(Photo: Fotolia)
(Photo: Fotolia)

Can’t stand the thought of giving up your very British bulldog just because you’re relocating to America? So, bring him with you. But before you crate up your mutt or moggy, consider the following.

Are they likely to thrive abroad?
Be honest and ask yourself if your beloved furry friend will be able to cope with the upheaval of a long-haul flight and a potentially rocky first few months in new surroundings. If he or she is elderly, sick or extremely particular about their routine, the answer is probably no. So instead of planning to move them abroad, focus on finding your animal a great new home in Blighty—perhaps with a family member or friend they already know.

Have you filled out all the paperwork?
Before you can travel with a pet, you’ll need to provide proof that your animal is in good health and up to date on its vaccinations. If you already have a pet passport from a previous trip, get a vet to stamp it a few days—or at most a week—before you travel. If you don’t have a passport, the vet can issue a letter on headed paper, also known as an export health certificate, which airlines will also accept.

Choose the best airline and airports for pet travel
Find out which carriers are the most pet-friendly with some online research. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of airlines, give them a call to find out what documents and information they require from you and how, exactly, your pet will be looked after. If you have a layover, research the airport and how the ground staff there accommodate pets. Manage your expectations too. Find out in advance whether you’ll be able to see your pet between flights, or will they be in a special holding area with no access for nervous owners? Write a list of questions before you start making calls or sending email. For example, will your pet be allowed to travel in the main cabin? What’s the protocol if there’s a long delay or your flight is diverted? If your animal is traveling below deck, how often—if ever—will flight staff check on your pet?

Is your new accommodation set up for pets?
When you arrive in America, what’s your housing situation? Are you likely to be staying in a hotel, with friends or in some other interim arrangement? Are they cool with you bringing a four-legged companion? And more importantly, will your pal be happy bedding down in a Marriott for a month while you trawl apartment listings?

Is your pet “exotic”?
If the animal you want to ship is unusual or a controversial breed—like a pit bull terrier—you need to ask the airline, state and municipal authorities what restrictions apply. Monkeys, for instance, are never allowed into the U.S. as pets.

What time of year are you traveling?
Some airlines won’t fly animals throughout the summer. In fact, U.S. federal law bans shipping animals in temperatures below 45 degrees or over 85 degrees for more than four hours. If you need to travel during the hot weather, consider having your pet join you later in the year. Perhaps your family could be temporary guardians and bring him or her when they visit—or investigate the cost and practicality of paying a specialist pet relocation service.

Where will your pet stay when you’re away from home?
If you’re used to having a network of helpers who step in and feed/walk/you’re your pet every time you head out of town, consider who’ll do this after you’ve emigrated. Do you have friends in place already, or will you need to budget for a professional dog sitting service? Research costs and factor this in when you’re budgeting for your new life.

What vet/dog walker/groomer will you use?
If you’re very particular about the people you employ to service your pooch, arrive armed with a list of local providers to investigate. If you need a dog walker straight away, search sites like Local Dog Walker for rates and availability in your area.

For a chance to win one of two copies of Hidden Kingdoms on DVD, tweet your favorite pet pics and your questions about relocating your animal companions @MindTheGap_BBCA using hashtag #MindTheChat on Wednesday, December 3 from 2-3 pm ET. We’ll be joined by the Austin-based pet relocation firm @PetRelocation to field all of your inquiries.

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Filed Under: Pets, Relocating, Travel, travel tips
By Ruth Margolis