Based on our experience, here are a few detailed tips about traveling and moving with your pet overseas. Keep in mind that we dealt with two dogs, and our housing was arranged and provided by J’s employer.
1. Do your best to find out what living situation will be once you arrive. We have personal experience with hateful neighbors, and know firsthand the difficulties of assuring a good quality of life for your pet. Be absolutely sure your living arrangement will not only allow pets but be accepting of them to the furthest extent possible. Though the thought of separating from your pet can bring great anxiety, if you have a relative or trusted friend willing to take on the responsibility, leaving them in trusted hands at home may be the better situation for all.
2. Check with your vet AND do your own research about testing and quarantine requirements for your pet as SOON as you know you are moving. For some countries like Australia, getting your pet through the process can take up to 6 months including the quarantine period. Be sure you personally check all of the regulations for your destination; we know people whose vets were not familiar with the international moving process and forced them to reschedule flights, costing them precious time and money. A simple Google search will often lead you to your destination country’s quarantine office page.
Here is a link to the quarantine office page for Korea.
For Korea, there is no mandated quarantine, but as with many other countries, a rabies titer test (this is NOT the same as proof of rabies vaccination) is required, which can take over a month to process in the US. As far as I am aware, there are only two internationally approved labs that can do this test to get your pet certified by the USDA. Most airlines require that your pet has a valid international health certificate completed no more than ten days prior to travel, which can make your move stressful in the final days. Korea also requires an internationally compliant microchip. We thought we were all set for that, but it turns out our dogs had non-compliant microchips, so they got another put in.
3. Check with your airline what size crates are required for your animal. Most will provide exact dimensions with information about what material they must be made of as well as how they should fasten together. You can also check into shipping your animal as cargo instead of on your commercial aircraft. There are pet moving services out there as well.
4. Some airlines give guidelines about feeding your pet before takeoff. We personally gave the dogs a meal just prior to take off and fastened a frozen water bottle to the crate which dripped into a bowl below to provide them water throughout the flight. There are debates about sedating your pet – only your vet can give you the appropriate answer for your dog. We did not give our dogs any sedatives.
5. BREATHE! I could have had a panic attack the night before departure about the safety and comfort of our traveling munchkins. Once we were on the plane, I was able to zone out and keep calm. And the dogs were fine! A little shaken and ready to go potty, yes, but they were alive and well and don’t hate me for putting them on a big, scary plane.
6. Plan ahead when determining your transportation from the airport to your housing. In Korea, if your pet is small enough, you can easily take it on the KTX train with you to your final destination. I have heard you can just put your dog in its crate in the luggage storage area in the train car. Our dogs are quite large for around here, so we found that the best thing to do was rent a car and drive ourselves to Ulsan.
7. Transitioning your dog to a new food is best done over time. If you can manage it, I highly recommend bringing at least two weeks’ supply of your animal’s food. Try to find a similar brand and flavor upon your arrival (we used to do Blue Buffalo in the states and find that Costco’s Kirkland brand dog food is similar). You can start out mixing just a little of the new food into their dish with their usual meal, and up the proportion over time until your pooch is completely on the new food.
8. In terms of dog boarding places for while you are gone, there is only one I recommend, and that is Shindogs. The owners, Jin and Leo have been lifesavers for us during our assignment here and they run the only Western-style kennel in Korea of which I am aware. They have a house on the outskirts of Busan toward Ulsan, about a 45 minute drive depending where you live but 1000% worth it. They even offer pick up and drop off services. They are really involved in the animal rights community in Southern Korea, and I wouldn’t trust anybody more with our dogs. They book up fast for the holidays so contact them ASAP when you know your travel dates.