Your assignee’s orientation trip was an outstanding success. The accommodation and children's schools have been chosen, the immigration formalities are complete, the family vaccinations are up-to-date, and the travel tickets are all arranged. Is that everything? Spare a thought for the family pet. It's a question that's often not considered until late on in the assignment planning process and may sometimes be overlooked completely. That shouldn't be the case. The golden rule is to start planning early - don't let pets be an afterthought.
In a recent survey, 24% of companies said they would cover the cost of transporting their assignees' pets to the host location. In this blog post we will take a look at the practicalities of pet relocation and the questions your employees may need to consider before starting their assignment.
Home or away?
The first question to be answered is whether the pet is to be included in the relocation, left at home to be cared for by other family members or friends, or placed in kennels. For many people, their pet is an integral member of the family. Leaving pets behind could even be a deal-breaker for some assignees.
Is the animal getting on in years or in bad health? Could the move impact on its quality of life? If the climate of the host location is very different or more extreme than the home, then could it have a detrimental effect on a pet? For example, long-haired breeds of dog can struggle with heat and ticks in tropical locations.
Is the host location known to have venomous snakes and reptiles? The natural curiosity of cats and dogs can quickly lead them into trouble unless they have previously learned to stay out of harm's way. However, there are training courses that will teach dogs to stay well clear of hazardous wildlife.
Does the assignment include frequent travel with long spells away from home? If so, who then will look after the animal? Pet sitters can be hard to come across in some locations.
The standard of veterinary care can change dramatically from country to country so it’s important to consider the level of care that your pet would receive in a new location. And if worse comes to worst, are there facilities for more serious treatments? If the pet is exotic or high maintenance, can its diet and nutrition be suitably catered for?
Does the local culture embrace all types of pets? Are they welcomed in shopping malls, restaurants and on public transport? What about in people's homes or the workplace? Local attitudes to the keeping of pet dogs can vary widely. For example, for cultural and religious reasons, some Saudi nationals may be uncomfortable or afraid around dogs and it would therefore be frowned upon to take them into some public locations.
Does the landlord have a pets clause in the rental agreement or place other restrictions on the keeping of pets? When living in rented or temporary accommodation it’s important to know if pets are prohibited from your home. Finding a pet-friendly landlord can take longer than anticipated and extra time may be required for the property search.
Certain breeds of dog cannot be imported to some countries if they are classified as a dangerous breed. Therefore, whether it's a Pitbull to Pittsburgh or a Rottweiler to Rotterdam, finding out early on if your dog is allowed in the country is a key consideration.
Cabin or hold?
Even if a dog is not on the banned list, airlines often have their own rules on pet transport. For example, will the animal be permitted to travel with the owner in the cabin or will it have to travel as cargo in a crate in the hold? This can create extra hidden expenditure, as well as having an adverse impact on the pet.
Service and emotional support animals
Assistance or service dogs for persons with a disability (such as visual, hearing or mobility impairment) and even emotional support animals may be permitted to travel with their owner depending on the airline. There's been a lot of recent press interest in the subject.
Last year, New York City-based performance artist Ventiko was banned from taking her emotional support peacock, Dexter, on a United Airlines flight to Los Angeles as it “did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size”. United Airlines limits the number of emotional support animals to one per passenger, while Delta Air Lines restricts animals to flights of eight hours and under.
Snakes on a plane
Airlines will not accept reptiles for travel in the cabin (although a few allow them to travel as checked baggage). They may travel as cargo provided the carrying container meets the regulations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It must be of rigid construction, ventilated on all sides, and have a secure spring-lock door that pets cannot open.
Are the pet's vaccinations up to date? Pet diseases like rabies and leukaemia can be commonplace in many countries. Documentation, immunisation and quarantine regulations can also be strictly enforced in some places and admission regulations may be onerous. However, in most places a pet's health certification can be prepared by an accredited veterinarian in advance. It should state that the animal has an up-to-date vaccinations record, shows no signs of communicable diseases, and is fit to travel. But be aware, the health certification may require a translation.
Is the pet microchipped? This is a requirement in some countries. The chip should contain identifying data of the animal and the contact details of the owner. Although there is no internationally agreed standard, ISO 11784/11785 are accepted in Asia, Australia, Europe, and in some parts of North America. Microchip readers may fail to read chips using other standards.
On arrival in the host country, for how long is the period of quarantine? In some cases, a prolonged stay is required, although some facilities will allow visits between the owner and the pet.
Insure for peace of mind
Does the pet insurance policy provide a sufficient level of cover? Does it cover diagnostic tests, surgery, hospital stays and medications? Some policies cover overseas travel as standard while others will apply additional premiums. Make sure accidents, illness and emergencies away from home are covered and be aware of any exclusions such as countries that aren't covered and any time restrictions on making a claim.
The ‘B’ word
Finally, a note on Brexit. The United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union is scheduled to take place on 31 October 2019 and will almost certainly impact on pet relocation into and out of the UK. As with much else Brexit-related, the situation is far from clear. When the UK leaves the EU, it will become a ‘third country’ and the existing rules on travelling with pets, that make travel between EU states relatively straightforward, will cease to apply. In the current EU Pet Travel Scheme there are three categorisations of ‘third country’, each with different rules and regulations. A helpful summary of these is provided by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Speak to the specialists
For the latest on pet relocation regulations, assignees should contact a specialist pet relocation consultant or the consulate and customs authorities of the destination country, and the transporting airline. A specialist pet relocation company can take the hassle out of moving pets and can assist with travel crates meeting government and airline standards, pick-up and delivery, and port entry.
The home country authorities responsible for the import of pets can be a good source of information. The following government departments, for example, all provide detailed information online: Australia's Department of Agriculture, Singapore's Animal & Veterinary Service, the United Kingdom's Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
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ECA's Country Profiles are in-depth briefing documents for individuals preparing to live and work in another country. They provide essential information for both IHR managers planning international assignments and for people going abroad to work, whether for one day or permanently.