What you need to know about planning a flight with your cat or dog in SA

2016-02-03 18:00 - Sam Smith
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Cape Town - One of the most stressful parts of planning a holiday for some is thinking what they should do with their animals or rather, four-legged children.

For some, the worry of travelling with them, or even worse, leaving them behind, is too much to handle - making many back-out of their holidays or simply, never letting the idea of one pass their minds. 

READ: You wouldn't believe these cute animals are actually airport staff

While a long haul 'get-up-and-go' scenario is not possible with every animal and its human - the following could make for a smoother transition between home and the rest of the world. 

South African regulations for animals coming into South Africa entail the following - dogs must be quarantined for a period of 14 days when arriving from Brazil, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico or the United Arab Emirates. 

If you are a cat owner, you will be glad to know that cats are exempt from quarantine, according to South African Tourism

Traveller24 has put together a guide to preparing a domestic or international flight for your animal. Take a look at these key components. 

Here are seven highly recommended pre-travel tips from Fly a pet to help you get used to the idea of travelling with Fluffy or Bonzo.

Preparation is key:

Try and get your animal used to the idea of a small space beforehand, as it will have to be in a closed kennel container for the duration of the flight. Let it explore, sit in it and become familiar with the kennel it will be transported in. Never close the door and lock it in. 

Check with your vet and relocation company that your animal is suited to travelling. 

Depending on the temperament of your animal, do not heavily sedate or tranquilise your pet. Pets generally travel well and are required to be alert. 

Make sure there is a familiar item in their travel kennel to help them settle. Thing's like their blankets, towels or an item of your clothing will help them settle.

Do not obstruct the ventilation of the kennel with excess or bulky items.

Do not feed your pet for at least four hours before departure. 

Make sure it is well-hydrated.

Make sure the travel kennel allows your pet to stand upright and turn around with ease. 

Information on local airlines that carry pets

Fly domestic in South Africa - Mango

Low-cost carrier, Mango airlines transport domestic pets only - this includes dogs, cats and small domestic birds. All the pets flying with Mango are checked in as cargo and fly in a pressurized compartment in the belly of the aircraft.

What you need to know about flying locally with Mango: 

You are charged R30 per kg, with a maximum weight of 32 kg. (The weight of the pet and container) 

Your animal is not included in the checked baggage. 

Each passenger may travel with two animals

You must pay your pet fees at the airport - and keep in mind that the number of pets allowed is subject to space availability. 

To book a flight for your pet - Call the Mango centre on 0861 162646

Rules and regulations

Pet containers are not allowed in the passenger cabin.

You must make sure your pet is in a suitable container when placed in the hold. 

You are only allowed one pet per container.

The container must be leakproof and meet government requirements.  

The container must be metal, polyethylene or fibreglass.

The containers will be inspected before approval.

You must personally check in your pet yourself.

Fly domestic and international - South African Airways

SAA only allows service dogs to be carried in the cabin. 

Service dogs fly free of charge.

Animals must be carried as 'manifested cargo' in accordance with the IATA Live Animals.

The cargo section of SAA deals with bookings for your pets.

SAA explains that only cats or dogs will be allowed as excess baggage on domestic flights, and only on certain aircraft.

You must confirm acceptance of this in advance. 

The weight of your pet and its container is charged as excess baggage - it is not accepted as part of the free baggage. 

You must ensure that your pet is adequately crated, that you are able to present the valid health and vaccination certificates, entry permits and documents needed for entry or transit in other countries and NSPCA. 

If travelling with SAA - call the centre of animal enquiries - 0861 359 722


As of 4 May 2015, kulula.com does not accept domestic pets and live animals at all their check-in counters. 

They do allow service dogs - which are allowed to be checked-in as well as in the cabin.

kulula advises travellers to use an external pet travelling service or call 0800 22 1139,  email animals@bidaircargo.com to arrange transport for you pet.

You are required to do so at least 48-hours in advance.

Animals will be transported via dedicated holding area and will be allowed access to the Pet Loungewhich offers services at Johannesburg (ORT or Lanseria airport), Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London and George.

Other services for travelling with pets 

Global Paws - This service focuses on transporting dogs, cats and birds, but are also able to assist with transporting most animals. 

Global Paws even has experience with transporting celebrity animals and animal TV stars. A consultant from Global Paws will choose a pet-friendly airline for you and your pet. 

Your pet will be booked as manifest cargo and will travel in the livestock hold beneath the passenger cabin - where it is lit, heated and pressurised.

Make sure your pet is booked for the flights several hours before departure. 

Global Paws advises you to refrain from feeding your animal a large meal before the flight - as the animal will be crated for an extended duration of time. If it is is overfed, it will leave a larger mess in its crate or become constipated. Either outcome is unpleasant for the animal. 

Make sure you feed it well the night before and take it on a long walk before the flight. 

Weather conditions are very important when flying domestically and internationally

Airlines reserve the right to refuse to board your pet as cargo or checked baggage when runway temperatures are above 29C or if it is below 7C at the time of departure. 

