Category Archives: Pet Relocation

APHIS Launches New Pet Travel Web Site

USDA-LogoThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today launched a new Web site dedicated to international pet travel and helping travelers and accredited veterinarians easily determine country-specific requirements. APHIS’s previous site was designed for accredited veterinarians and other animal health professionals who were familiar with interpreting technical regulatory language. Because of this, hundreds of callers a month called APHIS seeking info on pet travel. The new site is specifically designed to be easy for anyone to use.

“We know pets are members of the family, and our goal is to ensure pets meet the requirements to relocate with their families internationally – whether temporarily or permanently,” said Dr. Jack Shere, Deputy Administrator for APHIS’ Veterinary Services (VS). “We recognize each country has different entry requirements, and our new Web site makes it easy to understand and meet those requirements so travelers can avoid last-minute problems.”

The Web site provides information about taking pets from the United States to other countries and bringing pets into the United States, and applies to the following pets: dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, rabbits, rodents, hedgehogs and tenrecs, reptiles, and amphibians.

New Pet Pre-Alert Required at Geneva Airport

There is a new requirement when traveling with your pet to Switzerland. Starting January 1, 2016, pre-alert advance notification is now required before your pet can enter the country. Notification is by the pet guardian or appointed local agent, if the guardian is not available, by the shipper. The Station hours are 08:00-16:30 for individual pet owners and 08:00-17:00 for agents. We recommend you do not have your pets travel with arrivals on Friday unless you are sure of the correct paperwork. It is important to remember that no imports are possible on weekends and holidays. If you have any questions regarding import, contact us as soon as possible and we will be able to assist you. It is imperative that you plan ahead and do not leave this important part of your pet’s travel planning to the last minute.

How to submit your pet’s pre-alert notification: 

There are 2 ways available to submit your pre-alert advance notification courtesy of our colleagues based in Switzerland, REX Handling:

Notification by online form

If you do not have a computer or access to the Internet, you can submit your pre-alert, by pdf form:

Notification by pdf form

Aloha from LAX to HNL








Great news for pets bound for the Hawaiian Islands. This new cargo service is available from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hawaii. Aloha’s unique service moves live animals with the utmost priority and care for transport of your live animals throughout the Islands of Hawaii. According to AlohaAir Cargo, “it doesn’t matter if you’re shipping dogs, cats, tropical fish, pigs, llamas or even a water buffalo. If they can safely and comfortably fit in our planes, consider them our personal VIPs (very important pets) to fly first class all they way to their island destination.”

Aloha Air Cargo has provided live animal and pet shipping for several years in the State of Hawaii. Our services are convenient and open to Hawaii pet owners (relocating or vacationing), breeders, hobbyists, zoos, rescue organizations, and dog show participants.

Your pet will receive royal VIP (Very Important Pet) treatment as Aloha’s valued guests from the time they arrive at the cargo facility to the time they are picked up at destination. The airline prides themselves on taking extra care of your animals and you can be assured it will be first class all the way.

Airport to airport service is available for shippers that drop-off their own animal at the airport and have the receiver pick up at the destination airport. Before being loaded and after arrival, your pet will be kept safe and comfortable in a shaded, covered, well-ventilated area.

For more information on this service please check out AlohaAir’s website.


Life Unleashed Interviewed by CNN

CNNLife Unleashed is pleased to announce that is was selected by CNN’s London news bureau to be interviewed for our pet travel expertise. We were interviewed for the story covering the Johnny Depp incident with his pets and not properly following Australia’s importation protocol for pets. Here is a link to the article in which Life Unleashed contributed – Johnny Depp’s dogs: Pirate chose wrong island to stash Pistol  By Susannah Cullinane, CNN.

(CNN) Johnny Depp may have been a success as swashbuckling Capt. Jack Sparrow but any potential smuggling career of his own has hit a large rock in the shape of Australia. Officials there are showing no mercy after Depp allegedly breached bio-security regulations by flying his two dogs into their country on his private jet, without proper documentation. Yorkshire terriers Boo and Pistol must be taken out of Australia by Saturday morning — or risk being euthanized.

