for England, apparently). You’ll need to check with the airport you’re flying from/into as well as the country you’re flying from/into to see what you need to do. Dogtainers is taking care of most of this for me, particularly at the Australian end, but I also had to fill in a form that allowed an agent at Frankfurt airport to clear Loki through customs. I think there will be some fees (a few hundred dollars) to pay once he gets there. London airport has 24 hours worth of boarding included in the cost (at least when flying with Dogtainers) but others will have different things available. If I ever find myself with many hours of free time, maybe I’ll compile a list for you.

Urgghhhh paperwork -.-

Crate Training

One other aspect to consider is whether your dog is crate trained. Loki is – he loves his crates and will sleep in them by choice when the door is open. Even so, I’m getting him used to his giant airline crate now by feeding him all his meals inside, and closing him in there for short periods when I’m at home or when I go out. Don’t just rely on the fact that your dog is crate trained, either – interestingly, although Loki loves his fabric/soft crates and is happy to relax in his wire crate at competitions, he wasn’t entirely convinced by the big dark airline crate. It’s been in the lounge for a week or so and he’s only just now putting himself in there by choice to sleep. I don’t think he’ll have any troubles at all once the door is closed, but I want him to feel like it’s a safe place first.
There are a heap of videos on YouTube about how to crate train your dog so they’ll love being in there. We followed Susan Garrett’s “Crate Games” DVD when Loki was a puppy.

One tip I read when I got Loki as a puppy, was to put him in his crate on top/near the washing machine while it was going as this can simulate a plane taking off/being in flight. Obviously don’t force your puppy in its crate and terrify it by putting it on the washing machine… but once it’s happy and comfortable in its crate, I actually think this is a great idea. I did it once or twice with Loki, just incase, but wish now I’d done it more.

Here he is in his humungous crate!

And I think that’s it! I think that’s all you need to know, at least at a very basic level. Please do your own research, gather your own information, as each airport, each country, each airline will have their own rules, fees and requirements. I’ve found it well worth my sanity to use a transport company but of course this will have added to the costs and it is not cheap to fly Loki over (let’s just say I could almost have flown business class, for the cost of getting him to Europe.), but certainly the piece of mind knowing they’re going to organise all the paperwork for me, can let me know exactly what I have to do and when, has been really worthwhile.

A thirty-something dog trainer, outdoor lover, agility enthusiast and would-be writer from Australia – taking her dog and travelling around Europe.