Dog Re-location from South Africa to the UK: Everything You Need to Know


So recently, Mia Musings has moved to the UK! Interesting times lie ahead I am sure, but the sunny South African shores are still being sorely missed.

For those who know this blog and me, would know that Mia is my dog and if we left, she would have left too! Now  pet transport is not easy and nor is it cheap. So first things first – if you know that you might move cities or countries in the future , ONLY GET A PET IF YOU ARE PREPARED TO MOVE THEM ALONG AS WELL. Don’t be that person who tries to re-home his/her pets through Facebook posts. It is really loathsome.

General preparation 

  1. If you are an expat or you are reasonable certain that you will move, make sure you get your pets micro-chipped soon after you get them. Almost all countries you will be going to require that pets be micro-chipped. Just ensure the chip is ISO compliant. And keep the micro chip certificate very carefully.
  2. Keep pet vaccinations up-to-date. This is not only a health requirement in general for your pet, but it also reduces the prep time during the actual relocation. Keep the vaccination book safely.

Preparation for your impending move

  1. Start researching on pet travel requirements as soon as you get even an inkling that you might be moving. The requirements need at least 3-4 months of preparation. The paperwork is not much, but there needs to be time in between the steps as you will see.
  2. Simultaneously, start getting quotes from various pet transport agencies (if you are planning to use one), so you can compare. You can also decide to do everything yourself but for booking the pet on an airline, you will have to use an agent, at least in South Africa. Some agencies that I came across were – Pet Port, Global Paws, Petwings, Animal Travel Services, etc.
  3. Speak to your local vet. Chances are they might help you choose between agencies.
  4. If possible, get one of the travel containers and get your pet used to sitting in them for long hours.
  5. If you are transporting the pet yourself, make sure you get an IATA approved travel container. Airlines might refuse to transport your dog otherwise.

Documentation for the UK

  1. The dog needs to be micro chipped with an ISO complaint chip i.e readable in the UK. If your dog is chipped, make sure the chip is still working so get the vet to test it. If the chip is not working, you will have to get a new one or your dog will either be delayed at the UK customs or not be allowed in.
  2. At least one rabies vaccination should have been done AFTER the micro chip was implanted. You must have records to prove this. If your dog was not vaccinated after the implant, you must get it done now.
  3. Rabies Titre test: if your vaccination and micro chip are in order, you can take your dog to your local vet and ask him to perform a Rabies Titre test. The vet will just draw some blood and send it to the Onderstepoort veterinary  hospital in Pretoria. This is the ONLY place that can perform this test so be prepared for delays and backlogs. Your vet may ask you to leave the dog for a few hours – this is perfectly normal. The test results can take anything from 2 weeks to 4/8 weeks. Don’t be alarmed but just keep following up with your vet. Your pet can only travel 90 days AFTER the blood is drawn, if the test results are fine. So there is enough time!
  4. If your dog wasn’t vaccinated after the micro chip was implanted or if you just got it micro chipped, he/she needs to be vaccinated now. After this, you need to wait at least 30 days before the Rabies Titre test can be performed. This means, that your pet can only travel in 4 months time – 30 days plus the 90 days for the Titre. This is why i said it’s a long process in terms of time, not really in terms of the things you need to do. So the earlier you start, the better.
  5. One the test results come, you vet will email them to you and let you know what it means. But you must get the original certificate as well. This might take another few days to come from Onderstepoort but make sure you have it as it needs too be sent along with the dog.
  6. Once the Titre test is done, you just have to wait as the rest of the documentation needs to be done just before the actual travel. Use this time to shortlist the agency.

How to choose a pet transport agency

Feedback from friends and family

Ask around to see if any of your friends or family know anyone who has relocated pets. It is always better to get a personal opinion. If not, use Facebook! You are more than likely to get responses especially from expat groups.

Online research

I did not really find many testimonials online for most of the agencies that I was considering. Somehow it seems that either people don’t review the companies or the reviews are just not found! So friends/family and your gut feel will be the best bet!


Write to as many agencies as possible and ask for quotes. They will ask for the actual size of your dog – make sure you measure it correctly. Wrong calculations may result in incorrect quotes. Don’t be afraid to ask agencies anything you want to know -prepare a list of questions and send them to all. This will help you choose on the basis of their responses.