Australia tells Johnny Depp: It’s time your dogs buggered off

It’s all about the planning — as any pirate worth his salt should know — and landing on this particular island requires more than just a map showing where it is. Pet travel experts say that Australia is known for having some of the most stringent biosecurity regulations in the world. The strict laws are to prevent the spread of non-native diseases such as rabies, ehrlichia, leishmania, leptospirosis and internal and external parasites.

Wrong place to smuggle little Treasure

“Australia is definitely the most complicated and strictest place to get a pet to,” Emeleye Bunny manager of UK-based PBS Pet Travel told CNN.

“You have two things that are the first to be done, a rabies injection, a month’s wait after then a blood test to ensure it has been effective,” she said, with the date of the blood sample for pets in the UK needing to be 180 days before travel.

Closer to the travel date, cats and dogs need to have internal and external parasite treatments, blood tests and a government export certificate from Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). In addition to that, she said, pets needed an import permit from Australia and then 10 days quarantine on arrival.

According to Australia’s Department of Agriculture website, the same conditions apply for pets from the United States.

Tasman Sea neighbor New Zealand shares similarly strict regulations meaning pets can travel between both countries without having to be quarantined. But coming from the United States, Pistol and Boo would have fared little better there.

Between friends

In Europe, it is also easy to move dogs and cats between neighbors, Bunny said.

Citizens of member states can apply for a “pet passport,” used by cats and dogs — and ferrets. Pets must be microchipped to match them to their passport (or in some cases — pirates take note — have a tattoo). They must also have been vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel.

The United States is a common destination and easy to reach for Britons traveling with pets, Bunny said.

“We have regular customers traveling back and forth and then people who are relocating permanently. It’s so straightforward — so it’s something that happens a lot and very regularly,” she said. “When you start getting outside of Europe and the U.S.A. — places like South Africa, Dubai and Hong Hong — you start needing blood tests, vaccinations etc.”

And it seems Depp could just as easily have been caught out in the waters better known to his alter ego Capt. Sparrow.

“Challenging countries are New Zealand, Australia, Japan and some of the Caribbean islands — most of the places that are rabies-free,” Kathleen Gallagher of Life Unleashed pet moving company told CNN.

Life Unleashed offer a chaperone service for pets, but many countries require that animals only enter their territory as manifested cargo — meaning they need to travel with a commercial carrier, she said.

“Even with my fly buddy service there are certain countries you cannot bring a pet into unless it’s manifested cargo,” Gallagher said. “It doesn’t affect just air. Yachts run into that problem too. You can’t just take your dogs off a boat in the Bahamas without proper protocol.”

Good looks don’t cut it

The presence of Depp’s dogs in Australia came to light when the grooming company he took them to posted photos online, but canine good looks and breeding are not enough to circumvent the rules.

The secretary of Britain’s Kennel Club, Caroline Kisko, told CNN there were quite a number of British show dog owners who took them overseas to compete but they tended remain within Europe — often driving in the undersea tunnel between the UK and France known as the “Chunnel”.

“People showing in the UK will show on the continent because it’s simple and straight forward. I think there are very, very few people who would fly their dogs to North America, she said. “Certainly not Australia.”

And flying a pet anywhere abroad is not as straightforward as simply stowing a dachshund under the seat in front for take-off.

While pets tend to travel on normal passenger planes — with or without their owners — they can only do so in a specific cargo area of the aircraft.

“Not all aircraft are suitable,” Bunny said. “The aircraft has to have a specific area that is temperature-controlled and pressurized.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is responsible for regulations governing pet transport, for example the specifications of travel boxes particular breeds needed to be transported in.

Airlines in Britain have agencies to handle cargo at airports, Bunny said. “Trained members of staff ensure everything meets requirements before it’s accepted in for travel.”

