What About the Dog?

It’s not every day you are presented with the opportunity to change your life completely and go and live in a new country.  The decisions to be made are huge and it’s often difficult to know where to start with the thought process.  As soon as Australia became a possibility for us, my mind went into overdrive.  But I can tell you that the very first thought that popped into my head – and subsequently straight out of my mouth, was ‘What about the dog?’  I laugh about that now, because surely my instinctive reaction ought to have been ‘What about the impact on the kids?’, or ‘What will my family and friends think?’  I can assure you, all those thoughts did come into play pretty quickly but I am still quite bemused that the first thing I thought about in this colossal decision to be made, was in fact, the dog.

Our dog, a Labrador, was six years old at the time and reasonably fit and healthy, apart from the fact that he suffers from epilepsy.  He is on daily medications to manage his seizures and because of the nature of the condition, he has a lot of anxiety.  Over the years he has become more and more ‘needy’ and likes to follow us from room to room, always having one of us in his sights.   I just couldn’t imagine how he’d cope mentally, let alone physically, with being flown to the other side of the world.  I was fearful that the separation alone could kill him.  And what if he had a seizure mid-air and there was no one to comfort him?  Not to mention how he’d cope with all the strange noises – this is a boy who cowers under a table at the sound of rain on the windows.  I thought it was all going to be so impossible that it would affect our decision to go.

Now, if you are a dog lover you will understand that your pet is not just a pet.  He or she is very much a part of the family.  One person actually suggested that we find him a new home in the UK and ‘simply’ get another dog when we arrived in Australia.   Once we got over the horror of this idea, we explained that this would be tantamount to leaving a child behind.  (We did actually go on to leave a child behind but that’s another story …)

Grey dog with blue eyes
What about the dog

If you are pondering a big move overseas and, like me, you are thinking ‘what about the dog?’, please take comfort from the fact that it is all possible.  Here’s how to do it.

1.  Talk to your vet

Talk to your vet as soon as you possibly can.  There will be very specific timescales relating to vaccinations and blood tests needed, and you will need to work backward from your anticipated travel date to ensure that you start the whole process at the right time.  For example, you need to clear at least 7 months before departure to get the relevant rabies tests done. Our local vet was very experienced and knowledgeable about sending an animal overseas and guided us through the whole process.  He was a government-approved vet, which meant he could rubber-stamp all the relevant paperwork. Our vet had known our boy since he was a puppy, knew all about his medical condition and anxieties, and was able to reassure us that it was all going to be possible. 

2.  Prepare your wallet

… and prepare to be shocked!  There are no two ways about it, it’s not cheap to send a 38kg Labrador abroad.  As a rough guide, we paid a total of around £6,000 (approx $11,000 AUD).  This included: collection from home (actually our friend’s house, where he was boarding since we had already left); a travel crate; overnight boarding in a kennel near to Heathrow Airport, provision of all the necessary export, import, and transit papers; pre-flight vet-checks; transfer to the airport; flights; customs clearance and quarantine costs.  On top of this, our UK vet bills relating to this epic journey came to about £500 (approx $900 AUD).

Dog looking out of car window.
What about the dog

3.  Find a pet carrier

We used the services of Crown Relocations to oversee all the logistics of our house move, and they referred us to JCS Livestock in the UK and to Jetpets in Australia.  Both companies were fantastic and kept in touch with us at all stages of the journey, answering our many questions beforehand, and ensuring from the outset that all the endless paperwork was done and that vet checks had been carried out, as well as keeping us updated once our boy was on his way, even sending us a picture of him when he was transiting through Singapore.  That one really tugged at the heartstrings, I can tell you.

4. Be patient during quarantine

Dogs traveling from the UK have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Australia.  The quarantine facility is based in Melbourne, not far from the international airport at Tullamarine.  You cannot visit your pet whilst they are in quarantine but we found the staff there very helpful, particularly when we had some concerns over him taking his seizure medication.  They made contact with us to say he was very reluctant to take his meds, (nothing new there), and even gave me the option to go and feed him daily, so I could give him his meds.  Though I was desperate to see him, I declined, as I didn’t want to confuse him even more by being there for 10 minutes a day and then leave him again.  Once I’d explained that we have to make it all a bit of a game, his handler was able to give him the necessary tablets disguised in a piece of sausage and all was well.

5.  Enjoy the homecoming

Ten days after arriving in Australia, our boy came home.  We hadn’t seen him for about a month, as we had been unable to coordinate his flight for the same time as ours.  We were told at the time that this was to do with the quarantine facility not having enough space, rather than flight availability.   It turned out to be quite a sensible thing for us to arrive before him so that we could unpack our furniture and be relatively settled by the time he came home. I’ll never forget seeing the Jetpets van arrive.  I hid from view while the handler took him out of the van, just peeping round the corner to see a very anxious-looking doggy.  What must have been going through his mind?  I suspect something along the lines of ‘what on earth is happening now?’  Needless to say, when he did see me, it was the most wonderful thing, and worth all the worry and the wait.

6.  Find a local vet

We have been blessed with finding a fabulous vet here in Melbourne, upon the recommendation of a friend.  After a month or so, our vet came to visit us at our home, gave our boy a top-to-toe check-up, along with some general blood tests, and declared him fit and healthy.  He was also able to provide us with ongoing supplies of the existing epilepsy meds, so there was no break in continuity.

7.  Register with your local council

It is mandatory here to register your pet with your local council.  (Cost approx $30-$50 per year, depending on the council.). You will need to provide their microchip number and you will be sent a unique registration number, which must be worn on your pet’s collar.

This has been a huge adventure for our boy and we often describe him as the most expensive dog in the world, but we have no regrets about bringing him to Australia.  He’s just so happy to be with us and I truly think he has forgotten the whole experience of being a world-class traveller.  He loves his walks in our local parklands and you can imagine how his nose went into overdrive at all the interesting new scents and smells.  It must have been quite a sensory explosion for him. To this day, he follows his nose everywhere.  And the first time he spotted a possum he must have thought that it was a very odd looking squirrel!

For further information about keeping a dog in Victoria, check out Animal Welfare Victoria.

Yellow Labrador sitting obediently on grass.
What about the dog

The Melbourne Mum

Thinking of emigrating to Australia? Already moved to Melbourne? Find out what it's really like to make the big move Down Under.

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6 Responses

  1. Sharon Marriott says:

    Wow, what a fantastic blog … I cried when you were describing him finally coming home xx

    • Thank you so much for your comment Sharon. I still cry when I think of him making that journey on his own but he is such a happy boy being with us, it was all worth it xx

  2. Trish says:

    Love this! As a mum to two doggies, I’m sure they would’ve been my first thought too. Milton looks so happy to be with you all in his new home. 😊

    • Thanks so much for your comment Trish, I know you love your gorgeous doggies as much as I love Milton! He is a truly happy boy and has adapted to life in Australia really well. Big hugs for you and yours xx

  3. Andy Davies says:

    What a superb resource & such useful information . As a man with 5 dogs who I think you know well from the UK in Beausale this all makes sense . Big Hugs

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