Shipping our Dog to Saudi Arabia (part 1)

By | July 24, 2011

[UPDATE September 2014: I have published a blog post with instructions for moving your dog from USA to KAUST]

When we were deciding whether to move from England to Saudi Arabia, our dog Muttley was a major factor in our decision making. We went into it knowing it would be stressful and expensive, and possibly traumatic to Muttley, however we knew the move would give all of us a better quality of life. We heard many success stories from dog owners in Saudi, and were confident that we could get him here.

Muttley finally made it to Saudi safe and sound on Wednesday. His journey was ultimately a success, but we had some major unexpected hurdles along the way. We hope that by sharing our story here, others can learn from our experience.


When dogs fly

My first concern when thinking about flying Muttley to Saudi was his safety and anxiety. Muttley is a year and a half old lab/collie rescue dog. He is pretty nervous by nature, so I was concerned about how the move would play into his anxiety.

My initial thought was to give him some sort of tranquilizer that would put him to sleep on the plane – we’d say goodbye to him in London, and he’d wake up in Jeddah. For us it was definitely not that simple! Firstly, it turns out that giving dogs tranquilizers for plane travel is a pretty bad idea. Secondly, his journey turned out to be far more complicated than a single flight or even a single week.

So, I talked to my vet about his anxiety and she agreed that tranquilizers were a dangerous option and recommended I look into purchasing a Dog Appeasing Pheromone. DAP is a synthetic chemical that mimics the pheromones released by mother dogs. The chemicals are said to relax dogs during stressful situations like fireworks, going to the vet, moving house, or flying.

DAP comes in 3 forms – a collar, a spray, and a plug-in diffuser. We bought all three and have found success with all of them. The spray is good for spraying his blanket or other area when he’s anxious (like the crate right before the flight). The collar is good for the time 1 week before, during, and 1 week after the flight. The plug-in diffuser is good for introducing him to his new home. We probably didn’t need all three, but we’ve used all of them and have found him to be much more relaxed as a result.

Hiring a Dog Exporter

When we decided to move, my mom put me in touch with a lady who was already at KAUST who had shipped several animals to Saudi from the UK. She explained the process to us and recommended that we talk to Christine at Whitehouse Kennels about their pet export service. Whitehouse was instrumental in helping us get all of the paperwork needed both in the UK and in Saudi, as well as transporting Muttley to his pre-travel vet visit and to the airport on move day.

I am not sure I can express to you just how complex the export process is. Here is what is needed for export out of the UK:

  1. Purchase plane tickets and an approved crate
  2. The dog must be microchipped
  3. The dog must receive a rabies vaccination no less than 30 days and no more than 12 months prior to the export
  4. Export Health certificate from Defra
  5. A vet visit within 96 hours of the flight for the legalization of the export health certificate.
  6. Formalizing the health certificate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Saudi Embassy (after vet legalization).
  7. Notarization of the health certificate (I think….I would have to follow up with Whitehouse kennels on this one)
So, as if moving country wasn’t stressful enough, export from the UK requires that you have a vet visit, a trip to the FCO, a trip to the Saudi Embassy, and notarization all within 96 hours of flying. Knowing what we do about international moves, we knew that the last 96 hours are manic and that we would not have the time to do all of this without some help. So, Whitehouse Kennel’s service was a good fit as they did all of this for us.

Import Paperwork

On the import side, all you need is a Saudi Import Permit. Normally, a separate agent in Saudi is used to obtain this, unfortunately none was available to help us. Apparently Jeddah Vets is the only company in the entire country that regularly imports dogs into Jeddah, and for some reason they have decided to close up shop for the entire summer.
After learning of the closing, our inital thought was to house Muttley in the UK for a few months until Jeddah Vets re-opened, but everyone assured us that importing him would be easy as pie and we just needed to get the Saudi Import Permit issued. This is all done in arabic, so we needed some help. In the end, the Whitehouse Kennels folks helped us find a company based out or Ryiadh that agreed to do this for us – but were not acting as import agents (this is NOT recommended – if you’re moving here, get Jeddah based import agent to do the import permit and act as your import agent!)

Running into problems

On the Thursday before we flew from London to Jeddah, a rep from Whitehouse Kennels picked up Muttley. He then took all the steps listed above in the visa requirement process – he took Muttley to the vet, went to the FCO and the Embassy etc, and brought Muttley back to their Kennels for the weekend. Part of the deal was that they would pick up Muttley from our house in the UK on Thursday, and drop him off at  Heathrow the following Wednesday for his flight. From there, Muttley would fly to Germany via Lufthansa, spend the night there, then head to Jeddah. (BTW, apparently Lufthansa has excellent animal services).

Kevin and I arrived in Jeddah on Monday morning and on Tuesday (the day Muttley was due to go to Heathrow), I got an urgent call from Christine. There was a problem at Jeddah airport and we needed to drop everything and go there to figure it out. So, I called Kevin home from work on his first day in his new job and the two of us hopped in a cab to Jeddah airport. 5 hours later, we arrived back home at KAUST, and Muttley was back at the kennels instead of on his flight. Jeddah Air cargo was supposed to send an “Okay to Forward” to the airline in Germany, but they never did it, so Muttley was not allowed to board the flight out of the UK.

We were gutted.

From the beginning of the process I was “in-charge” of the dog’s needs and Kevin was helping to make decisions along the way. It was at this point that Kevin had to take the lead. For better or worse, women aren’t typically invited to partake in business here in Saudi and things were pretty dire – so Kev took the lead from this point on.

In the next post, Kevin will tell the rest of the story in his own words. Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger here!

[UPDATE: Part 2 is now posted]

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