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My step by step guide on bringing your dogs

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Hi everyone,

I have finally arrived in Canada, and it is AMAZING!

I thought I'd share my step by step guide to bringing your dogs with, I know there have been several posts about this, but perhaps things change a bit with time, or I add some useful information.  Anyhow, below is my step by step guide :-)  Having my dogs with me is the best thing ever :-) and they absolutely love PEI as well!  (I have shared this on another platform as well, and have not adapted it)


This guide is 100% effective in getting your pet to Canada, and may point you in the right directions for New Zealand or Australia.  It is basically step by step the process I used to take my 2 large dogs to Canada on 1 September 2019 – so the information is current.


1)       Start looking for kennels a few months in advance if you want to try and get secondhand over or a similar site.  I bought 1 like this, and the other via PetWorld.  Takealot also sell a good variety, but didn’t have a large enough one in stock at the time.  A good size for a large dog (ie Husky or German Shepherd type of size) is the Karlie XXL.  I paid around R3400 per kennel.  They are a lot cheaper for smaller dogs and cats, even below R1000.

The dimensions of my kennels as roughly measured by myself were as below (in cm):

                                                Width    Height   Length

Karlie XXL -                          66           75           96

SkyKennel Giant               84           94           118 (this one is enormous, and was logistically a bit impractical for airport trolleys and didn’t have wheels)

My advice is basically for a large dog the KarlieXXL type of size.  The IATA standard says the dog must be able to stand up and turn around in the kennel and the XXL was more than sufficient for a husky or german shepherd sized dog.  The SkyKennel’s width of 84cm meant it couldn’t fit on the airport trolley at Montreal airport and I had to push the kennel along the floor, which was hard work!


2)      The easiest airline to book flights for your pets on the same flight as you is KLM.  So this is what I did.  Try book your own flight about 2 months in advance, the prices go up closer to 1 month quite drastically.  I used to book all the way from Cape Town – Amsterdam – Montreal – Charlottetown (in Prince Edward Island).  The flights from Cape Town to Montreal were with KLM, and the last 1 hour domestic flight was with AirCanada.  You will get the usual 6 alphanumeric booking number, for example JLO6A4.  You will need this number to book your pets on the same flight as you with KLM. 


3)       Next you want to book your pets’ flight.  To do this you can either call KLM Call Centre in South Africa, or some people have phoned Amsterdam.  I spoke to a consultant in SA named JP and he was brilliant.  The number is 010 205 0101.  They will need the dimensions of the kennel, the weight of the kennel (I estimated mine at 8kg for the Karlie – the dog and the kennel must just be less than 45kg!) and the weight of your dog or cat.  Pets under 8kg can go on the actual flight with you and not be booked in the luggage hold, but this route obviously wasn’t available to me so the call centre will be best able to advise you on this if applicable.  There is also a ruling on what time of the year short or flat snouted dogs like pugs etc can fly, once again, check with the call centre, they will ask you about your dog’s snout ;-)  So first they take all these details, and then in 24 to 48 hours once they have confirmed the space, and availability on your connecting flights they will do the payment with a credit card over the phone.  I did my confirmation booking about 1 month in advance and there was space.  The cost of the flights for my 2 dogs was R5 596 – or 200USD per dog I think, so the price varies a bit with the exchange rate.  Its also much less if it’s a pet under 8kg.  I had a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam, which meant that my dogs had to go to the Schipol airport pet hotel in Amsterdam.  This was quite expensive in retrospect, and this is where you could save money if you only had 1 more flight to Montreal or Toronto for example.  Because I had another 4.5 hour layover in Montreal, I wanted my dogs to get taken out of the kennel and walked and watered etc in Amsterdam.  This was R5 600 for both dogs, so it is quite steep.  So depending on your budget, this is where you could save, just make sure your layover is under 2 hours in Amsterdam.


4)      If you have another domestic flight within Canada with another airline which is not partnered with KLM you will have to phone them to make a separate booking and payment for the last flight.  I phoned AirCanada on +1 888 247 2262 and made a confirmation with the same info as for KLM.  The cost for this flight was CAD105 per large dog.   If you are going to have another domestic flight within Canada, I really would suggest a 4+hour layover as you will have to get your bags and pets and transfer to the other airline and go through immigration.  My flight from Amsterdam was delayed by 1 hour, and then I had a bit of a circus with the Giant SkyKennel because it couldn’t fit on a trolley…  The 4.5 hours was just enough.   (All in all this was the only hiccup in my whole pet emigration so I was pretty chuffed anyhow.)  You will make the payment for the dogs when you check in for the flight, so have your credit card ready.


5)      THERE IS NO QUARANTINE FOR CANADA.  So all you need to do in terms of vet checks is make sure their rabies vaccination is done within 10 days of departure, and during this vet check, the vet must complete and stamp the top half of the form for the link to Canada   Which you then take to your nearest state vet office where they complete and stamp the bottom half and print it on a colour official looking page.  The cost is R173 per certificate.  I went to the Milnerton state vet at 22 Lobelia Street.  They are only open Mon – Fri from 9am to 12pm.  They don’t take appointments, you just pitch and it took about 20 minutes.  They just take your copy from your vet, and return with the new one and you pay.   When completing the form at your vet, make sure the details correspond with that in your vaccination booklet, although I wasn’t asked for this at the state vet or any of the customs, but carried it with me just in case.  I was asked to show my pet’s customs papers which is just this 1 page.  The link will take you to which has the addresses and contact details of all the state vet offices in SA.  Please note your pet does not go there, so if it’s far from you make a plan with a courier.


6)      In preparation for the flight I started giving my dogs CalmEeze every night for a week in advance.  You can’t sedate them with medication as this inhibits their ability to control their body temperature, so only CalmEeze or Rescue Remedy.  I tried to take a bottle of CalmEeze (about R240 for 250ml from your vet shop) in my hand luggage to give to my dogs in Montreal, but it got confiscated as it was over 100ml, so if you have a domestic flight and you feel you want to give them something during the layover take a small bottle of Rescue remedy.


7)       Getting the dogs and kennels to the airport was interesting.  We took ours apart, and tied it on to the car’s roof with a blanket between the roof and the kennels.  We loaded this onto a trolley and walked the dogs on their leashes to the check in counter.  For my 11pm flight, the latest we could check the dogs in was 9:30pm.   You check them in where you check your normal luggage in, but after check in you take them down to the bottom floor with the elevator at Cape Town international and ring the bell at a small window with an aluminium roll up door.  The people who open will be expecting you and will take the kennels and load them.   From here on you don’t see them until Canada, but mine did so well I was astonished.  They were definitely very happy to see me though.


8)       Good idea to pack some tinned food for the first day or so, preferably tins you don’t need an opener for.


9)       I stuck copies of all their receipts and permits on top of their cages, can’t say if it helped, but it helped for my OCD ;-) 


10)   Very important – attach a 2litre ice cream tub to the inside of the kennel door with cable ties so that they can be easily watered through the kennel door if they are not getting out of the kennel. 


11)   At the beginning of each flight before take-off I asked the air hostess to please check with the CAPTAIN if my dogs were aboard, once again this may have been more for my OCD than anything else.


12)   Flight from Cape Town to first airport in Canada (~R2 800) + kennel (~R 3 400) + pet export paper (~R173)+ vet visit and vaccine (~R1000) = ~R7 300 per large dog, all DIY :-)







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Thank you Rene, very informative! 

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Great post, @ReneLestan !


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Great post @ReneLestan.  We used KLM as well and I will recommend this route to anyone.

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