Moving pets from South Africa to the UK

Moving with your pets abroad
If you’re an animal lover like me, your pets(or your furbabies) are considered as part of the family. When it comes to emigrating, the thought of having to say goodbye to them is unthinkable so you might be thinking of moving your pets too. I thought this would be a post worth writing about as I have also wondered what is involved in this process. I recently spoke to a friend of mine who shared her experience on moving her pets from South Africa to the UK.

1. Did you use a company to do this?

Yes, we used Global Paws:

2. What made you choose this company over other companies?

  • IPATA member – this is a network of professional pet relocation specialists
  • Good reviews
  • Kennels near where we lived in JHB so that our friends could go see them.
  • Our animals spent a week before they flew in the kennels.  They have a vet there that then gives them their tapeworm treatment before the flight.
  • They didn’t mind me emailing and asking a hundred and one questions. And it didn’t hurt that they called my pets my babies 🙂

3. How long did the whole process take?

The requirements for sending pets to UK are:

  1. Microchip
  2. Rabies Vaccination
  3. 31 day wait then the Titre test (blood test)
  4. 90 day wait then health certificates and then travel
  5. Tapeworm treatment for dogs only before entering the UK. Treatment but be done by a vet no less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours before scheduled arrival time in the UK

4. How long do your pets need to be “in quarantine” in the UK before they can come to you?

There is no longer a quarantine for pets into the UK.

About a week before they flew we got an email from James Cargo with the Airway bill number and details on pet clearance.

They send you a map of how to get to the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre(ARC).  They give you details on the process once your pets land.  They also give details on who to contact if you want to check on the progress of your pets.  The whole process from when they land to when you can pick them up is about 5 hours.  They check the animals and all their paperwork.  They also feed them and give them water.

Before they flew, Global Paws sent us a Youtube video of the process when they get to the ARC.

Global Paws also give you the option of putting your dogs in the same run.  They send you a form in that email to return to them.  You can also then send them details of any medical conditions or dietary requirements.

They also then give you the option of a home delivery. You can then request a quote for that.  Your pets get delivered to your door in temperature controlled DEFRA approved vehicles.

5. What is the cost of moving your pets? Is the cost per pet?

For 2 miniature dachshunds and 1 burmese cat the total was R21251.50. I am sure I had a cost per pet but I can’t seem to find that email. And about R4000 for the week or ten days of kennelling. (So in this case that would equate to +/- £1500 based on today’s exchange rate of R17 to £1)

6. I know in your case, your pets were delivered to your house but is that an extra service that the company you used offered? Or is that the norm?

It’s an extra service that you pay for.

7. How were your pets when they were finally at home with you again?

They were a little jumpy and a bit nervous. But they were really happy to see us.

8. How long did it take for them to settle down and get used to their new surroundings?

Our cat was fine and settled fairly easily.  We thought he would be the one who struggled but the whole process made him more confident. Our little girl settled in a couple of weeks. Our little boy took a quite few months before he seemed completely himself.  He was subdued, didn’t play as much and nibbled on our clothes more than usual. But I was home and not working so I could spend lots of time with them which I think helped. I do think it’s different for each pet but I still think it’s better than the stress of being rehomed and never seeing you again.

9. How did you find the whole process? Was it fairly easy, minimal amount of stress etc?

Our process was a bit different.  Michael went over to find a job.  I was in SA packing up with the animals.  I applied for a visitor’s visa so that I could go over to the UK and help Michael find a house etc.  We didn’t want to upset the animals more than we needed to.  So we got a petsitter for about a month or so to stay in our house.  He then took them to Global Paws kennels and then they do the final paperwork and put them on the plane.

Some people fly over at the same time as their pets and then pick them up straight away from the ARC and take them home.

Knowing that you are using a good company and having seen the kennels beforehand helped ease my mind.  They also allowed our friends to go visit them in the time they were there so that they had familiar faces.

10. Is there any advice that you’d like to offer to anyone that might go through this process?

Visit Global Paws beforehand or whichever company you use.