Because everything is checked prior to departure, she said the chances of a pet being turned away on arrival are slim.

“When you travel with the airlines you have to meet the country of export’s requirements, country of import’s requirements and the airline’s requirements,” Gallagher said. “[Depp] would have wanted to contact the government before he went, work with a commercial airline — perhaps one of Australia’s airlines — and sent them cargo.”

So had Johnny Depp flown with a commercial airline — or merely tried to send his canine friends off on an unaccompanied seafaring adventure on commercial ship — they would likely have avoided the life and death scenario they face now.

But — alas poor pooches — Capt. Sparrow arrived by private jet.

As the famous Pirate of the Caribbean once said: “The only rules that really matter are these: What a man can do and what a man can’t do.”

Capt. Sparrow just learned what a man can’t do Down Under.

Kennel Requirements for Your Pet’s Travel

When it comes to travel, your pet’s crate is the most important component to ensuring a safe and comfortable transportation experience. Our shipping parter United Airlines offers some helpful tips and suggestions when it comes to selecting your pet’s kennel.

One of the most important steps you can take to ease the stress of travel for your pet is to make sure it becomes familiar and acclimated to its crate. Purchase the kennel as far in advance as possible. Veterinarians recommend leaving the kennel door open in the house with treats or a familiar object inside so that your pet may spend time near the kennel and perhaps venture inside on its own. Familiarization with the kennel will allow your pet to feel a sense of security and comfort when traveling alone in an unfamiliar environment. You want your pet to view the crate as a positive experience.

Life Unleashed and United Airlines provides the following advice to all pet guardians preparing their pet to travel and in selection of the crate:

  • Each kennel should contain no more than one adult dog or cat, or no more than two puppies or kittens younger than six months, of comparable size, and under 20 pounds (9 kg) each.
  • Dogs and cats cannot travel together in the same container.
  • The kennel must be constructed of rigid plastic, wood or metal. The roof must be solid with no doors or ventilation openings.
  • The kennel must have ventilation on three sides for travel within the 50 United States and Puerto Rico. The kennel must have ventilation on four sides for travel to and from all other destinations and for snub nosed breeds traveling to any destination.
  • The kennel must be large enough for your pet to freely sit and stand with its head erect, turn around and lie down in a normal position.
  • Your pet’s head or ear tips, whichever is higher, must not touch the top of the crate. If your pet’s kennel does not provide enough room for your pet to stand and sit, without the head touching the top of the container, you will need to purchase a larger kennel before your pet can fly.
  • Many airlines require an additional 3 inches of height clearance when transporting your pet to and from any destination outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Short-nosed dogs require a kennel one size larger.
  • The kennel door must be made of metal. Plastic and Fiberglas™ doors, including side plastic latches, are prohibited because they are not strong enough to protect animals during normal handling.
  • All kennel hardware must be secure and in good working condition. A metal nut and bolt must be secured in each hole that is in place to connect the top and bottom of the kennel. Please note that it’s common for kennels to have nuts and bolts that are metal and covered with a plastic coating on the outside, and those are acceptable.
  • Snap-sided kennels or kennels with plastic side latches will not be accepted, unless the shipper drills holes and adds metal nuts and bolts to secure the snap or latch closures.
  • Two dishes (one for food and one for water) must be attached to the inside of the kennel but also be accessible from the outside of the kennel so they can be filled from outside the kennel without opening the door.
  • The door must close securely. In accordance with federal regulations, animals must be accessible in the event of an emergency.
  • Regulations require that any wheels must be locked or otherwise rendered inoperable. Kennel wheels must be either removed or taped to prevent the kennel from rolling in transit.
  • The floor must be solid and leakproof and contain absorbent material, such as shredded black-and-white printed newspaper.