In the event of this occurring, but you believe your animal is built to withstand colder temperatures, like a husky, an eskimo dog or an anatolian shepherd - you will need to present an Acclimation Certificate

For a detailed list of pet cargo airline restrictions - click here 

Companies that do it all

Most pet importers and cargo experts specialise in transporting your pets on the long road in appropriate vehicles - door to door, door to airport and also offer to find flights for your pets with airlines connected the company. 

Local pet transport specialists in South Africa offer services like exports arrangements, kennelling, quarantine arrangements, suitable travel containers and kennels, all paperwork and approved documentation as well as booking flights with the best airlines for pets.

At each company you will need to apply for a quote - prices differ according to company. 

Fly a Pet - South Africa

Pet Movers - South Africa 

Aeropets worldwide - Johannesburg 

Animal Travel Services - Cape Town 

PETport - Rynfield 

Pets En Transit - KZN 

A photo posted by Samantha (@farabeest) on

Here is a checklist of things to consider:

Make sure you have your Import Permit

This is the most important documentation that the person on the ground or the export company will need. You need an Import Permit to travel.

Make sure your layovers are in order

If your pet is flying cargo and there is a layover - try and make sure the layover is long enough for the airline staff to transfer the animal to your next airline flight.

Without this - you run the risk of the animal staying behind for much longer or flying out the next day. 

Ask the local embassy about pet import rules

If there are details about documents on the embassy website - never take it for granted that this is the only documentation you will need. Animal import rules are often very sticky.

Find as many sources of information as possible, from social media communities and animal owners both locally and at your destination.

Double, double, double check with your airline

This is one of the scenarios, which require the utmost planning and accuracy. Some airlines might allow an emotional support animal on board in the cabin but may not allow a disability service animal in the cabin. The all differ. 

PICS: Man brings a turkey on flight for emotional support

Let the vet check

Pay a visit to the vet before taking your pet on holiday. Most countries need an updated health certificate. This way they will advise you if the animal is fit and healthy enough to travel and could possibly offer some insider solutions to animal anxiety and trauma.

Take a look at Global Paws cat and dog checklist:

What the process entails, according to Global Paws

1. Find a suitable airline or animal travel service. The animal services are mostly all inclusive and will arrange everything for you

2. Get a quote if you are using a company 

3. Understand the quote. Global Paws explains that overseas animal travel is often far more expensive than human travel. The price is calculated by how much space the animal takes up. 

If you are working with an animal travel company - vet services,  airline fees, administration fees, crate charges and additional customs or state vet endorsements will all be taken into consideration. If you opt to not use an animal travel company - be prepared to allocate enough time to source all of the documentation, have enough fees to pay for vet visits, inoculations, crates and kennels. 

4. Get your dates in order
When taking your pet to another country - they will need veterinary preparation and each one can take a different amount of time and commitment, explains Global Paws. 

If you are preparing to take your animal to Europe - it will most probably take 3 - 4 months, whereas taking it to the US will require anything between 5-30 days preparation. Bare in mind that preparing for a trip to New Zealand can take up to 7 months. 

5. Research each countries travel requirements

6. Working with your vet - Take into consideration that vets are not travel experts but are able to heal your pet and put preventative measures in place. 

A photo posted by Anna Shook (@annacshook) on

Here are some common issues which you should avoid:

You cannot microchip your animal after the rabies vaccination unless it is done on the same day. Do not draw blood for the TITRE rabies test less than 30 days after your animal's last rabies vaccination. 

You should not boost the rabies vaccination within 30 days before the animal is set to depart - it will delay the departure. 

"An import permit is required for most of African, South American & Asian countries.Australia & New Zealand also require an import permit. Countries like The USA, Canada and most EU countries do not require an import permit. "

If an import permit is required - note that: 

Import permits must be obtained from the country of destination. The permits must be applied for months in advance and have validity periods, so make sure your pet travels within this period. The permit is valid for one trip only and cats and dogs travel on separate permits

7. All international destinations require a valid rabies vaccination - meaning it must have been administered within the past year and not within the last thirty days. 

8. If you have your own kennel you can arrange for your pet to be picked up on the day of departure. 

Make sure the pets kennel contains two water bowls with water, food bowls with food as well as proper lining and blankets. Bare in mind that if you are using a wooden kennel, some countries will insist that the kennel is destroyed after. 

9. Global Pets explains that your animal's ticket cannot be bought more than ten days before the flight. It is an airline regulation for AVI (Live animals). Make sure you receive your airline waybill (AWB)

11. Make sure you have a stamped and signed health insurance certificate from the vet. 

12. It can take up to two hours for your animal's kennel to be offloaded. Once you are reunited - your documentation will be checked by a state vet. 

Once you are all safe and sound at your new destination - reward your animal with lots of belly rubs, treats and cuddles.

Share your travel experiences with us. You can email us at  info@traveller24.co.za or connect with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.