Sometime it helps to visit these agencies personally. It gives you an idea of how they run their business in reality. I used Kerninga Petwings for Mia’s transport and what really put me at ease was the fact that I had seen their kennels! I felt quite reassured. So if possible, try and meet them. It helps.


The use of sedatives has been banned by all vets so make sure you enquire about this. Agencies usually use a natural calming medicine that is only administered if they feel your pet needs it. Mia is usually stressed with loud noise and huge cars and hence I asked my agency to give her the medication.

Other documentation required prior to travel

  1. 7-14 days before travel: if you have hired an agency to help with the relocation, this is when their work starts. By now they would have already booked your dog’s flight ands would have sent you the way bill number and their final invoice. All you need to do is make the payment and keep the waybill safely!
  2. 1-2 days before travel: The agency will most likely pick up your pet at least 1 day in advance. This is because they need to complete the final leg of the paperwork. Your dog will need a clean chit from a local vet, who will certify that he/she is fit to travel. The agency will then need get a State Vet certificate issued. This certificate is valid only for 3-5 days and hence your pet needs to travel whilst this certificate is still valid. If not, a new certificate will need to get issued and there will be a delay in travel.
  3. When your pet is picked up, the agency will ask you to handover the following documents in original:

-Vaccination book

-Titre test result certificate

– Micro chip certificate

Make sure you make copies just in case.

They may also ask you to send along a T-shirt or your pet’s blanket for reassurance.

They might not take the leash so make sure you carry it along when you fetch your pet on the other side.

4. The agency will take care of your pet and ensure it is taken to the airport well in time for the flight, usually 3/4 hours before the flight’s departure.

5.  If you have only hired an agency to book your pet’s flight, then you must get the local vet and state vet’s clearances and adhere to the validity of the certificate.

After your pet leaves, just keep calm and breathe! Or like me, email the hell out of the agency so they send you pictures of your dog before travel!!

At the Heathrow Animal Centre (only applicable like if your pet is landing in London, UK)

The Animal Centre takes a minimum of 3/4 hours to check and clear each pet once it arrives at the centre. So be prepared for a long wait if you travel on the same flight, or time yourself accordingly if picking the dog up another day. K and booked Mia on the same flight as us, so after we landed, we whiled away a few hours at the main airport as we knew that the animal centre is very small with very basic amenities. So if you arrive like us, just don’t head to the Centre straightaway. It will be a long wait. But the people handling the animals at the centre are really great and your pet will be well looked after. Mia came out completely hale and hearty, albeit a little drowsy from the medication! All in all, she looked well and is settling down gradually in the UK.

To more travels and happy tails!!




14 thoughts on “Dog Re-location from South Africa to the UK: Everything You Need to Know

  1. So late reading this post, but very useful. It hadn’t even occurred to me that there was potentially such a long 3-4 month lead time on moving a pet. Being a kinda gal, this post could come in very handy down the line. Thanks and hope you are enjoying life in Blighty.

    1. I am glad you found the post helpful. Yes, just need to plan this one little in advance 🙂 Well life here is as good as it can get!

  2. May be moving to SA from Maryland, US in 6 months. I have two dogs that aren’t used to crates but I will train them and do practice boarding at nearby places. Is a nonstop flight to Joburg with a hour stop at Dakar for cleaning ( everyone stays on plane while toliet is cleaned) for 18 hours, so 20 to 23 hrs with dog preparation better than them going for one flight to Amsterdam (flight 8 hrs and po robably 10 total for prep, unloading) then staying t here to be cleaned, border and allowed in long run then reboarded for 2nd flight to joburg for a duration of 11 hrs, which will be close 15 hrs for prep work? I am planning to work with professional company for crates and care. I am scared as I heard horror stories. They are 3 and 4. One is short legged jack Russell and other is Australian sheepdog/doberman mix.

    1. Hi Michelle, it’s very difficult to comment on what would be a better flight. I have only done this once and hence, can only recommend that you get the views of the professional agency you are hiring. A direct flight definitely seems like a better option but when it’s 22hrs long, it’s a tough choice. I am sorry I can’t be of much help. Hope your fur babies reach safely.

  3. From OUR experience and a family member who has just been through a shocking experience (their dog might even be brain damaged) I would NOT recommend using Petport AT ALL for your fur kids!! They don’t care about the pets and communication and documents get lost, they don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and so willing to just argue with you!

    If you love your fur kids then DON’T USE THEM!!

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