015: Moving Our Dogs From the USA To Hong Kong & Back, International Pet Travel
Pets are family and that is that. So when you move half-way around the world, your pets come to. And when you move back to your home country… they go too. Even if it means a battle with the airlines and making some sacrifices. Here are some tips that we learned about international pet travel with our two international trips with dogs.
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Just over 4 years ago we finally were able to bring our two dogs Duke and Bear on their first international flight to join us in our new home of Hong Kong. We did it all without a pet mover with the help of our kennel and friends. I am so thankful we had the last 4 years with them, but now it’s time to move back and so we just went through this process again and we’re sharing all we’ve experienced and learned!
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In This Episode, Allen & I Cover Our Experiences With International Pet Travel
Moving Our Dogs From the USA to Hong Kong
As soon as we knew we were planning on moving abroad we began researching what it would take to bring our dogs. I never once considered not bringing them because they are family and family doesn’t get left behind… at least not for long lol. The website that was instrumental in helping us figure out what we needed for international pet travel was Pettravel.com. Any time I saw a position open in a country I would look here first and see what the requirements are. As I learned more I realized I needed to focus on category 2 countries to prevent quarantine on arrival or when we left again.
So right away we began getting their vaccines and paperwork in order, getting the microchip that most places wanted (despite Duke already having one type from the pound), and looking at how to transport them.
Overview of what we needed to move the dogs internationally to Hong Kong:
- Up to date vaccinations- mainly rabies. You need to wait a month after their recent vaccination if you got off schedule before they can fly.
- Microchip (check to see which they want currently)
- Pet import permit from Hong Kong (valid for 6 months last I checked)
- Direct Cargo flights
- Medical Certificate (no more than 10 days out)
- In SC we had to have it stamped by the state
- I suggest including a picture with their name and relevant ages.
- Proper sized kennels with a pee pad or torn newspaper, a baggy of food, a ziploc with their harnesses, leash, and paperwork, and food and water bowls that attach to the cage door.
Challenges of Moving Our Dogs to Hong Kong
Once we finally decided on Hong Kong we began looking into airlines and the procedures for bringing the dogs. Initially, we had planned on bringing the dogs with us or at least at the same time. So we had a fellow teacher at the school I was going to teach at get our import permit for us and 2-day mail it back as it was faster for her to do it in person than do it from afar. Turns out we could have waited, we had bigger fish to fry.
Flying Cargo With Pets
One of the requirements that Hong Kong has for importing pets is that they have to fly cargo. Even if it means they are still flying in the same compartment of a passenger plane, they have to go through the cargo cranch for booking and processing. I’m guessing it’s because that’s where their offices are located, in the cargo section of the airport, but who knows for sure… This rule made everything more difficult though because finding an airline who could fly without layovers in another country and take the dogs from Atlanta were few. Initially, we tried going with Cathay because they are based in Hong Kong so we thought it’d be easy enough, but nope.
You see, Cathay can’t give you a straight answer on the prices. We called the first time and they quoted us about $800 USD total for both dogs. Then the next time we called to actually book them the prices went up to around $2000 and the next time we called (after we were in HK) the costs went up again and they had no clue where I even got the other two quotes! After the first price increase, we knew we weren’t going to be able to bring them with us right away and we needed to find someone to keep them till we could afford to bring them over.
Finding a Place for the Dogs to Stay
While we did live near my in-laws, we, unfortunately, couldn’t leave our boys with them. They don’t allow dogs to be inside and our dogs are inside dogs. Plus we wanted them kept clean and safe from other critters so we didn’t have to worry about the vet check later. We did have a friend that had agreed to take them and we even had brought them over one day to see how they meshed with their two dogs, but right before we were set to leave she got the news that she was very sick and so couldn’t take on two more dogs.
So back to the drawing board we went with only a week left till we were set to leave and no budget to speak of. We were already going to Hong Kong by the grace of God and I had no idea how we were going to make a kennel work. Most were about $1000 USD a month and that was more than double what we had been paying for rent! We finally found Bobby with Lindsey’s Kennels in Piedmont. His brother trains dogs and he manages the boarding. The website isn’t much, but they were so friendly and really helped us to make the process smoother. They had worked with military members before so they were used to long term stays and worked with us to be able to “keep in touch” with an occasional photo and video chat. Overall we couldn’t recommend them enough.
Finally Moving Our Dogs To Hong Kong
So much happens in a short amount of time once you finally get the ball rolling. It had taken us about 4 months to save enough to move and then save enough to bring them over. And in that time Cathay had increased the prices yet again. We were devastated. It felt hopeless. But we got back to researching other options and found United. They were much cheaper than Cathay was quoting and much easier to deal with to get our questions answered. Once that was booked we had to get the dogs to the vet to get their medical checkup done.
This gets tricky because you can only do this a max of 10 days before their flight, but you still have to mail off the paperwork to the state department to get stamped (at least in SC). While the kennel took care of taking to the dogs to the vet, our friend Gregg took care of the paperwork. Luckily all three worked well and communicated together to make it all happen without any more hitches. Then came flying day.
Flying the Dogs to Hong Kong
The day we had waited months for had finally come! Gregg picked up our dogs with all their belongings and paperwork from the kennel and drove the 4 hours to the airport in Atlanta. It took about 2 hours for them to go through all the paperwork and for him to sign about 10 papers. The staff were really friendly and helpful and suggested Gregg let the dogs out while they waited… Except Duke is a runner and found the one opening to the tarmac and escaped… with Bear quickly following! Luckily they managed to wrangle the dogs back into their cages and the rest of the flight went smoothly. Somewhere along the way they did change out their kennels to bigger sizes, but didn’t charge us thankfully.
Picking up the Dogs in Hong Kong
Yay! After over 4 months we were finally reuniting with our fur babies! With the help of an amazing neighbor who drove us to the airport and waited with us, we finally got to pick them up. We had to go to the cargo terminal, show them our papers and then wait. Once they finally arrived we were directed to the office where we could meet with the government agent and collect them. That went smoothly overall. They just checked to make sure they were healthy, had the proper microchips and paperwork. They actually gave them a different microchip because we had gotten the wrong one, but it was no big deal. After that, we were able to go home and they mailed us their registration! The easiest step in the whole process!
Moving the Dogs From Hong Kong to the USA
This move *should* have gone much smoother, and in some ways, it did, but not as smoothly as I expected it would. You see the United States is much easier to bring pets into when coming from another category 2 country. Essentially all they want to see is your rabies is up to date. They allow your pets to come as normal baggage and there isn’t any paperwork they need beyond proof of vaccination.
Hong Kong does require you to have the medical certificate and to have it verified by them, but all this could be done by you easily enough. The problem is the airlines… and there is a lot of mixed messages.
The Airline Challenge When Moving Pets Internationally in 2019
So much has changed in 4 years. In fact, the changes aren’t even a year old. Recently more and more airlines are going by IPATA guidelines and requiring you to use the services of a pet transport agent. The idea behind it is all well and good, but they are making it more difficult for families to stick together when moving abroad. The cost of such agencies is more than double what you would have done by yourself before.
The Air Canada Dilemma
I must have checked the Air Canada website over a dozen times in the last year to see if it really would be possible to take the dogs with us as baggage. I even booked our flights home around it. All in all, it should have cost us no more than about $1000 USD to get our boys home this time. Until I called to reserve their spots… I was told there was room, but that I wouldn’t know if they could fly with me until the day of due to weather restrictions.
Due to illness, I will complete the Blog portion of the podcast tomorrow. Sorry for any inconvenience caused, but I wanted to make sure you at least had the episode to listen to. Thank you for understanding.