As with all things in life, moving abroad involves a certain balance. Yes, there are new friends to be met, along with establishing a new home and learning a new culture. All of this is waiting at the point of destination. However just before the flight is boarded, there are friends to be hugged farewell and perhaps permanently. So it is with the rest of it. However, what of the family pet? Can that most loyal of creatures the family dog come along for this next stage of its owner's life journey?
The good answer is Yes. It is tricky and there are definite procedures that must be followed. For simplicity's sake, let us assume the pet is a dog and that the countries investigated are the Republic of Ireland and the UK.
The reader has likely heard the anecdotes of months' long quarantine periods where the dog is kept in a kennel at the port of arrival. That has changed in recent years. It is now possible to pick up the luggage, get the keys to the rental car, then pick up Fido at a nearby vet clinic within two hours of landing. The regulations of the EU (for Ireland) and the UK do change from time to time – the EU regs changed three times in 2012 alone – so do check with the appropriate Ministries of Agriculture.
The principal and understandable concern is with rabies and other such viral diseases. Being island nations, should there be a rabies break-out it could decimate the indigenous animal population within months. Therefore, the first thing that must be known is whether your current home is in a low or high rabies category. Your local veterinary clinic will know this and that is the first stage to obtaining a Pet Passport.
The Pet Passport is just as it sounds: a blue booklet in which your pet's name and description are recorded as well as its vaccination history. Rabies vaccinations can be good for one or two years, depending on the vaccine. That vaccination must be planned well in advance as the veterinarian must also do a blood sample check on the dog 30 days minimum after the vaccination. In the UK, the dog may not enter the country until a full three months have passed. Ask your veterinarian for a print-out as to what vaccine he or she used and attach that to your dog's animal carrier. Airlines – and there are only a few carriers licensed to transport pets into Ireland or the UK – are very specific as to what kinds of carriers are allowed, plus you must provide food and water for a journey that, depending on connections, may take as many as 18 hours. As well, the dog must be de-wormed within five days of departure. Lastly, the dog must be micro-chipped for identification. The veterinarian can check if this has been done by a quick scan. If not, there is a need for a simple surgical procedure to plant the chip.
If any of the above is not done, the dog will be quarantined for up to four months in Ireland. The UK does not at present have a specified length of quarantine. In either case, the quarantine facility must be booked before arrival, or the dog will be shipped back and clearly all kennel and transportation charges are at the owner's expense.
Having followed all the proper procedures however, upon landing your dog will be taken straightaway to the nearest approved veterinary clinic where there will be a brief check-up and all the paperwork is looked over. One other note: It is a controversy as to whether or not to have your dog tranquilized for this long trip. A good compromise is to get a pheromone collar from the veterinarian. This acts as a quite mild sedative to reduce the trauma. There pheromones have a slightly unpleasant smell to the human nose (the dogs don't seem to mind) so you may want to snip the collar off and dispose of it as soon as you pick the dog up at the veterinary clinic.