For more in-depth information on kennels and a chart showing the best way to measure your pet please visit the United Airlines web site directly at

Photo Courtesy of United Airlines Web Site

Checklist to Prepare Your Pet

Even though airlines differ in their requirements, this is a very helpful outline and checklist prepared by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. However, make sure to check with your own airline’s specific rules, regulations, and required procedures prior to traveling with your pet. It is important to realize that not all airlines are alike.


This is the checklist to prepare your pet when flying on KLM.  When checking in your pet at the airport, they will use a checklist to make sure that your pet is fit to fly.

Travel arrangements:

  • Be sure to arrange vaccinations, travel documents and other important matters well in advance. Contact the local embassy of your destination country for precise requirements. Remember that some countries have strict quarantine regulations.
  • Secure a label to the side of the kennel stating the animal’s name and feeding instructions.
  • Allow five days for your pet to get used to its kennel before the flight.
  • Do not allow your pet to drink for 4 hours before departure. Do not feed your pet for 4 hours before departure.
  • We strongly advise you not to tranquillize your pet.

KLM Pet Checklist Kennel:

  • Dog/cat must be able to stand with head fully erect (without touching the roof), turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Kennel must be made of rigid plastic with a built-in metal door. (Wooden kennels and kennels with plastic doors are not permitted.)
  • The kennel must have two empty dishes attached, or a single dish with 2 compartments for food and water.
  • The kennel must have a blanket, newspaper or other absorbent material on floor. Straw is prohibited.
  • The kennel must have at least one ‘Live Animal’ sticker and two ‘Arrow Up’ stickers attached to the exterior. KLM will provide these if necessary.
  • The door lock must be secure, but no padlocks may be used. Door hinges and locking pins must extend beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the opening by at least 1.6 cm (0.62 in).
  • Wheels must be removed or taped.

Age/quantity: Your dog or cat must be at least 10 weeks old. Each pet must travel in its own kennel. However, if 2 cats or 2 dogs of the same size each weigh max. 9 kg (20 lbs), then these 2 pets may travel in 1 kennel. Pups or kittens younger than 4 months may travel in the same kennel as their mother.


  • Your pet’s passport or health certificate must be in English. We strongly recommend attaching copies to the kennel. Make sure to bring the original documents with you when you check in.
  • The kennel must have a tag with the passenger’s name, address, and phone number attached.
  • A label must be attached to the side of the kennel stating the animal’s name.

Physical condition: Your pet must not appear to be physically distressed, injured or tranquillized. The pet may not wear a leash or muzzle, nor may these be left in the kennel.

SOURCE: The above information is courtesy of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Clearing Your Pet Through Customs

When traveling internationally, clearance of your pet through customs is a critical component to a successful relocation. Depending on which airport or country is your destination some require fees, specific paperwork, a copy of the owner’s passport, and the hiring of a custom’s broker. Additionally, some airlines no longer will pre-clear your pet before pick-up and therefore it is up to you or your relocation company to make prior arrangements. Arrival into Denver International Airport does not require a customs broker however the US Border and Inspection facility is no longer near the airport premises. In order to clear customs in Denver you must provide the following and present it to the customs agent.

For example, when arriving into Denver, Colorado USA in order to clear customs you or your agent will need the following copies of these documents provided in advance of a flight’s arrival for customs. It is a good idea to pre-clear a pet in case there are any airline delays and to make sure the clearance is done during office hours.

For each shipment or pet you will need the following:

(1) Copy of the Air Way Bill

(2) Copy of each pet’s health/shot/vaccine/microchip and rabies record

(3) Official Health Certificate for each pet issued by the country of export


A Stay in Style – The Frankfurt Animal Lounge

The Animal Lounge at Frankfurt International Airport is the largest animal airport facility in the world, handling everything from ornamental fish to polar bears. The world’s most advanced animal station combines the handling, coordination, and necessary veterinary services all strategically based at one facility. Frankfurt Airport is an “airport of first entry” for importing animals to the European Union by air. The Animal Lounge is accessed by all air carriers.

