Before you plan your trip, work out if your pet should be travelling at all. Your pet SHOULD NOT travel if:
- he is younger than ten weeks old.
- he has not had all of his vaccinations.
- he is unwell.
Extra care should be taken if his breed makes breathing difficult in hot weather (Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs).
Should you sedate?
No. Your pet should be conscious so he can brace himself against turbulence.
Motion sickness and keeping calm
Try a herbal anti-motion sickness treatment. Many of these treatments double up as calming medication. Catnip is a good way of keeping your feline friend calm.
For international travel the airline will require your pet to have a microchip. This applies to dogs, cats, reptiles and primates. Another essential is a tag with your contact details on your animal’s collar.
Animals are considered excess baggage and you will be charged by weight. Some domestic airlines charge around R30 a kilogram while others have a set rate. Only service dogs may travel in the cabin.
Get your pet used to his cage (carrier) by leaving it open in an accessible area for a few days or even weeks before you leave. Put your pet’s blanket and some favourite toys inside and feed treats in the cage.
How to book
Book 24 to 48 hours before you fly. Some airlines restrict the number of animals on a flight, so the more advance notice you give the better. Confirm before your flight.
Give your pet food and water an hour before you leave, giving him enough time to do his business. Take your pet for a walk to expend some energy before he is confined to a cage.
Travelling as cargo
Arrive two hours before your pet’s flight at the cargo terminal building (within driving distance of the airport). Dogs, cats, birds and other pets are allowed to travel through cargo. You can take your pet for a last wee outside of the cargo building. Take a poo packet with just in case. Your pet will be weighed inside his cage, you will have to fill out a form and pay, and have your pet’s vaccination card inspected. You can now ‘lock’ the cage with a cable tie.
The animal will be taken into a waiting room. The staff try to keep this room as quiet as possible, but a cargo terminal is a very loud place and your pet will be hearing some noises that are very strange to him. He will then be transported to the plane and have his cage strapped into the hold. On landing, he will be transported to the cargo terminal at the destination airport and will be held in a waiting area.
Whoever fetches the pet must bring some form of identification, water, a lead and a poo packet. On receiving the pet, take him to a grassy spot and allow him to do his business. Offer some water and have a quick run (on a lead) to stretch cramped legs. Make sure that the cargo terminal is open on the destination side at the time of your pet’s arrival. They usually close overnight and on some public holidays.
Travelling through check-in
Arrive a bit earlier than normal for your flight. Wait in the check-in queue with your pet in his cage and the check-in staff will weigh your dog. You will then be instructed to pay at ticket sales. After paying, go back to the check-in counter and hand in your receipt. Take your pet to either the oversize baggage or the non-conveyable goods gate (ask at the check-in counter). Your pet will be taken out of his cage and the cage will be weighed. After putting your pet back in the cage (ask for a cable tie to seal the cage), your pet will be taken to the plane and strapped into the hold.
When you arrive at your destination, you will have to keep a sharp eye out for where your pet will be coming from. Sometimes a member of airport staff will wait on the other side of the conveyor for you to inquire about your pet; sometimes the pet will come through a door marked ‘non-conveyable goods’; and at other times your pet might be waiting for you on the ground near the baggage conveyor belt.
If you are travelling to one of these countries your pet will have to travel as cargo:
- Hong Kong
- United Kingdom
Contact the embassy of the country you are travelling to for their requirements and regulations.
Coming into SA
Animals coming into South Africa must travel as cargo. Dogs coming into the country from Brazil, China, India, Japan and several other countries will have to undergo a quarantine period of two weeks. Cats are exempt.
- Excepting animals coming from the UK, Australia and New Zealand, animals must be vaccinated against rabies no less than 30 days and no more than a year before arriving. Puppies and kittens under 12 weeks are covered by the mother’s vaccination.
- You must have an import permit, which you can apply for through the Directorate of Animal Health in South Africa.
- Pets from neighbouring countries need a Movement Permit.
- A Health Clearance Certificate is required. Apply for the forms at the South African Department of Agriculture.
To make things easier, you could book your international trip through a service like Global Paws Worldwide.
What you need
- Vaccination card
- Identification (microchip and collar with a tag)
- An airline approved travel cage
- Motion sickness and calming treatment
- A toy or a scarf of yours
For booking and more information
The Directorate of Animal Health +27 12 319 6000
ACSA Cargo Department +27 11 978 3366