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We didn’t want to leave our pets behind

Three South Africans share how they took their fur children abroad

By Angelique Ruzicka

, |

We didn’t want to leave our pets behind

Three South Africans share how they took their fur children abroad

By Angelique Ruzicka

, |

3 min read

Emigrating is hard enough without facing the prospect of giving up the family cat or dog, so many people take them along. But it involves an awful lot of planning, and not inconsiderable expense. Three recent emigrants tell us how they did it – the challenges, the stresses, and – of course – the joy.

I took my dogs while there were still travel restrictions

Joanne Anderson Mayhew spent over R50,000 to send her three dogs – Maggie, Scamp and Cosmo – from Durban to Suffolk in the United Kingdom. As there were travel restrictions and fewer flights, it wasn’t a simple journey for her pets. Talbot Pets International advised her that the dogs had to be flown to Amsterdam on KLM, and then driven from there by pet transport business Happy Saluki to their home in the UK.

She says a woman named Candice from Talbot made the process easier. ‘I was so panicky about them travelling all over, and being away from me for so long. Candice was fantastic – she understood my fears and reassured me constantly. She answered all messages and queries immediately.’

Joanne admits that there are lots of options when it comes to choosing a pet travel company, but she encourages others to consider smaller businesses too. ‘I wouldn’t trust all the hype around some of the bigger-name travel companies. Our experience is that the communication and transparency with Talbot was far superior and invaluable. My daughter used one of the bigger companies – communication was non-existent, the dogs were stuck in Durban for months, and there were hidden costs.’

I moved to the UK with four cats

Sheldene Wade travelled with her four cats – Lily, Diego, Neo and Mercury – from South Africa to the United Kingdom in February 2018. She paid R27,000 through pet agency Petport. She says she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. ‘They handled everything from fetching the cats to a last-minute change of address to where they had to be delivered in the UK. The person I dealt with was very responsive and kind.’

Accommodating four pets has its challenges, and it wasn’t easy for Sheldene to find alternative accommodation when things went wrong. ‘Three days before we flew, the place where we were going to be staying told us that it would no longer be possible. Fortunately, a lovely cattery was found, and the owner was willing to take our cats at this very short notice.’

But in spite of the challenges, she felt it was worthwhile. ‘When we first arrived here and felt quite lost, having our cats with us helped to ground us and made our new home feel like our home.’

We couldn’t live without our Labrador

Jackie Reid from Cape Town spent R27,000 using Pets en Transit to take her Labrador retriever, Mylo, to London in August 2015. She says: ‘They collected him from our home in Table View and he was on a British Airways plane direct to Heathrow that night.’

Jackie says: ‘We didn’t realise that the whole process takes four months before they can travel. At the time there was no quarantine. The dog had to be microchipped, and all the required vaccination had to be done. Then one month later they get blood taken and titre tests done. It takes three months to get the results before they are safe to fly.’

She advises anyone else taking fur children abroad not to stress about their pets. ‘It’s one night of stress for your dog and [then] they’ll be forever with you. They think they’re climbing into a noisy box. Mylo is a very timid boy but he handled it all very well. He was just very tired, and slept all day when he arrived in the UK.’

How feasible is relocating pets?

The process of emigrating with pets can very stressful because it’s time-consuming and expensive, but it is most certainly doable. One company we contacted said that, in busier times, they would get just over 300 pet relocation requests a month. That’s 3,600 pets flying to another country every year – and that’s just for one company. Fewer people are travelling now, due to the pandemic, but it’s still possible to emigrate. The demand for pet travel has, however, not reduced the cost – rather it has fuelled a lucrative industry. So be prepared to fork out quite a lot of money to get Fluffy to your new home. But, of course, it’s worth it. However, it’s not a simple process, so do your research before you set any travel plans in motion.

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