Operated by German carrier Lufthansa, animals range from domestic pets to exotic species relocating to a zoos and animal reserves, states Axel Heitman, director of the Animal Lounge. Interestingly enough, a majority of animals usually travel in the belly of passenger planes, but Lufthansa is equipped with a fleet of 18 freight aircraft which can accommodate a variety of animal sizes even a hippopotamuses or crocodiles.

In fact, each year, more than 2,000 horses pass through and 15,000 dogs and cats have short stays in the building. More than 100 million animals jetted in and out of Frankfurt’s Animal Lounge last year including 2000 horses, 14,000 cats and dogs, 80 million ornamental fish and 300 tons of worms.

The 3,750-square meter facility opened its doors in 2008 and is equipped with non-slip floors and climate-controlled chambers to help make an animal’s stay as comfortable as possible. “It’s a lounge just like the lounges we have for passengers. You stay here for a few hours and relax and then connect to another flight. Only there are no cushions,” said Marco Klapper, project manager for the Animal Lounge.

A team of trained vets and qualified animal handlers are also on hand round the clock to monitor them upon arrival. There are also surveillance cameras. The animal lounge is a large warehouse type facility cleaned twice daily. The lounge has an area with black lights for veterinarians to examine fish, and an oxygen supply for the fish in case they need a refresher. There is a quiet area reserved for cats so they don’t get more stressed by subjection to barking dogs.

Lufthansa’s Animal Lounge is a source of inspiration. New York’s Kennedy International Airport expects to open an animal shipping facility late in 2015. It is calling the project “Ark” and will have webcams and GPS shipment tracking for each pet. For now, Lufthansa’s Animal Hub remains the five star service for four paws.



Relocation from Ireland to the United States

Recently two cats, Sunny and Lucky, flew on Lufthansa into Denver, Colorado from Dublin, Ireland. In order to relocate to the United States they first had to meet the export requirements from their country of departure. In addition, they needed a health certificate containing the pet’s vaccination records and statement that each pet is in good health enough to fly.  Sunny and Lucky had a water bottle attached to their crate which is a good idea when flying so that a pet can access water at any time and not have it spill anywhere. En route they spent the night at the Frankfurt Animal Lounge.

This post outlines the conditions and requirements when importing pets into the United States.  With the exception of pets entering the state of Hawaii, there is no quarantine for pets arriving in the US from overseas at this time. All cats and dogs are subject to inspection at ports of entry for evidence of infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

The U.S. Import Requirements for Dogs and Cats:  

1) International Health Certificate – Within 10 days of departure your vet will need to issue an International Health Certificate as required by all airlines. This certificate states that your pet is in good health and approved to fly.

2) Rabies Vaccination & Certificate – In general, it is required that dogs be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to entry, except for puppies younger than 3 months and dogs originated or located for 6 months in areas considered to be free of rabies. Dogs and cats coming from areas not free of rabies must be accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate. If a vaccination has not been performed, or if the certificate is not valid, the animal may be admitted if it is confined immediately upon arrival at a place of the owner’s choosing. The dog must be vaccinated within four days after arrival at the final destination, but no more than 10 days after arrival at the port of entry. The animal must remain in confinement for at least 30 days after being vaccinated.

3) Dogs: Screwworm Policy – The USDA pet import policy allows dogs from screwworm affected countries to enter the country if the following requirements are met:   1. Health certificate issued prior to the flight (International Health Certificate) needs to include that the dog(s) were inspected for screwworm within 5 days preceding shipment to the U.S. AND dog(s) were found free of screwworm

4) Additional Information:

** Depending on the breed of pet some individual US cities and states ban certain breeds such as Pit Bulls or exotic cats for example.

** Customs – some airports in the US require a customs broker to do the clearing and others do not (owner can do it him/herself)

** Birds – this does require prior permission from USDA and CITES / special permitting depending on species or type of bird