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1st Floor Lona House
212 Upper Buitengracht
Bo Kaap, Cape Town, 8001

Jaime-Lee Gardner
072 171 1979

Louise Martin
073 335 4084

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What about your pets?

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What about your pets?

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4 min read

The process of relocating can be pretty stressful, so the last thing you want is to find out you can’t take your best friend with you. We have done everything we can to ensure that the information below is accurate but regulations do change, and some are – not to put too fine a point on it – somewhat ambiguously worded, so please double check with the relevant authorities before committing.

Which pets are permitted where?

Various countries have different regulations so – depending on your relationship with your pet – this may even be a factor in choosing a destination.

You can emigrate with dogs and cats to most destinations, although some countries have a list of banned dog breeds. Horses can be taken almost anywhere, but they will have to go through Mauritius. Some countries even allow more exotic pets:

  • Mauritius allows dogs and cats and many other animals, but you should check beforehand if you have exotic or unusual pets.
  • EU countries such as Cyprus and Portugal allow only dogs, cats and ferrets.
  • You may bring dogs, cats, fish, horses, some rodents, some reptiles, and birds (but not poultry – so that probably means your pet ostrich will have to stay behind) to the USA. There are, however, some very specific anomalies; for example, ferrets are not allowed in California but almost everywhere else in the USA.

All animals are equal …

… but some animals are less equal than others (sorry, George Orwell). If you are planning on emigrating with your dog to Mauritius or the European Union, you may be in for a surprise. These countries (and some others, such as the UK) have a list of ‘banned’ dog breeds, which is kind of open to interpretation.

The EU does not have an overriding list but Cyprus, for example, bans the importation of:

  • Pit Bull Terrier or American Pit Bull
  • Japanese Tosa or Tosa Inu
  • Dogo Argentino or Argentinian Mastiff
  • Fila Brasileiro or Brazilian Mastiff.

And Portugal bans:

  • Brazilian Mastiff
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Tosa Inu
  • Pit Bull Terrier.

Can you see the problem? It’s the same list, except for the addition of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier in Portugal, and it leaves out some dogs that are very similar to ones listed.

And then Mauritius bans a similar (but not identical) list:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Blue Nose Pitbull
  • Boerboel
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Red Nose Pitbull
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Now any dog lover knows that upbringing and training have more influence on a dog’s temperament than breed. You get some adorable 70-kilogram Boerboels that are super-friendly and super-gentle, while bad-tempered Spaniels have been known to savage children and adults alike.

More importantly, though, this emphasis on breeds is indicative of a tendency to create regulations more on perceived ease of enforcement than practicality. Particularly as many of these ‘breeds’ are not standardised. The term ‘pit bull’, for example, is a generic term that could refer to any of the bull terriers, and even to the sluggish Bulldog, while the desire to list various forms of mastiff leaves huge loopholes. According to the regulations, you can import a Boerboel into Cyprus, and an equally imposing and potentially dangerous Italian or Belgian Mastiff into all the countries listed. Some countries also include crosses of the banned breeds on the list, but how do you prove that?

As one prospective Mauritius emigrant found out, the animal we in South Africa call a Bull Terrier somehow appears on Mauritius’s list of banned dogs so – after lengthy negotiation – he has cancelled all his plans because there seems to be no final agreement on the difference between a Bull Terrier, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the various ‘pit bulls’.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to rewrite the regulations to require dogs of over a certain weight to undergo a personality test before being allowed into the relevant country. But, in the meantime, there’s not much you can do about this ‘canine racism’, except exult in the fact that you can import your attack-trained Yorkies and Dachshunds into almost any country in the world, and try to figure out what to do with your beloved larger pets.

All the red tape

Every country in the world requires proof of vaccination for a range of diseases, including rabies. This should not be a problem, as you probably vaccinate your pet anyway, and you almost certainly have a ‘passport’ or vaccination certification for Fluffy or Fido. Every time your pet is vaccinated, or is given a booster, the vet will note the date, and indicate the type of vaccine and batch number.

You need to ensure that your pet is microchipped before emigration. Remember to check that the chip is working, and has not shifted. Also please check if your destination country specifies the type of chip.

Unless you are a registered breeder (in which case you will have quite a bit more paperwork), you will need proof that your pet has been sterilised.

The requirements are different for different destinations: you may need to pay an importation fee, and your pet may be subject to quarantine, but – for almost any destination – you will need to apply beforehand:

The bottom line is that emigrating with a pet is an admin-heavy undertaking, so plan early, and get help from relocation and pet travel experts.

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