How to Bring Your Pet ...

As the proud mother of a 10lb, almost 14-year-old fuzzy baby (who just happens to be an Italian greyhound), I like to have my "son" with me as much as possible. He, however, hates flying — even short-haul 1.5-hour flights to visit his "grandparents" — and so I would consider my options before I would subject him to an overseas flight. However, for those who are relocating and whose pets are not as particular as mine, the idea of bringing Fido or Fluffy may be appealing.

Here are some preliminary things to keep in mind if you are considering bringing your pet:

  • People in shared, employer-provided housing cannot have pets, so if you will be sharing housing and have a pet, leave it home in the care of someone you trust and whom your pet loves.
  • Even if you are not sharing, the housing units rented or owned by some hospitals for their married-status expatriate staff may not allow pets, so check in advance.
  • Similar to the point above, if you have a housing allowance and are renting your own accommodations, remember that, like back home, not all landlords allow pets (or they do not allow certain kinds of pets, or certain sizes of pets). And those landlords which permit a pet may charge an enormous security deposit.
  • Keep in mind your pet's comfort — a massive hairy dog who is accustomed to being outside in a cooler North American climate may not be happy in the deserts of the Middle East, or confined inside much of the day in the air conditioning in an apartment or villa.
  • Remember that countries may restrict types of pets (e.g., some ban certain breeds) or limit numbers of pets that can be imported. Similarly, some housing units that allow pets restrict the number of pets or types of pets.
  • If you will not be moving immediately into housing (e.g., if you will temporarily be staying in a hotel or "executive suite"), you will not be able to bring your pet with you when you initially travel, because hotels and temporary accommodations forbid pets. An option could be to have a pet relocator (see below) send your pet later or to have the pet relocator board your pet until you move into your own accommodations.
  • Finally, keep in mind that you will be responsible for any and all costs and documentation involved in transporting your pet, and you will be responsible for any and all costs for damage the pet may cause to the housing unit.

Note: Information below is subject to change.

For general information about shipping your pet (e.g., kennel selection, dealing with the airline, recommendations for traveling), see the International Air Transport Association's Travelers' Pet Corner.

Saudi Arabia:

In the case of dogs, technically, only guard, hunting, and service (e.g., seeing eye) dogs are allowed into Saudi Arabia, so you must successfully claim that your dog is one of these.

Otherwise, this is the procedure for Saudi Arabia:

  • Obtain a Veterinary Health Certificate with an accompanying letter from your vet, and addressed to the Director of Customs, Saudi Arabia. The Certificate must confirm that the animal is up-to-date on vaccinations, and is free from rabies and other diseases. The Certificate must be attested by the relevant government ministry of the exporting country's national government (Canada, see: Canada Food Inspection Agency - Dog and Cat Exports; USA, see: United States Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), and then authenticated by the Saudi Arabian embassy or consulate.
  • Pet owners must also have an import permit from the Saudi Arabia National Authority for the Protection of Wildlife and Development (see contact details below).
  • Arrange for your pet to fly. Pets can often travel free on Saudi Arabian Airlines if their owners are traveling on the same flight. The following is from Saudi Arabian Airlines' Special Travel Needs page, particularly the section on "The transfer of domestic animals and pets": Saudi Arabia Airlines allows the transfer of pets when placed in a cages and be accompanied by a health certificate proving that they are free of disease as well as a certificate that allows their transport within or across the country if the different conditions of transport as follows:

    • Allows transfer of cats and small birds with the passenger on board with limited cage weight allowance of (5 kg).

    • Dogs are transported in the plane stores of all Saudi aircrafts except aircraft model (AB300/MD90/B737) because of the lack of ventilation system inside the plane stores.

    • Trained Dogs (for the blind and [deaf] persons) are transported in plane stores without collecting any additional fees from the passenger.

    • Under regulations of the National Authority for the Protection of Wildlife and Development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the import, export or transfer of all living organisms and fungal products is not allowed. It is permitted only after obtaining a written approval. The necessary permit may be obtained through the following address: The National Authority for the Protection of Wildlife and Development, PO Box 61681, Riyadh 11575, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tel: 01-441-8700 or Fax: 01-441-8413

  • On arrival in Saudi Arabia, animals have to be collected from the Saudi Cargo depot, where a customs declaration must be completed.

