UAE pet travel: taking away the stress with professional help

When it was time for Chris Pyke to return home to Wales with the six rescue animals he had adopted while living in the UAE, he sought the help of the professionals.

ABU DHABI // When it was time for Chris Pyke to return home to Wales with the six rescue animals he had adopted while living in the UAE, he immediately turned to professionals.

The prospect of managing the paperwork, vaccines, blood tests, microchipping and transportation for pets is often a daunting task for many pet owners planning to travel.

To avoid the risk of running into any unforeseen challenges, Mr Pyke visited a local veterinarian who offered pet transportation services.

"He took care of pretty much all the details," said Mr Pyke, a former online editor at The National. "It's worth paying the extra money, he knows the people to see and the documents to get stamped. Getting him to do it avoids the hassle and chances are you have plenty of others things to organise when leaving."

Although the cost of doing-it-alone will be at least 50 per cent cheaper, experts agreed with Mr Pyke that spending extra for professional advice and services can end up saving pet owners in the long run — at least in time and stress.

“There’s a huge amount involved in pet shipping and I think a lot of the times people don’t realise that,” said Zoe Grimes, pet transportation manager at the British Veterinary Centre. “Do you know how many people come in to me and say I’ve booked my flight, I’m leaving on Friday and I want to take my cats and then they send me the documents and the cat doesn’t even have microchip or rabies vaccine and I have to say, ‘I’m sorry, there’s just no way your cat’s travelling with you.’ So in this case they either have to cancel their flights and rebook it once the animal has everything that it needs or what they do it they put it into boarding with us and they go ahead and we will ship the animal to them later.”

Part of the challenge stems from the fact that there is no standard international checklist pet owners can follow to fulfil an animal’s travel requirements. The rules for importing and exporting a pet varies by country.

In some countries, animals have to be quarantined — sometimes for up to a month. Others require the pet to be vaccinated against rabies six months before departure, while another country may allow the animal to get its rabies shot 21 days before the flight. Airlines also have differing travel conditions that pet owners must contend with, with some forbidding animals from the cabin and others mandating that pets travel only as manifested cargo, which is not only very costly, but also requires more time to check in.

“It’s impossible to just narrow it down to what people have to do, but definitely always microchip your animal, keep up to date with the vaccinations,” said Ania Leszczynska, manager of non-clinical services at the German Veterinary Clinic in Abu Dhabi.

When it comes to travel documents, there is a “basic standard of export documents that is required for each country but then other countries have additional documents,” said Mrs Grimes.

Mrs Grimes said the cost of paying a professional pet transport company to prepare the pet’s health, paperwork, ground transportation and carrier can cost about Dh2,000 to Dh2,500, but prices can fluctuate depending on the size of the pet, whether it is flying as excess luggage or cargo and its final destination.

With the busy summer travel period coming up, Mrs Grimes said she requires about a month’s notice to prepare a pet for travel.