How to leave the UAE with your pet

It may seem complicated, but forward planning will help when it comes to leaving the country with pets

Pet owners need to start planning as early as possible for when it is time to leave the UAE with their pets. EPA
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Pet owners who are getting ready to leave the UAE should plan as far in advance as possible when it comes time to take their furry friends with them.

This is because countries have different import rules and some can take longer to process than others.

“Always plan ahead – know the cargo requirement before getting a pet and the costs,” says Amanda Hyden, owner of The Pet Sitting Company in Abu Dhabi. “Some countries have a lengthy wait for quarantine or a six-month-plus process and multiple tests.”

Requirements for pets

One of the first things to get sorted for all pets is to make sure vaccinations are up to date, including ensuring a rabies shot at least 21 days before travel.

All pets will need to be microchipped, as it is a requirement for every country when importing. The microchip should be done before the rabies vaccination. It is important to ensure it is an ISO 11784 / 11785 compliant 15-digit pet microchip.

Animals should be at least 12 weeks old to be vaccinated for the first time and 15 weeks to be exported. For some countries, the pet should be 27 weeks old at the time of relocation.

"Even if you don't know where you may travel to, certain things are commonly required, such as your pet having microchip and up to date vaccinations," says Kirsty Kavanagh of Pawsome Pets in Dubai.

Documents needed for exporting

Owners will also need to have an export health certificate from the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment website, which can be done online. They will need to first register for an account on the website.

They will also need an import permit from the country they are planning on bringing their pets into. Each country will have its own rules and regulations, so it is important to always make sure owners are up to date on the latest requirements.

Other documents needed:

  • Copy of owner's passport
  • Original vaccination card or animal passport. This must include the microchip number and full description of the animal, including type, colour, gender, date of birth and any other distinctive signs
  • A statement from a certified vet that the animal has fulfilled all the required vaccinations, including name of the vaccine, manufacturer, batch number and date of vaccination
  • Any treatments or medication the animal is on
  • Valid original official health certificate from a vet within five days from travel date and the original certificate for Rabies Serum Neutralisation test

Type of crates needed

Another step will be getting an International Airline Transport Association-approved crate for pets to travel in. The correct dimensions can be found on the IATA website. Careful consideration needs to be taken that ensures there is enough room for a pet, especially for long-haul flights.

Here is how to measure a pet for a travel crate:

  • Measure length from the nose to base of tail/bottom
  • Measure height from the floor to the top of the head, or if ears are erect, to the tip of the ear
  • Measure width at the widest part of the body
  • Measure length of the foreleg, floor to elbow

Prior to flying out, give your pet some time to get used to the crate.

“Make your pets comfortable,” says Hayden. “Buying your crate ahead of time can give your pet room to explore the crate and get comfortable with going in and out.”

Three ways to travel

There are different types of travel available for pets – manifest cargo, excess luggage in the hold, excess luggage in the cabin. Each option is safe. The feasibility of each option is based on the size and breed of your pet, the airline they are traveling on and the country they are travelling to.

Snub-nosed pets may be limited to when they can travel as some airlines will not allow for them to be transported during the summers and warmer months for their own safety.

"Small animals can go on the flight with you as carry-on baggage. KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, Turkish Airlines and Etihad on some flights to some destinations," says Hayden. "The second way to take your pet is as excess baggage. Your pet is checked-in at the counter much like an extra piece of luggage but with treated with more care.

"You must book your pet seven to 10 days before the flight with most airlines. Emirates, KLM, Lufthansa and Air France all have excess baggage pet services from the UAE depending on the destination, connecting airline and plane in service."

"In almost all cases, pets can go as cargo. Some exceptions are made for breeded pets. Brachycephalic or snub-nosed breeds are limited to the cooler months."

What else to remember

Kavanagh suggests asking for quotes from at least three well-known and reputable pet relocation companies to get an idea of requirements and costs and to start saving regularly for those cost when the time comes.

“While we highly recommend researching and preparing in advance as much as possible, keep in mind that airline and country requirements can change, often with little or no advance notice,” says Kavanagh.

“Keeping in touch with your preferred relocation agent, or regularly monitoring the websites for the respective country and airline(s) your travel plan includes is always recommended.”

In either case, advance preparation is always key.

Updated: August 26, 2023, 1:21 PM