How to migrate to another country with your pets

Published April 18, 2022, 4:10 PM

by Manila Bulletin

No pets left behind

Text and photos by Joe Ilaog
DUTCH CATS — (From left) Eggsy, Coco, and Torren

It would probably have been more stressful adjusting to my life in a new country if my cats weren’t here with me in the Netherlands.

Even before I got my resident permit to live in the Netherlands, I knew there was no way the cats are going to be left behind. Eggsy (Siamese), Torren (American Curl), and Coco (a mix of the two) have become constants in my life that I can’t just leave them out of the plan of moving abroad. It would be difficult and costly, but the alternative of living them in the Philippines is going to be harder to bear.

For the benefit of those who are contemplating to bring their pets to the new country they will be moving to, here is how we were able to bring our three cats to the Netherlands.

STEP 1. Microchip. You need to make sure your pet is microchipped. Around June 2021, all three cats were implanted with an ISO-approved five-digit non-encrypted microchip identification. Microchipping is available in most Pet Clinics in Metro Manila and would cost around P300 to P500.

STEP 2. Rabies Shot. Most countries require your pet to be vaccinated for rabies 30 days before the blood extraction for the titer test, so securing a rabies shot for your pet would be your second step even if your pet has already been vaccinated before.

STEP 3. Blood Extraction for Titer Test. The third step is for the blood extraction to happen. Rabies-free countries will require you to do a blood titer test to detect the level of rabies serum in the blood of your pets. This is the part of the process that usually sets back pet owners because of the cost. It could also be daunting if you consider that there is no approved rabies serology laboratory in the Philippines so your samples would have to be sent abroad. Thankfully, there are pet clinics in Metro Manila well-versed in the process and can aide you in sending blood samples abroad. In our case, we sought the help of the vets in Makati Dog & Cat Hospital to find an accredited lab for the blood titer test. Expect to pay around P30,000 to P50,000 per pet for this procedure. But other than bringing the cats to them 30 days after the rabies shot, most of the work was handled by their team.

STEP 4. Wait Before Entry. Once you get a favorable result for the blood titer test, your pet will be required to wait before entry. The waiting period varies. Depending on the country you are traveling to, it could be anywhere from 30 to 180 days so be sure to check on that. For the Netherlands, we needed to wait 90 days after the blood sample was extracted by the vet.

STEP 5. Permit to Ship and Health Certificate. A few days prior to the flight of your pet, you will need to secure a permit for the shipment of animals at BAI (Bureau of Animal Industry) by presenting your pet’s rabies vaccination card and an accomplished application form (available in BAI’s website). You also need to secure a health certificate before your pets could fly out of the country. If you are already abroad, there are several pet transport services to help you with this process. Our trusted veterinarian recommended SRS Freight Services to assist us with this step and the next.

STEP 6. Flight. Another challenging step in the process is identifying an airline that will fly your pet. Note that most airlines only fly pets in cargo. There are a few airlines that allow pets in the cabin with you but that usually comes with pet size limitation. In our case, the cats flew around 60 days after we landed in the Netherlands, so the only choice was for them to fly in cargo through Turkish airlines. This was a challenge because there were limited flights during the pandemic and flights are only able to cater to a limited number of pets/animals. When you do get a flight, make sure to have an IATA-compliant pet crate for each pet. A downloadable Container Requirements pdf is available in IATA’s website.

PRO TIP: We were told that placing a clothing article inside the crate may help in travel-induced anxiety that may be experienced by your pet. If the flight has a stopover, some airlines, like Turkish Airlines, will also let the pet out to walk and stretch, feed them, and clean the crate in preparation for the next leg of the flight. Do inquire with your chosen carrier about this.

STEP 7. Arrival. Your pet arrives and is checked for permits and health certificates. If your pet travelled with you, they will be released to you once check is completed. If you availed of a pet travel service, they would partner with another pet travel service in the country of destination to do this task for you. In our case, they also offered a service to bring the pets right into our doorstep after clearing the checks.

FAMILY PHOTO — (From left) Gladys with Coco, and the author with Eggsy and Torren

It took the cats less than two days to adjust to their new life here in the Netherlands. Eggsy slept mostly in his first 24 hours here, but other than that, the cats got reacquainted to their routine in no time. It’s as if they know this is their new home.

Contributing writer Joe Ilaog is a Filipino expat in the Netherlands. You can follow him on Instagram @the_daily_joe_ and on Twitter @joe_ilaog. Join his advocacy in supporting the Global Filipino community and share his stories.