United Arab Emirates:

If you want to make things easy, there are veterinary clinics/kennels that help with documentation and internal logistics of pet relocation for the UAE. Examples in Abu Dhabi include the American Veterinary Clinic, the British Veterinary Centre, and the German Veterinary Clinic. In Dubai, for example, there is the Dubai Kennels and Cattery. These are members of the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association International, Inc.

In general, to import a pet you will need an import permit issued by the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water. Whether you are obtaining the import permit yourself, or using a service, such as those mentioned above, the documentation required for this permit includes:

  • A copy of the animal's vaccination book; containing the rabies vaccination and the combination/annual vaccinations. (The rabies vaccination should be older than 30 days but younger than one year.)
  • Microchip number; the microchip should be ISO standardized and able to be read by an ISO standard reader.
  • Some countries require a "Rabies Serum Neutralization Test" (Rabies Titer Test) before travel (Canada and the USA are exempt).
  • Full details of the pet: date of birth, sex, color, breed, etc.
  • Copy of importer's passport and UAE residence visa, if available.
  • Address and phone number in the UAE and country of origin.

It takes the Ministry three ministry working days to process the import permit; the Ministry is closed Friday and Saturday. The validity of this permit is 30 days from the date of issue. It costs approximately AED200 (US$54.50).

Note that when entering the UAE, the Ministry has stated that all pets must travel as manifested cargo, i.e., pets cannot be in the cabin with you.

In order to clear your pet through customs, you will need the original import permit (as mentioned above), along with the pet's original vaccination records and health certificate (from the country of origin). The health certificate must be issued by a veterinarian, and be endorsed by the relevant government ministry of the exporting country's national government. (Canada, see: Canada Food Inspection Agency - Dog and Cat Exports; USA, see: United States Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.) The certificate must state that the animal has been examined within seven days of export and found to be free of clinical signs of infectious or contagious disease and is fit to travel. The certificate should show the species, breed, age, and the identification number of the animal (microchip or tattoo) and the name and address of the importer.

If you are not using a service, which will pick up and deliver your pet in the UAE, you will have to make your own arrangements to clear customs at the cargo terminal. It normally takes two to three hours to clear customs after the flight has landed. You will need to pay AED200 (US$54.50) to clear the veterinary department at the airport. They accept payment only with an e-dirham card, and these cards are available only in the UAE (another reason why it may be a good idea to use a service, unless you have friends in the UAE, or your pet is traveling after you). There are other charges at each stage of the clearing process. These will need to be paid in cash (AED).

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • The UAE prohibits the importation of the following breeds/mixes: all kinds of Pit Bulls; Japanese Tosa (Tosa Inu, Tosa Fighting Dog); Argentinian Fighting Dog (Dogo Argentino, Argentinian Mastiff); Brazilian Fighting Dog (Fila Brasileino, Brazilian Mastiff); cross breeds with extracts of the above listed breeds; Wolf Dog Hybrid (any dog mixed with a wolf); American Staffordshire Terrier.
  • The UAE prohibits import of dogs or cats under age four months.
  • No more than two pets may be imported per person.

Qatar:

To make things easy, you may want to contact a pet relocator. There are relocators and veterinary clinics/kennels that help with documentation and internal logistics of pet relocation for Qatar. Two examples include: Qatar Pet Relocators and Doha Pet Relocators.

Qatar's Ministry of Environment's Department of Animal Resources is in charge of animal control and veterinary supervision of animal diseases. The department issues import permits, and oversees the exportation, transfer and transit of pets across borders.

To obtain an import license, visit one of the Department of Animal Resources' veterinary clinics on Al Matar Street, Al Rayyan or Al Shamal. Fill out an import request form and bring the following documents:

  • A copy of the owner's ID
  • A copy of the animal's current vaccination record (rabies certificate is required)

To be eligible, the pet must be more then four months old, and must have had its vaccinations at least 30 days before the date of travel.

The import permit is valid for one month. Authorized pets may be imported as cargo or excess baggage -- they CANNOT ride in the cabin with you. The Doha International Airport keeps incoming animals at a special facility before they clear customs.

Note that currently, the following breeds are banned, thus not permitted in Qatar: American Staffordshire Terrier; Boerboel; Boston Terrier; Boxer; Bull Terrier; Bulldog; Chinese Shar-Pei; Doberman; Great Dane; Japanese Akita; Neapolitan Mastiff; Afghan Hound; Rottweiler; Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Note: Qatar's e-government site states, "Dog are generally not allowed in public places, including parks and the Corniche. Dogs are allowed on some beaches, provided that they are leashed at all times."

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