Abbie is not going to Barbados

One of the few ways to get a dog from Canada into Barbados is via the United Kingdom. That’s quite a detour for a trip to the beach.

Working in a military town such as Quinte West, veterinarians regularly get to wrestle with the bureaucracy that governs exporting pets to other countries. When families move, they understandably don’t want to leave the four-legged members of their clans behind and, in the military, they move a lot.

Over the years, we’ve helped send dogs and cats to England, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. It’s rarely easy and often fraught with last-minute scrambles to ensure the paperwork is correct. However, it has never before involved traipsing with a pet halfway across the world and back.

Some clients recently asked about taking their little pug, Abbie, to Barbados on an extended vacation. I suspected it wouldn’t be as easy as filling out a health certificate, but hadn’t expected to find quite such an enormous roadblock. Barbados is a rabies-free country and understandably wants to stay that way.

“Dogs and cats may only be imported directly from a specific list of rabies-free countries,” says the Ministry of Agriculture’s advisory to pet owners. “For all other countries, the pet must first enter a qualifying country and then be re-exported to Barbados.”

Fortunately, other such countries have made their own rules more lenient in recent years. In the old days, the only way for Canadians to export a pet to a rabies-free country such as England, was to place the animal in quarantine for six months. Needless to say, this expensive and stressful path was not often taken. Over the last decade or so, the rules have been evolving. Now, by undergoing a strict program of microchipping, vaccinating, testing and treating for infectious disease, pets can become eligible for import to many countries previously off limits.

The amount of paperwork and attention to detail demanded by this process makes my head hurt and my hand cramp, but it’s a vast improvement over six months of quarantine. And, as of January 2012, moving pets to the United Kingdom became almost easy.

Perhaps the Bajan government will consider updating their own rules to allow direct import of properly tested and treated pets, but even then it’s unlikely to be worthwhile for a vacation – sorry Abbie. Don’t feel too bad for her. I’m assured she’ll be having a great time getting spoiled by relatives.

For other local families planning on moving or travelling with pets outside of Canada, an early discussion with your veterinarian could save huge hassles and heartache. Obviously, the rules vary a lot between countries, the requirements can be confusing and sometimes the process is best started as much as a year in advance.

Some web sources of further information:

Canadian International Health Certificate information

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
Trenton, Ontario
June 2012