Transport options for pets when relocating overseas


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transport options for pets when relocating overseas

Relocating overseas with pets can be challenging, especially when the animal has health issues. But as one couple discovered, transport options do exist for our furry friends that take all the stress out of flying. By Dr Phil Tucak

Moving overseas can be an anxious time, especially for those with pets whose health issues make it risky for them to travel by air. So Melbourne cat owner Carolyn Jones and her husband Ben were relieved when, after deciding to relocate to Aotearoa New Zealand to be closer to family, they discovered an innovative air travel option which allowed them to safely transport their senior cat Monk inside the plane cabin with Carolyn.

At nine years Monk, who has been overweight since he was four—despite his owners’ attempts to keep him slim—was diagnosed with a grade three heart murmur and right-side ventricular cardiomyopathy.

“We try not to blame ourselves overly for his heart condition, but we know we played a part, even if our vets assure us there is a strong genetic component,” says Carolyn. “We see a wonderful veterinary cardiac specialist regularly, and Monk has a guardedly optimistic prognosis. Still, his issues meant vets were not happy giving Monk a Fit to Fly certificate for commercial airlines.”

The couple also own two other cats, Booker and Sammy. Having lived in St Kilda for eight years, Carolyn and Ben were keen to return with the three cats to New Zealand—the country where they first met, and where Ben’s family live. 

“We’re the typical millennials without children who care hugely about our pets, but I think even with kids we’d be especially attached to the cats; we’re just animal people.” 

With Monk’s heart condition preventing him from being able to travel via a commercial pet travel company in the pet cabin of a standard international flight, the couple started researching other options for transporting Monk to New Zealand.

“Basically, if you have a high-risk pet who can’t fly commercially, and you need to cross an ocean, you don’t have many options. Any form of sea travel was out; cargo ships haven’t taken passengers since the pandemic, and none take pets. The only cruise ship we could find that took pets was the QEII from the UK to New York, which wasn’t really a convenient route for us,” says Carolyn.

“Private boats are almost never sailed from Australia to New Zealand, either direction, as it’s quite rough waters and not a very pleasant crossing. There are shared charter jets which are quite expensive, cater to an elite clientele, and generally do not take pets at all—certainly not in-cabin. A few other pet options didn’t take owners, had stricter vet check requirements, or only took dogs.”

Air charter companies were suggested, but the price tag would have been upwards of AUD$50,000 for the cheapest. 

“Which was well out of our price range, not at all an option, even if we found others to help share the cost,” says Carolyn.

But after a lengthy search Carolyn hit upon a novel option which would allow Monk to be transported to New Zealand.

Skye Pet Travel was genuinely the only workable option of any we encountered. Recognising the stress and trauma that can come with traditional cargo travel for pets, they offer an in-cabin pet travel service. It’s so great what they do, really prioritising the safety, comfort, and wellbeing of furry family members,” enthuses Carolyn.

“The cost was still high, especially in our current cost-of-living crisis. The flight itself was just under AUD$8500 for me and Monk, and then there were the expenses involved in the export certificates, appointments, and treatments required prior to travel. But for us it was rather black and white: either we paid for this or we didn’t get to keep our family together—and Monk has been a part of our family since he was three months old.”

After months of planning, on an early morning in December, Carolyn and Monk took off from Melbourne Jet Base in a tiny plane with two pilots and a total of five human passengers and their assorted pet companions including a French bulldog, a poodle mix, and two Shih tzus.

“It was brilliant. The pilots were so friendly, thrilled to have the animals on board. Everyone was lovely, the dogs were all very well-behaved, and it was a very cheerful, fun flight, with the added bonus of Monk being so calm and so happy,” says Carolyn.

Ben was able to fly via a standard commercial flight with the couple’s other two cats, and the family are now enjoying their new life in New Zealand.

“We’re living in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, about an hour and a half south of Auckland, near where Ben grew up and where much of his family is. Being here over the holidays has really cemented how right we were to come home—with everyone! Our family is together, and we’re happy to say the cats love it here too,” says Carolyn.

“It’s all worked out so well, and for those who may be looking into similar options for transporting their pets, I’d strongly recommend using a veterinarian familiar with the import-export process of the country you’re going to. And double-check beforehand exactly what paperwork you will need at the end—with the company you’re flying with, with the vets, and with the government departments on both sides, so that there are no unwelcome surprises.”

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  1. A great post Relocating overseas with pets can be challenging, especially when the animal has health issues. But as one couple discovered, transport options do exist for our furry friends that take all the stress out of flying. I will use those tips 100%


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