Emigrating with your pet from South Africa

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Before moving to a new country and emigrating with your pet, or exporting your pet as it is sometimes called, it is vitally important to research what the destination country requires. Make sure you speak to your vet long before the due date (as many as 9 months before) and double check all your paper work so that everything runs smoothly. Your pet must be taken to your private veterinarian to certify that it is fit to travel.

Your vet will then issue you with a veterinary health care certificate. The health care certificate is a health inspection to certify that your pet is fit to travel safely. Your pet won’t be able to travel without it and it is important to note that different countries have varying health care certificates. Be sure to get the right health care certificate for the country you are emigrating to.

The veterinary health care certificate must physically accompany your pet. Most health certificates need to be countersigned by the State Vet as well so make sure to ask about this. Contact your State Vet yourself to double check that you have the correct document and to establish whether the State Vet needs to counter sign the document. Don’t just accept what your vet tells you. People often make mistakes. Health certificates are only valid for a short period of time, for obvious reasons so make sure you get everything organized within the correct time frames and that your health care certificate is valid for the period of travel. Some health care certificates require that at least 30 days have passed since your pet’s vaccinations, to ensure that the vaccination has had the desired effect, for example.

Be sure to take extra special care of your pet for the months and weeks leading up to the move as it is a particularly stressful experience for them.

Choose a pet friendly airline and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. After all you’re paying for the service and you have a right to know. Make sure the most convenient route will be taken when booking your pet’s flight. Your pets will most likely be booked in as manifest cargo which means that they will travel in the livestock hold below the passenger cabin. Ask about the lighting and whether or not the area is heated and pressurized. Find out if an experienced animal handler will walk your dogs before booking them into their flight. All pets must be booked in for their flights several hours before their departure time. Make sure that your pet gets water to drink. Don’t just assume that your handler cares. Get references from people who previously used the service you choose. Ask your vet whether they can give you any additional information or tips.

Find out what crate your pet will be transported in and make sure about the size of the crate. Only feed your pet its usual meal the night before but not the next morning. It’s better to give your pet a small snack the day of departure because of the long period of confinement. Most importantly take your pet for a good long walk before dropping them off at the vet or before they are collected. Hopefully they will do their toilet at home as it won’t be very pleasant if they have to mess in their crate.




Import / export permit – not every destination requires it so speak to your vet or consultant and find out how to obtain it from the country of your pets’ destination.

Microchip – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! All pets these days require microchips and these must be implanted before the Rabies Vaccination!

Valid rabies vaccination (older than 30 days and younger than 1 year – South African Export requirement) – required for every destination.

The RNATT or Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test Declaration is always required for animals being exported from a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources group 3 country at the time of a permit application. Australia is one of those countries that requires the test to be done and South Africa falls into the group 3 country category – in other words, a country where rabies might emanate. The rabies vaccination includes a rabies blood test.

Your pet will have to spend a minimum of 10 days in quarantine before it can even start the moving process. Most countries abide by strict category 3 rules and it is encumbent upon you to find out what the particular requirements are for the country you plan on exporting your pet to. Category 3 rules mean that at least 7 months prior to entry into Australia, for example, you will need to ensure that your pet is micro-chipped and then vaccinated against rabies.

Puppies and kittens must not be vaccinated against rabies if they are younger than 3 months old. A blood sample for a rabies blood test (RNATT) must then be taken about a month after the vaccination. Your pet will not be allowed to fly until at least 180 days have elapsed from this date. The Rabies blood sample/test is valid for up to 24 months prior to entry.

A Rabies vaccination is also required to be current and there needs to be an unbroken record since the blood test – check validity period – dependent on manufacturer, vaccination can be valid for either 1 or 3 years. Please see DEFRA (APHA) Export Heath Certificate and Australian Department of Agriculture Website for a comprehensive set of rules. Alternatively check the rules on the website of the country you plan to export your pet to. Not all countries follow the same procedures so be sure to be familiar with the rules of the country you are emigrating to.


Other vaccinations – general Feline and Canine vaccinations are recommended. Check with your vet whether any additional vaccinations or blood test are required for your destination country in order to get a health care certificate as described above.

The health care certificate must also be accompanied by all supporting documentation to prove that the relevant blood tests and vaccinations have indeed been done. Be sure to go over the information and double check that it is properly documented.

AWB – THIS IS YOUR PET’S AIRLINE OR FLIGHT TICKET. Ask your vet or consultant about your pet’s flight ticket well in advance. You should have it a good few days before your pet’s departure.

All original documentation MUST travel with your pet.

Be sure to find out about the length of time your pet will be quarantined upon arrival as well as the quarantine facilities. Another important thing to check well in advance is whether or not they will deliver your pet once quarantine is finished.


All countries require veterinary preparation which differs from country to country.. eg preparation for taking pets into EU countries takes 3 to 4 months while preparation for pets into the USA can take only 30 days. Make sure you have multiple copies of your pet’s veterinary documentation for your own records too.

Sometimes vets or their receptionists and even some consultants can advise incorrectly concerning your pet’s travel requirements. This is why it’s a good idea to do your homework. Try to find someone who has already experienced pet export and approach more than one company for quotes and lists of requirements. It is advisable to personally check with the State Vet too.


Microchips may not be inserted after the rabies vaccination unless done on the same day.

Don’t draw blood for the TITRE rabies blood test less than 30 days after the last rabies vaccination.

IMPORTANT! Do not vaccinate your pet against rabies at least 30 days before travel.

Once you have sorted out all your pet’s requirements be sure to contact the person who will be at home accepting delivery or in turn fetching your pet, if it is not you.

There is still something else to consider in case it didn’t occur to you before. The last thing you or your tired and disoriented pet needs after finally being freed from quarantine is an angry landlord. Therefore if you are renting be sure to speak to your landlord about a PET ADDENDUM TO YOUR LEASE AGREEMENT. Usually landlords who allow pets will already have this available when you sign your lease but it’s always a good idea to check.

Safe and happy travels!