Pet Shipping Advice
Pet Shipping Tips & Advice from Fetchapet
Fetchapet offer a pet transportation service; we can fly your dog or cat from the United Kingdom to virtually any country in the world. We work in conjunction with our network of IPATA animal shipping agents (www.ipata.org) throughout the world, enabling us to transport your pets to exactly where they need to be. We specialise solely in the transportation of dogs and cats and do not ship general freight or any other type of cargo.
We offer a bespoke service and can tailor our service to your exact individual requirements. We can attend to all documentation, make airline reservations, construct or supply airline-approved travel containers and obtain import permits as necessary. Our veterinarians are available to provide all necessary veterinary documentation and testing protocols prior to shipment, or we can simply advise you and your own vet on what needs to be done.
We operate a nationwide UK collection service and offer pre-shipment accommodation in our partnered boarding establishments for as long or short a period as required.
This page has been put together to offer our customers important advice when shipping a pet to foreign countries. If you have a question about pet export that hasn’t been answered below, feel free to give us a call free on 01206 330332.
All pet dogs and cats must be microchipped prior to international travel, so ensuring this is done will always be the first step in preparing your pets for travel. The other veterinary requirements vary immensely between every country, so please check the relevant page on our website or contact us for more in-depth information.
Most owners are very anxious about sending their pets on a flight, and this is, of course, totally understandable. However, 4 million domestic pets fly every year throughout the world and the risks of airline travel for them are exactly the same as a human of the equivalent health status. The scare-mongering articles that can be found on the internet listing death and injury as common occurrences for air travel almost always occur when the rules for airline travel are flouted, such as animals being cramped into inappropriately sized travel kennels and not given the rigorous medical examinations that are required prior to airline journeys. The UK has strict welfare regulations governing international pet travel and animals would never be allowed to depart from any UK Airport in an unsuitable travel kennel or in ill health.
Pets should not travel to arrive at any destination over a weekend or Bank Holiday because at most airports abroad there are no cargo handling arrangements during these days and/or Customs clearance where applicable. If they are allowed to arrive at weekends it usually incurs an additional fees and possible delays in collecting your pet, so it is always best to send for a weekday arrival. There are exceptions to this so please contact our office for more information if this is something you require.
When taking your pet to a foreign country, please ensure they are only given water that is safe for humans to drink, we would strongly advise bottled water if you are in any doubt whatsoever. UK born animals will not have the natural immunity of native pets in your new country, so it is imperative they are extremely well protected with broad spectrum parasite treatments, to lessen the risk of serious illnesses transmitting to your pet. It is also advisable to ensure that all of their routine vaccinations are up to date because it is prudent to give them as much disease immunity as possible.
Pets are far more adaptable than they are often given credit for, and with some common-sense precautions regarding changes in climate, natural dangers, standard of veterinary care and relevant laws in your new country, there is no reason why pets cannot settle well into your new life abroad together.
Pets can travel on most scheduled flights from Heathrow and Gatwick to almost every part of the world so in most cases, your pet should be able to travel on the same flight as yourself if this is what you would like. Most of the ‘low-cost’ airlines do not carry pets however, and there are few points that should be considered with this type of pet shipment.
Firstly, pets arrive into the cargo or freight section of the airport, not the passenger terminal and you cannot be in two places at once! If you’re held up attending to your own customs and visa formalities, your pet may be left waiting for longer than necessary to be collected and released from their travel kennel.
Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that most airports require you to take your pets travel kennel away with you. In the case of large or multiple pets, the travel kennel/s may prove very difficult to transport, especially if you have all your own luggage to deal with too.
Lastly, you will not have any access to your pet from the time they’re checked in at the departure airport until you collect them at the destination airport, and for some countries such as Australia and New Zealand where quarantine on landing is applicable, you will not be able to see your pets before they’re taken to their quarantine accommodation.
If you’ve considered these points and still want your pet to travel on the same flight as yourself, we’ll work together with you to accommodate this whenever possible.
We are happy to meet clients who are travelling on the same aircraft as their pets at the London airports on the day of shipment. We would require seeing copies all of Veterinary paperwork to be sure they’re acceptable for travel and whilst we will always ask you to check and double check the size of your pet and travel kennel in advance, we unfortunately cannot accept any responsibility for last-minute delays or problems occurred on the day of travel with this type of shipment. The single most common reason for these last minute problems at the airport is the measurements being incorrect and the travel kennel being refused as too small for the dog. With the years of experience we have with these kind of issues, we will sometimes ask you many times if you are sure about the size as a wriggly dog is not exactly easy to measure and we can usually tell if the measurements don’t sound right for the breed of dog.
Many pets that have previously travelled into the UK in a certain size kennel may not be able to travel back out in the same kennel due to the stringent rules applied when leaving the UK. Heathrow and Gatwick airports are amongst the strictest in the world for animal welfare, and so the message here is that if you are not sure please say so as we can then make contingency plans for if the kennel is not a good enough fit.
Our usual advice would be to schedule your pet to arrive a day or two after yourself (unless they’re heading into quarantine). You can then return to the airport to collect them in a more leisurely manner and take them back to their new home without struggling with all own luggage too. This is often less stressful for both pets and owners alike! Pets love to be greeted by their owners on arrival; please see our facebook page for recent happy pet pictures and videos.
All UK airline charges are included in our shipping quotations, however, virtually all airlines will also make an arrival handling charge too, which is payable upon collecting your pet from the destination airport. This can vary immensely as it is determined by the Authority at the airport so it’s very difficult to advise you of even a ‘ball-park’ figure.
