Life comes with changes. One of
the biggest changes can be moving overseas with your or your spouse's job. The expatriate
experience can be a great one, but is it right for Fido and Fluffy? Here
are a few things to consider when making the decision whether or not to
move the whole family.
Consider the animal. If your pet does not travel or adapt to new circumstances well, you may want to consider finding a new family for your pet rather than trying to put it through the stress of moving a long distance. For an older animal the physical demands alone can be too much.
Consider the length of your assignment. The shorter your time overseas, the less worthwhile it may be to go jumping through all of the hoops necessary to move your pet. A year-long assignment to a country where your pet will need to spend six months in quarantine may be a bit much for your pet to endure. On the other hand, a five-year assignment may make the whole project more feasible.
Consider what you will be facing. While it may be an attractive idea to have your furry best friend with you, it may just not be feasible overall. In addition to new job duties,
you will be dealing with your own details of the move -- getting settled into a new home, finding your way around, establishing new services, and making new friends. Your pet won't be
the only one facing a big adjustment. You may be faced with learning to communicate
in a new language and trying to communicate non-verbally. You are
likely to experience the unique stresses of culture shock. All of these things are likely to take more time than you think. How will your
difficulties in dealing with change affect your pet?
Consider your country of assignment. Before you make the decision find out more about the attitude towards pets in the country you will be living. Find out what the laws are regarding pets. Some countries allow only certain breeds of dogs or cats. Some countries only allow indoor cats. Other expatriates can help fill you in on the availability of veterinarians and boarding kennels. Know what you are getting into ahead of time.
Consider what your will need to know. Find a veterinarian with experience in handling pets that are moving overseas. This will be a great resource in educating yourself on what you will need to accomplish.
Contact the consulate for that country and find out what it will take to get your pet moved. Different countries have different requirements. Do this well in advance of the move since some of the veterinary visits may need to be done on a very specific schedule.
Consider the expense. Moving a pet overseas can be an expensive prospect. It is hard to think of putting a price on such a thing, but the economics can be daunting. From vet visits for check-ups, travel expenses, and the cost of care in-country, you need to do some serious planning ahead.
Consider hiring a pet relocation service. A good service can help you take care of all of the pesky details involved in getting your pet moved -- from getting through the vet check-ups, to air travel requirements, to making sure your pet is handled safely through the move. They will also be able to provide you with the advice and information you will need to make this journey. A company such as PetRelocation.com can be a huge help.
Consider leaving your pet behind. In addition to being a gut-wrenching, sleepless-night sort of decision because you adopted your pet with a pledge to take care of it for its entire life. So making sure that your dog or cat has a new "forever" home is also a challenge. You will want to find someone you know will care for and love your pet as much as you do. Have your pet's new human come over several times just to meet and interact with them. This will reduce the stress on your animal by creating familiarity and comfort ahead of time. This will also reduce your stress as you are able to witness how they get along while you are still around.
Note: Laurie Kay Olson worked for many years with a consulting firm specializing in cross-cultural training for managers and executives going on international assignment. She helped companies assess the likelihood of an individual's success as an expatriate.