Bringing Your Pets Into The Netherlands
by Kelly S
AWCA Website, November 2001
Planning on bringing your cat or dog with when you move to the Netherlands? Great, why not? Let's face it, moving away from home can be stressful and lonely. You say good bye to a lot of people, your friends, family, co-workers, etc. But your pets shouldn't be one of them. Why not bring them with you to your new home in the Netherlands? I haven't figured out why some people feel they can't move their dog or cats with them when they come to the Netherlands. We brought over our 2 Golden Retrievers from the U.S.. Quite honestly, the thought never crossed our minds not to. And we've never regretted the decision. (Even though I needed a couple extra glasses of wine to calm me on the flight over!)
It does take some work and a little bit of planning ahead, but moving your dog or cat overseas is probably easier than getting your belongings out of customs! Here are some suggestions on what to do that we hope will make moving with your pet as easy as possible.
First, I suggest reading all the information available on the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Web Site. They have an article entitled "Traveling With Your Pet" that will help identify the travel restrictions to specific countries, (The Netherlands does not require any quarantine period for cats or dogs). It talks about the age requirements of your pet, the airline travel kennel restrictions, and gives you phone numbers and addresses should you have additional questions. The web address is "http://www.aphis.usda.gov/"
Second, make an appointment with your vet. They should be very familiar with the shipment of animals abroad and can help ease the shaky nerves that you're probably having. The most important thing for you to do is that you'll want to make sure that all of your animals shots are up to date. The Rabies vaccination can not be older than 1 year and must not be administered earlier than 30 days before your departure date. Your pet will need to obtain a clean bill of health and a completed Health Certificate (called A Benelux Health Certificate) no earlier than 10 days before your departure. So make that appointment ahead of time, but allow yourself a day or two for buffer in case your flight is canceled or the inevitable delays happen. The Health Certificate should include all of the required shots (Parvo, Distemper, Rabies, etc.) and show the vaccination date, your animals sex, name, age, and general health. Keep this Certificate on your carry on baggage because you'll need it in order to get your pet from the cargo area in the airport.
Third, call your airline carrier. Most people don't know this, but you have to make a reservation for your animal to travel with you. This is for small animals that travel with you on the plane under the seat (the airlines have a limit of the number of animals that are allowed in the cabin) as well as the larger animals that must go into the designated cargo area. Airlines have strict weight limits to follow and therefore they need to know the weight of your animal (including the kennel), and the overall size of the kennel in order to secure the reservations. This takes time and you need to plan ahead in order to secure a flight that can handle both you and your animal. There are also new laws that restrict when and what flights animals can travel on. The rules for each airline differ. You need to contact your airline carrier in order to find out what their regulations are. The airline we flew on had temperature restrictions. Since we were flying in the summer months, we made sure that we flew overnight when we were sure that the temperatures wouldn't get anywhere near the restricted zone. Airlines reserve the right to refuse animals on their planes. Keep in mind they have the safety of your animal in mind. Be flexible!
Fourth, think about what's best for your animal. We decided that we would fly out of a different city (even a different state) so that we could have a direct flight to Amsterdam. We wanted to keep the flight as short as possible and eliminate the stress of changing planes. This took some doing and an extra night in a hotel at the beginning of our trip, but the safety of our dogs came first. We reduced what would have been a 14 hour flight, plus a layover in what might have been a city that was over the temperature restriction, to a direct 9 hour flight. We feel it was the best thing for our animals.
Fifth, make sure anyone and everyone knows that you have animals on board that plane! We got to the airport 4 hours ahead of time. That might seem a little excessive but we wanted to make sure that we took the time to check in our dogs (that took at least 30 minutes extra time at the ticket counter). The kennels needed to be tagged and we had to wait until the personnel from the Cargo dept. came for the dogs. We gave the employee a generous tip and asked if we could follow our dogs down to the tarmac area. He agreed! Then we made sure that the person at the gate verified that they were supposed to have our two dogs on the flight. We then asked them to verify that they were on the plane. Since the animals are the very last thing (after all the luggage has been loaded and locked up) to be loaded onto the plane, we saw our dogs waiting to board from to gateway. We waited outside the plane until we knew that those dogs were on that plane and in the right cargo area (we asked a flight attendant to verify which cargo door animals go into). Everyone working on that flight new about our dogs. I figure there is safety in numbers.
Sixth, the flight. Our kennels had two "pockets" that we kept their leashes and extra food and water in. That way, if there was any delay or they needed to be removed off of the plane for any reason, they could have food and water. Plus the leashes would allow an employee to safely get them out of their kennels should there be a reason to (of course we didn't think about that). A friend of ours who works for an airline as a baggage loader gave us a great suggestion. He suggested that we put rubber pads on the bottom of our kennels. He said that during take off and landings, the kennels might slide because of the extreme angles. Although there isn't a lot of room for the kennels to slide, I didn't want to think about my 80lb dog sliding across and hitting is sisters kennel. It was a great suggestion and I ended up gluing pieces of tire tubes to the bottom of the kennels. I got them free from the local bike shop. They worked great.
Seven, arrival. I'm not sure if all airlines work this way, but our airline actually brought our dogs to us right where we were waiting to pick up our luggage. Boy were our dogs happy to see us. They did great (Mom probably did worse then they did). We had to show our Health Certificates and they were ours! We then walked through customs along with our luggage. They asked us some basic questions about how long we would be here, the names and ages of our dogs. We showed customs the Health Certificate and that was it! We went to our new home.
With some good planning, there really is no reason why you shouldn't bring your cat or dog along with you when you move to the Netherlands. They love dogs here and there are plenty of parks and open areas for you and your dog to play. (Not to mention all of the trails too). Most stores and restaurants welcome dogs (as long as they are well mannered). You can even take them on the trains and trams (just remember to buy them their own tickets!). So bring fido or fluffy along. They'll thank you for it!