Once your pets flight has been booked, airline staff will call you or your representative to obtain what is called the ‘ok to forward’, this is for just confirmation that you’ll be at the destination airport to collect your pet upon arrival. This is the ideal time to ask exactly what the handling charges will be and also any other questions you may have such as how long you should expect to wait for your pet to be ready for collection.
There will also be a customs clearance fee for you to pay, and again this is something that can only be quoted by the authorities at the destination airport.
Pets should never be tranquillized for air travel; in some cases this has proved to be fatal. Neither ourselves nor the airlines will knowingly accept a sedated animal for travel.
As well as having potentially very serious medical implications, sedatives and tranquilizers do not last for the many hours required for even a short-haul flight when you take check in and release times into consideration. This means your pet will wake up in a totally strange environment and be far more stressed and confused than when alert to what exactly is going on.
We understand that many pets are likely to stressed by air travel, and the welfare of your pets is our primary concern. There are many steps we can take to ensure stress is kept to a minimum for your pet, without resorting to tranquilizers and their associated dangers.
We are able to spray the inside of travel containers with Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs) to help your pet to cope with the unfamiliar situation they will be faced with during travel.
Feliway (Feline Appeasing Pheromone) is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. They do this by ‘bunting’ (rubbing their cheek) against an object, or you, to declare ownership. By mimicking the cat’s natural facial pheromones, Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s local environment.
Adaptil (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) works on a similar principle to Feliway. In mammals, all lactating females release substances called “appeasing” pheromones, the function of which is to reassure the offspring. Canine appeasing pheromones are secreted by the bitch 3 to 5 days after the puppy’s birth. Adaptil mimics those pheromones and helps dogs to handle stressful situations such as transport, separation and kennelling better, thus allowing them to adapt more readily to new situations – without the use of drugs.
We will supply high quality veterinary bedding for your pets travel. As well as being supremely comfortable and hygienic, this bedding has the advantage of being very lightweight – very nervous animals can easily hide under the bedding if they so wish. You are also more than welcome to provide a small blanket or a t-shirt that you’ve been wearing that smells of you and of home, and we can place this in your pets travel kennel also.
Having the pet travel kennel in advance usually helps too because you can spend some time (with our assistance of course) getting your pet used to the travel kennel and learning that it is his or her personal ‘safe place’ to be, thus giving added security and a feeling of wellbeing during transportation.
Many owners take advantage of the UKs easy access to mainland Europe and opt to transport their pets themselves in their own vehicles. There is nothing wrong with this and can be a good option for owners who do not want to be separated from their pets, or cannot afford the costs for short airline journeys that are completely out of proportion to the costs for a human ticket. Cats should always travel in a pet carrier, and dogs should at the very least have seatbelt harness or a crate or guard for protection if possible. Do not feed your dog or cat during transit, but the pet must have fresh water available at all times. For pets travelling to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece or the Balkans during the hot summer months, road transport is not recommended unless in a specialised and modified vehicle such as those used by Fetchapet due to the excessive heat that quickly builds up in a vehicle. Also, your pet can travel to any of these destinations by air within a matter of a few hours from Gatwick or Heathrow but may take up to 2-3 days to undertake the same journey by road.
Some pet ‘couriers’ offering cheap return road journeys’ do not have appropriate vehicles and we have seen dogs and cats arriving back in the UK in an awful condition due to the atrocious way that the poor animals have been transported without the proper welfare considerations being adhered to. Please make sure that the transporter is a member of IPATA, is fully licensed and that the vehicle they use meets the European Union regulations for carrying domestic pets and companion animals on long journeys.
Taking your pets on holiday is very expensive, and whilst you can take them out as excess baggage with some airlines, they must travel back into the UK as manifested cargo. This incurs a heavy freight charge plus Animal Reception charges on arrival at Gatwick or Heathrow Airports which is on top of the airline charges. Many airlines also stopped carrying dogs and cats as excess baggage out of London Heathrow and Gatwick Airports so the pet may have to travel as manifested cargo on both journeys. There are also veterinary charges to consider when undertaking the various pre-export vaccinations, tests and certifications required for both countries which in many cases have completely different regulations from each other. It is often cheaper for owners to cover the costs of the very best local boarding facility instead of going taking the pet away with them.
Puppies and kittens between 12 and 14 weeks of age travel very well as they have not yet developed the fear parameters found in older pets. On the other side of this it can be argued that older pets are more willing to relax and sleep for long periods during airline travel. Middle aged pets are very able to cope with the journey from a physical fitness point of view, but are often restless and over tired on arrival at the destination, much the same as we are after long journeys. Pets can fail the travel requirements if they show signs of infectious or contagious disease, have gingivitis or sore gums and tooth damage, ear infections or have visible signs of parasites such as flea or ticks. Fetchapet recommends these types of routine husbandry issues are addressed with your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible during the export preparation process, so that each pet travels in the best physical and emotional condition possible for the individual animal and circumstances. Fetchapet also recommend that whenever possible the travel crate should be purchased in advance of the journey so that the pet can become accustomed to the crate and see it as a safe place, thus giving added security and a feeling of wellbeing during transportation.
Fetchapet are happy to offer advice to owners on all parts of the transportation process, so please feel free to contact our office for more help or information.
We do not ship small animals who are more susceptible to stress, less able to adapt to environmental changes, or we are unable to handle confidently. Small mammals like hamsters do not cope very well with flying, so we do not consider it is in their best interests to travel by air. Because rabbits do not outwardly show signs of stress or suffering and can die suddenly quite a long time after airline travel, it is not a risk we feel comfortable with taking and will not send them by air.
If you have a small mammal or rabbit you are really attached to and determined to take with you, we can put you in touch with a specialised agent who will be able to assist you.