Don’t feel bad about asking a hundred and one questions for peace of mind.

Use the home delivery from Heathrow, it’s worth the cost.  It’s less traumatic on your pets than taking them on trains and buses to get home.  If they are Saffa animals then they aren’t used to that mode of transportation and the smells and people would be a bit overwhelming.

11. Is there anything else worth mentioning?

Global paws gave a few hints before the flight:

They don’t tranquilize the animals in the aircraft as it can cause drug reactions and breathing difficulties due to change in air pressure.  But if you are worried you can give them rescue remedy from about a day before the flight.  You can also get them calming collars (they last about a month).  I still use the calming collars over Guy Fawkes and New Years.

Brush them before travel.  Do not wash them for at least 3 days before they fly.  Make sure their nails are clipped.

They are more comfortable with a smell they recognise.  So we slept in plain old t-shirts and put those in the kennel with them.  Nothing with zips, buckles or buttons.  You aren’t allowed to put toys in with them.

This post doesn’t only apply to moving pets from SA to the UK. Thanks to my friend I now know more about what to expect should we ever need to take our furbabies with us if we decide to emigrate elsewhere. Hopefully this post will also be useful to you too. After all, a house is not a home without pets 🙂


  1. 27th October 2016 / 11:28 AM

    Thanks for such a useful post, Natalie. As a Meowmy myself, if I ever moved overseas I would definitely be taking my furkid with me, so knowing about the process is great 🙂

    • whatudidntknow
      27th October 2016 / 11:36 AM

      Hi Sarah, hahahahah I love that. I haven’t heard of that before – “Meowmy”. I usually say “Furbabymama” 😉 Glad you found my post informative.

  2. 27th October 2016 / 11:50 AM

    I couldn’t imagine such a complicated process – must have been a real headache even with a company to make it easier! That cat photo made me giggle though 🙂

    • whatudidntknow
      27th October 2016 / 11:55 AM

      Hahahaha! No kitties were harmed in the making of this photo 😉

  3. 30th October 2016 / 8:59 PM

    As I said on Twitter before: your cat is so beautiful <3
    Interesting article. I was wondering how to move a pet if I had one, question answered, thank you 🙂

    • whatudidntknow
      30th October 2016 / 9:26 PM

      Thank you, yes he is gorgeous! 🙂

  4. 4th November 2016 / 6:51 AM

    This is a very useful, well planned and detailed post!Thank you Natalie

    • whatudidntknow
      4th November 2016 / 8:09 AM

      Glad you found it useful Chantal 🙂

  5. Sally
    6th April 2017 / 5:18 PM

    Hi there….did you compare with other pet travel agencies? There seem to be so many now and I am completely baffled as to which one to use. It definitely is a very long flight from SA to the UK and I am seriously worried about my two Pugs but I just cannot seem to even think about not taking them with me!!

    • whatudidntknow
      6th April 2017 / 5:37 PM

      Hi Sally, thanks for your message. I didn’t do a price comparison with other companies. This was my friends experience that I wrote about. She said she looked at other companies but decided on GlobalPaws because they’re an IPATA member and experienced good customer service with them. Perhaps it would be worth phoning a few companies to get a general feel from them before making a decision. Good luck with the move and transporting your 2 babies to the UK! 🙂

  6. carla
    14th July 2017 / 2:42 PM

    Hi there, we are moving over to the UK next year and bringing along our two cats. On a very practical note, did you find a place to rent that was pet-friendly before you left and then all come over at once or did you go over first and then have the cats sent over later? just practically I am imagining the first few weeks or month to be quite chaotic and wouldn’t want to have to put our cats through more disruptions than necessary… Thank you 🙂

    • whatudidntknow
      15th July 2017 / 3:43 PM

      Hi Carla, thanks for your message. My friend moved over first and found a pet friendly house before her cats were sent over. She did this for the same reason you’ve mentioned about wanting to be settled before her pets arrived. Hope that answers your question. Thanks 😊

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