It happens so often. You are traveling on vacation in a foreign country, walking down the street or sitting at a cafe and you spy the beautiful face of a dog or cat looking scared and hungry. It can be an abandoned kitten or a dog that somehow manages to stay alive while living on the street. You cannot help wanting to rescue it, change its life, take it home and love and care for it. But think to yourself, is it really wise to rescue a street dog or cat while on vacation and bring it home?
No one can blame you for how you feel, but one important thing to know is how easy or hard it will be to bring this soul who has stolen your heart home safely and within current laws on pet import to avoid quarantine or refusal at customs and what you should do to prepare them for export.
Health and import regulations for importing a live animal
All countries worldwide base their pet import regulations based on diseases that can be contagious to other animals or humans, particularly rabies. Rabies is a brutal disease that kills nearly 60,000 people a year from bites from dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, ferrets and other warm-blooded mammals that can carry the rabies virus.
Rabies is not the only concern that countries have when dealing with the import of dogs and cats whose health care history is unknown. Other diseases such as leishmaniasis, ehrlichiosis, and heartworm are issues that animals who live on the streets can be infected with.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before rescuing a dog or cat in a foreign country.
What country are you visiting?
Let’s first consider the country that you are visiting. Many of the most beautiful vacation destinations in the world are classified by the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) as high-rabies countries as they don’t have structured programs in place to control rabies. Some examples of high-rabies countries are Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and China. Depending on your home country, it could take 4 months or more and multiple veterinary visits before bringing your rescued dog or cat home. Click here for countries considered to be high-rabies.
Where is your home?
If you don’t own a pet already, you may not be aware of the requirements that will be imposed on your rescue pet when entering your country.
Here are some examples of pet import regulations when importing a dog or cat from a high-rabies country:
Home Country: European Union Member State
Pet Import Regulations from high-rabies country: microchip, proof of rabies vaccination, 30 day wait after vaccination, rabies titer test (FAVN), 3 calendar month wait before travel, EU health certificate
Pet Import Regulations from other countries: microchip, rabies vaccination, 21 day wait, health certificate or EU Pet Passport
Home Country: United States
Pet Import Regulations (all countries): proof of rabies vaccination administered no sooner than 30 days before travel, health certificate, screwworm inspection (when entering from some countries)
Home Country: Canada
Pet Import Regulations (all countries): proof of current rabies vaccination (no wait after vaccination), health certificate. If imported unaccompanied, microchip, health certificate and import permit
Home Country: South Africa
Pet Import Regulations (all countries): microchip, proof of rabies vaccination (minimum 30 days in advance), blood tests (dogs), import permit, 14 days of quarantine (dogs)
Home Country: Australia
Pet Regulations (all countries): microchip, rabies vaccination, rabies titer test (FAVN) 180 days before import, import permit, blood tests, parasite treatments, health certificate. Pets can be imported directly from approved countries otherwise pets must be moved to an approved country about 6 weeks before import.
No matter what country you are bringing your rescue home to, we would urge you to research current and detailed pet import regulations by clicking here.
You must be able to allot the time involved to meet your home country requirements for pet import. If you cannot do that, then you need to make arrangements for their care and veterinary visits until either you can come back to get them or fly them as unaccompanied air cargo to you. This will take coordination with veterinarians and someone to check your dog or cat in at your airline’s cargo facility.
Is your airline pet friendly?
Another consideration are the airline pet policies you are using to return home. Many airlines do not accept pets for transport such as Ryan Air, Jet Airways and AirAsia. Many other airlines will only transport pets as air cargo through the services of an agent like British Airways and SAS. If your ticket is booked on an airline that does not accept pets, then your pet will need to fly as unaccompanied air cargo which is more expensive than it would be if you fly with your rescue.
It all sounds daunting, right? Well, actually, it can be. Sometimes, as heat breaking as it is, it is better to try and find an abandoned animal care and adoption organization in the country you are visiting instead of bringing it home. There are rescue organizations in so many countries that may be able to help. Oftentimes pet stores, veterinarians, government agencies responsible for animal control or animal hospitals are aware of rescue organizations in the country you are visiting.
If you rescue a street dog or cat, can you provide for their needs when you get home?
Consider that older dogs that have lived on the street may have issues with confinement, anxiety, shyness and socialization. You should be prepared to deal with these issues. There will also be a huge cultural adaptation for a rescue pet. New environments can bring insecurity issues that will require close monitoring.
Rescuing a puppy or kitten may be easier in that they are still in the learning stage. They have not had as much time to bond with their environment and experience life challenges as an adult dog has. Changing their environment will not be as traumatic for them.
Before falling in love with an abandoned puppy or kitten, consider how difficult (or easy) it would be to rescue a street dog or cat and take it home with you. We would all agree that saving a life is worth every minute and every dollar spent. Dogs and cats (as well as all animals that can be domesticated) deserve a chance to live in a safe and loving environment, and there are a lot of volunteers and organizations who strive towards that goal. You are simply taking part in that effort.