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How to Move Your Pets Across an International Border

Moving Your Pets to Another Country

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If you're moving to another country with your pet, you're going to have to transport them across an international border. This article takes you through the experience based on my past moves, having crossed the border for permanent moves between Canada and the US, and also from helping my sister's family move their two large dogs from Mexico, through the US and back into Canada. Currently, we're getting ready to move again, this time with senior kitties, many of whom have health issues.

You can also find more information on preparing and planning to move your pets in our series of articles on moving your dog or cat.

Check the country rules

To find out about quarantine and other restrictions, contact the country's consulate and make sure you ask the appropriate questions. Don't wait for the move to become a reality before you call, as some countries require vaccinations up to six months prior to departure.

Many consulates post this information on their website, but it's always best to follow up with a phone call or email just to ensure all your questions are answered. Travel between Canada and the US is fairly straight forward.

For anyone moving to the US, check out the US Agriculture website that outlines the rules and regulations for importing pets with links to the Centers for Disease Control that outlines restrictions and vaccinations required.

If you're moving to Canada, check out the Canada Food Inspection's site where they outline the rules for importing pets.

The good news for us is that the US does not require any vaccinations for cats. Whew! So now we need to check the state we're moving to.

Check the rules of the state or province you'll be moving to

We'll be moving back to California, so we need to check with the California Department of Public Health. According to their website, our kitties don't need a health certificate nor proof of rabies or other vaccinations. So far, this is fairly straight forward.

But what if we fly them? Right now, we haven't decided how we'll get our kitties across the border, whether by car or air. So the next step, check the rules of a few airlines to determine what they might require for our cats to travel. It's important to note that each airline has its own rules and regulations with some allowing in-cabin travel and others only permitting pets to travel by cargo. With cargo, some airlines will allow you to check in your pets when you check-in, others won't. Best to check the rules of the airlines before you book your flight for both you and your pet.

You should also know that if you have multiple pets, as in our case, each airline has its own restrictions on the number of pets that can book on any particular flight. For instance, an airline will allow one pet in-cabin and four in cargo in total for that flight. If another passenger has booked three of those cargo spots, only one will remain for your pets. Also check their rules around kennel size, requirements and how many pets can be placed in each one.

Moving across the border

When I helped my brother-in-law cross the US border from Mexico, I was surprised at how easy it was, at least by car. The border agents asked where we were heading (Canada), and waved us on. No one checked the health certificates that had been prepared or even looked at the dogs. The same thing happened when crossing from the US to Canada. The custom agents waved the car through without checking the dogs or asking for vaccination records. This is not to say that everyone will have the same experience. It's best to be prepared and to have all the documents you need in hand.

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