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Dubai: Relocating out of the UAE can be a long process, with the need to close bank accounts, home connections and shifting your possessions. However, moving your pets can perhaps be the most stressful experience.

Will he or she be stressed out? Can I travel with my pet in the airplane? And how much will it cost?

Fret not, because we have broken down the complete process for you below.

Start early

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Depending on the country you are moving to, there might be certain regulations that you need to abide by. For example, the quarantine stage or additional blood tests that need to be done.

Tim Nanjappa, the Global Relocations Account Manager for Dubai Kennels and Cattery, said: “As soon as you have an idea of relocating, get relevant information from your vet or other people who would know the processes. Don’t keep it till the last moment. Each country has their own requirements, for some countries you might need to prepare six months in advance, for others it might just take one or three months to get everything in place. Get in touch with people who know to find out the requirements and then take action accordingly.”

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Whom can I approach?

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There are different ways in which you can start the process. Contact any of the following:

1. Cargo companies - Speak to the cargo company you are dealing with to find out if they deal with live animal transfers. You can find a list of pet shipping companies here and here.

2. Airlines – if the country you are travelling to allows for the animal to be transported as checked-in luggage, you can also directly contact your airline and find out what their regulations are regarding the transport of animals and what vaccinations and official documentation you need to have in place.

3. Veterinary clinics – some vet clinics in the UAE also offer the service to residents relocating from the UAE. Talk to your pet’s doctor to find out if they can assist you in the process.

Which documents do I need?

You will need the following:

  1. Passport/Vaccination card
  2. Vaccination card should be updated with all the municipality mandated shots
  3. Import permit/health certificate

Along with these, you will also need a carry cage, which needs to be within regulations set by The International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Your pets need to be vaccinated, microchipped and registered

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The animals should be microchipped and his or her vaccinations should be up to date according to municipality regulations. Additionally, you need to find the regulations for vaccination and quarantine in the country you are travelling to.

Microchipping pets involves placing a small computer chip about the size of a grain of rice under the skin. It is implanted in a simple procedure by a veterinarian who uses a needle to place the microchip under the loose skin in between the shoulder blades.

The pets also need to be registered with the Emirate’s municipality and wear a municipality tag, ideally all the time, in case they get lost.

The total cost for the vaccination, microchipping and municipality for a cat or dog can vary significantly depending on your vet. While some clinics complete the process for Dh500, other can charge upwards of Dh1,000.

Get a health certificate and export permit

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A health certificate and export permit is issued by the UAE by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE). Individuals can apply for the permit online here

  • Charges: Dh400

Can my pet travel with me in the cabin?

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Animals are not permitted in the cabin of most UAE flights, with the exception of falcons between Dubai and certain destinations in Pakistan, and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Even in airlines worldwide, it is not possible to travel with your pet in cabin if he or she is over 11 inches tall or 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) in weight.

For flights out of Dubai, Emirates airlines allows falcons, cats, dogs and pet birds to be transported as checked baggage in the hold, provided the total journey time (including any transit time) is less than 17 hours, and all appropriate conditions are met.

Given that the pet cannot travel with you in the cabin, there are two options for pet owners:

  1. Check-in the pet as luggage in the same flight they are taking; or
  2. Send them as cargo (also often referred to as manifest cargo)

The choice will also affect the charges as air freight cargo is a lot more expensive than the amount you will need to pay for checked-in luggage.

“For example, if you are looking to send a cat to England, because their country requirements are that all pets need to enter as manifest cargo, you will need to do that. If you want to take your pet to the US, on the other hand, they do have the option of bringing them in luggage as checked-in baggage. For a normal sized cat, you will be paying an additional US $500, but the cost depends on the weight of the animal,” Nanjappa explained

So, the first step is to find out what the requirements are of the country you are travelling to. You might need an additional health certificate if you are travelling to a country in the European Union, for example. Australia and New Zealand requirements include additional blood tests for the animals. So, find out what the requirements are. You can get this information from your veterinary clinic and each country’s pet import regulations are also easily available online. Also, some airlines could have breed restrictions for dogs and cats as well. Speak to your airline in advance.

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Once you have applied online, get a print-out of the payment made. Then, if you are taking your pet with you as checked-in luggage, visit the airport a few days ahead of time with the following documents:

  1. Your passport
  2. Your pet’s passport/vaccination book
  3. Payment receipt of the online application for export permit

At the airport, head to the Cargo section, where you will find the office of MOCCAE. Once the officer identifies the animal, matching it with the microchip number and checks the payment receipt, he or she will issue the health certificate, which you then need to carry with you when you are travelling.

If you need to send the animal as manifest cargo, speak to the MOCCAE office to find the closest location.

Ministry of Climate Change and Environment hotline: 800 3050

If you need an additional health certificate, like from the European Union, for example, get it printed and filled in by your vet. You will, however, need to get it attested by the MOCCAE. Attestation costs are around Dh300.

What about the food and care during the travel?

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Food is not given to animals while travelling and pet owners are advised to not give anything to eat a couple of hours before travelling as well. However, it is important to ensure that animals stay hydrated.

“Water needs to be kept during the flight in a deep water bowl. When we assist customers with exports, we provide deep water bowls. In fact, we keep it in the freezer two days prior to the date of travel and when the animal is taken to the airport, we take it out of the freezer and attach it to the inside of the box. In this way, there is no fear of the water splashing and falling out as the animal is moved for travelling. The ice melts gradually and there is always water available for the animal,” Nanjappa said.

The carry cage

If your pet is traveling in the cargo section, whether through the cargo department or as manifest cargo, it must be in a pet crate that is IATA compliant. Make sure you acclimatise your pet to the carry cage before travelling to reduce stress.

Can I place both my pets in the same carry cage?

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IATA regulations have certain requirements for animals to be in the same cage. For example, they should come from the same home and be comfortable with each other. However, Nanjappa advised against it.

"No matter how close they are at home, in familiar surroundings even if they get irritated they can always run away. While travelling in the same carry cage, they have no place to run and might attack each other. So, it is better for animals, even if they are used to each other, to travel separately," he said.

How do I make sure my pet is safe in the cargo hold?

While it can be stressful for a pet and the pet owner to have them travel in the cargo hold, millions of animals are transported in this manner globally. Make sure that you visit your vet before you travel to ensure he or she is doing well, and avoid connecting flights as moving from one airline to the other can cause additional stress to the animal.

Also, it is best to avoid travelling in peak winter or summer months as the temperatures can be a cause for concern for airlines as well, with some refusing to let the animal travel if the temperatures are too extreme.

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While the idea of your pet travelling can fill you with anxiety, it is best to speak with professional animal care experts before you make the move to ensure your complete family relocates to your new home happily.