The initiation phase
Whenever we contemplated emigration, we assumed that it would be crazy expensive to move our 6 animals. We thought they would be destined for 3 months in quarantine, which seemed an inordinately long time!
After deciding to explore moving to the UK, we started to investigate our options with bringing them all over. The first stop was to chat the vet, so I went to Radiokop Vet and had a great chat with Colin, who gave me a lot of guidance. The most important info he shared is that quarantine was no longer a requirement. Suddenly moving was becoming a reality!
First step was to make sure they were all healthy enough to move. Colin had a bit of a fight on his hands when he tried to get me to put my emotions to one side and do what was best for the animals. The fact of the matter is that Demi (Labrador) was 9, and Tabitha and Grizzly (cats) were both 15. Older animals can have underlying diseases that don’t show, so it was important to make sure that they would survive the stress of moving.
Sanity (and Colin’s common sense) prevailed and all the animals went in for a good health check. The older animals had blood tests to make sure that their kidneys etc were OK, and the younger lot had their usual yearly exam to make sure there were no issues we needed to think about.
As Colin said, the checks were so important for so many reasons. I didn’t want to be stressing out an unwell animal. It also was a lot of money to spend transporting an animal that may not survive the first 6 months. They all passed (obvs) and it was then off to chat to Pet travel companies. I decided right off the bat that we would use an agency, and I am so glad I did. Even with an agency this was one of the most stressful bits of the entire move!
The research phase
The first step was to look at what requirements were needed to move the animals. I feel I need to add that we moved everyone over in 2016, so things may have changed, and its vital to check the requirements now.
All animals that move from SA to the UK must be microchipped, and after that they need to have their Rabies vaccines done, and then the RNATT blood test done a month later.
Once the blood is taken for the RNATT, the animals can travel 3 months (I think its 92 days) after the blood has been taken, provided they pass the blood test.
The RNATT is the Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test. Its basically a test to make sure that the Rabies vaccine is offering enough protection to the animal to stop them from getting Rabies.
All animals need to be flea and tick free, and they need a specific dewormer as well. You will need to have them signed off by a State Vet, and that certificate only lasts a few days. There is a lot of very specific timings that need to be followed to the letter. It is something that you could do yourself, but I have to say I don’t recommend it!
Colin had recommended I contact Global Paws and Pet Wings. I was amazed at the difference in cost. Global Paws was nearly double the price of Pet Wings, and with 6 animals, that is a substantial difference.
Initially we were going to use Pet Wings. Then the Rand plummeted, and the cost, of course, skyrocketed! That led me to look at other options, and I found PetPort. They were about R20000 cheaper than Pet Wings, and when I asked around, I was given pretty good reviews.
The cost was about R70000 for all 6 but bear in mind that the vets fees for the vaccines, microchips and RNATT tests was over R2000 per animal. (Remember this was in 2016)
Not all our animals were microchipped, so we had them done in December, and then had the rabies vaccine done at the same time. That meant that a month later we were back at the vet to have the blood drawn for the RNATT test.
Once that was done, we had 3 months to wait before we could fly. Brett went over to the UK in the beginning of February to get a job and set up house, so he was the one who had to find us a rental that we could have all the animals in.
It seemed to be an impossible task initially, every single Rental agent he contacted shut him off once the pets were mentioned. If you are looking at rentals for your pets, try get a private landlord. Brett found our house on Gumtree and we have been here for nearly 3 years, and the landlords were more than happy for us to have the pets. We paid a double deposit, which hurt initially but it so worth it to have the brats with us.
The travel phase (The one where my nerves were shot!!)
The animals were collected from our home about a week before we flew. The new owners were moving into our house and Liya and I were staying with my sister. The pets were collected around a week before we left, and they stayed in the kennels at PetPort for about 2 weeks.
I went to visit them, and I was really pleased at how well they all looked and how unstressed they were. Hunter can be anxious, so I was pretty worried about him, but he seemed really chilled when I went to see him.
Liya and I flew into the UK on the 3rd May 2016, which was a Tuesday, and the animals all flew directly with BA, and landed at Heathrow at 7:15 am on the Friday. Following advice from PetPort I had paid an extra R2000 to get them delivered directly to the house. Again, I feel this was money well spent, it would have cost a fortune to hire a van and collect them from the airport, not to mention how much more stressful it would have made it.
PetPort was great with communication once we had booked and paid our deposit. They were very quick to quote, and were happy to give advice, but getting hold of them on the phone was a bit tough before we had signed the contract. Once we had formally booked and paid our deposit, we were given the contact details of out own agent, and she was really helpful, and great at letting me know exactly when the pets arrived at the airport, arrived at Heathrow, and she helped me set up the delivery time with the transport company in the UK.
The settling in phase
They landed on time, and 7 hours later were through all the paperwork at Heathrow. they arrived in Oxford at around 2:30pm. They were all fine, the cats were annoyed, but that is their general state so that’s normal. The dogs ran around the garden like loons and slept incredibly well that night!
I know that not everyone can bring their pets to the UK for us. It is really costly, I haven’t added up what the full cost is because I just don’t want to know! All of our 6 have done really well, and even the old pets are all still fine! Older, and have had a few visits to the vets, but fine.
Veterinary care in the UK is expensive, a basic consult at our local vets varies between £28 and £36 pounds. One tip is that if your pet needs chronic meds you can ask the vet for a prescription and order the drugs online, which can sometimes help you save money. Pet Insurance is available, and there are a lot of companies to choose from. If you can afford it, I would recommend it. PetPlan is the most recommended company, and I have heard they are very good, but you do pay for what you get! Shop around, and see what the best options are for your animals.
Settled ... the life of a dog in the UK
The UK is very animal friendly, its sometimes easier to get your dog into the pub than your child! Most other dogs here are well socialised, so issues with dogs being attacked are rare (in my experience). My dogs refuse to come when called, so we don’t let them off the lead at the park, although most dogs seem to be allowed to run around to their hearts content.
There are parks everywhere!! With a mile radius of our home are 3 parks we can take the dogs to. You can also take your dogs on the bus, so a quick bus ride into Oxford allows us to walk the dogs through Christchurch Gardens, and down the Thames. Walking is safe, I take my dogs out in the dark, and have come to quite enjoy a long walk in the cold of Winter.
All of the animals have taken the weather in their stride. We live in a Victorian Terrace that was built in about 1820, which has very thick walls and is well insulated. This means that our home is always warm. Most UK homes have underfloor heating, and ours is no exception. In fact, I found our home in JHB to be colder in Winter than our one in Oxford.
One thing that did surprise me is how much the dogs love snow. Last Winter we had a lot of snow ( YAY!!!!) and the dogs roared around the garden , rolling in the snow and generally being twits
The cost to bring the animals over was high, but it was worth every penny. Our animals are such a huge part of our family. Bringing them to the UK with us has made it so much easier for all of us to settle down, and for that I an eternally grateful.