Pet Relocation: The Journey of Hiro and Chandra

Date Created: 19.05.2014

A personal account of the logistics and emotions associated with relocating man's best friends.

I love my dogs. They are part of my heart and soul and are therefore part of my family. I have two: the older one, Chandra (a Sanskrit name meaning something like ¨the light of the moon¨), a Staffie-cross that I rescued from the SPCA in Grassy Park, Cape Town, South Africa, is approximately 10 years old now and I have had her for about 7 years, and the younger one, Hiro (a Japanese name with various meanings one of which is ¨tolerance¨ and another ¨abundance¨) is a Chihuahua that I have had since he was a few weeks old and who will turn four in September this year.

Needless to say, when I decided that I was emigrating to The Netherlands, taking my two babies with me was a non-negotiable and I started gathering information and organising their move at the same time that I started planning my own. I spoke to my private vet in Diep River, Cape Town (Peninsula Vet) who was very helpful and informative regarding what needed to be done. I set this ball in motion about 6 months before my departure date. I recall the vet commending me for starting the process that far in advance, as he was accustomed to many people only waking up at the last minute regarding their pets and then struggling with synchronizing the humans' moving time frames and logistics with that of their pets.

The process had two main components:

1. The dogs' health certificates for travelling purposes; and
2. The dogs' flights.

The Dogs´ Health Certificates for travel and entry into the EU

1. The dogs had to be microchipped. Chandra already had hers, as the SPCA ensures that all pets adopted from them are microchipped, whereas Hiro had to have one implanted. It was a relatively seemingly painless procedure that was over in less than 3 seconds. The certificates of the date of the microchipping (along with the chip number) had to be submitted as part of the procedure as well.

2. They were given a rabies vaccination. This could only be done after the microchipping in order for the vaccination to be seen as ¨valid¨ in the European Union (EU).

3. Then, their blood was checked for adequate levels of the rabies antibody (rabies antibody tire blood test). This test can only be done after a minimum of 30 days from the date the vaccination was administered. The blood samples were then sent away to the Onderstepoort State Veterinary Facility/University in Gauteng (the only place in South Africa where this is done).

4. From the date of the blood samples being drawn for the rabies antibody titre, the dogs could not travel out of SA for the next 3 months, at least. This is what is generally known the ¨quarantine¨ period. During this time, the dogs carried on living with me and carried on with life as usual, really. As of 01 March 2012, the health certificate requirements for pets immigrating into the EU changed and pets no longer need to be separated from their owners during the ¨quarantine¨ period. It is a much more humane and considerate way of managing the process, I feel.

5. With the antibody test results above a certain level, the dogs were cleared for emigration and travel into the EU. The vet used this information to complete their health certification.

6. In the week before their departure (the rules stipulate within 120 hours or 5 days of departure and no less than 24 hours before travel), the dogs had to see the vet again for a health check and Echinococcus multilocularis (a type of tapeworm) treatment and the vet had to complete a more generic health certificate.

7. With all the above completed, the following documentation and information was sent to a state vet in the Western Cape and returned to us via the pet travel agency we used:

  • The completed health certificate (completed by my private vet), indicating the  date and time of the Echinococcus multilocularis treatment;
  • The original and certified copy of the rabies vaccination blood test results;
  • The vaccination booklet and certified copy of the booklet (including the identification page and the page recording the rabies vaccination);
  • Proof of the date of microchip implant in the form of a certified copy of the microchipping certificate (for Hiro, the microchipping was done by my vet so I got his certificate there, but there was a moment of panic when I realised I may not have had Chandras micropchip certificate from the SPCA from 6/7 years ago!! Thankfully, I had vaguely bundled all and any pet related information into a large, white envelope at some point and luckily her microchip certificate was in that envelope. Hint: it helps to save and file every conceivable document, payment slip, etc. when it comes to pets, as you never know when you might need it!)

NB: By this time, we had decided to employ the services of a pet travel agency in Cape Town (Animal Travel Services) and they coordinated and carried out the  delivery of these documents between me and the state vet, relieving me of additional driving  around during the week before our departure. They did this as part of their service (similarly with most pet travel agencies) which is part of the reason we decided to use  them in the end. With the support from pet travel agency and my private vet, the process  was run relatively smoothly and I had peace of mind that ´the experts´ were in charge and all  I/we had to do was follow their guidelines and instructions.

To be continued...