This is a guide to taking your dog from Uganda to the UK, based on the personal experience of Adelaine Williams, an expat resident in Uganda. Much of this information will be relevant to international pet shipping to other countries but do check with the relevant authorities first. Addy’s dog’s name is Prince, making his full name ‘Prince Williams.’
As regular Diary of a Muzungu readers will know, Uganda has made me a big fan of dogs. I’d often wondered whether I would one day take my recycled street dog Baldrick to the UK from Uganda. Tragically, he had an accident, just around the time Addy emailed me this guide. I feel very sad that Balders and I will never make this journey together, but such is life. Like Prince, Baldrick was a rescue dog from the Uganda Society of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals USPCA.
DISCLAIMER: this post was published in 2013 so we can’t guarantee all info is still uptodate. However, I do add small updates in the comments section.
Addy kindly agreed that I could add her experience to Diary of a Muzungu as I know many people, particularly expats in Uganda, will find her experience invaluable. My dog trainer friend Ronald Kyobe of A to Z Mobile Dog Training Unit, Kampala is another great source of advice on anything to do with dogs in Uganda.
My way is not the only way. A lot of my decisions were based on cost, not ease. Please note that details on taking pets to the UK from Uganda should be verified according to UK law on the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website. It should be noted that law and policy have changed frequently over the past year. CHECK THESE DETAILS!!! As such the author is not liable for any misinformation given in this guide.
I found that it took many months to organise taking Prince back to the UK
The vet should be able to tell you which type of microchip is best.
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) recommend (but this is not compulsory): ISO (International Standards Organisation) Standard microchips meeting specifications 11784 or Annex A of ISO Standard 11785 are used.
Register your microchip on the PETtrac UK Microchip Database www.pettrac.co.uk/owners. You also have to pay for this process. They will send you a certificate in the post. You will need to get this sent to you in Uganda. I managed to do this when I was in the UK for a visit. I’m not sure if it’s a legal requirement to certify the microship but I found the certificate was regularly checked on my journey home.
The dog should be vaccinated against Rabies after the microchip is inserted.
Make sure you keep the dogs vaccination records. Note: if just one of the vaccinations is given a day late, that may cause a problem.
I used a combination of Dr Alex ex-USPCA (tel +256 772433054) and Dr Berna from the veterinary clinic in Mutungo. I would recommend them both.
After the micro-chipped dog has completed its first Rabies vaccination course, you need to wait at least 21 days before you and your dog can fly. Dogs are not allowed to fly until after this period. Ideally wait for one month.
After a minimum of 21 days, you can take the dog to the vets for a blood test to demonstrate that the dog’s Rabies vaccination has sufficiently taken. The vet will take a blood sample and send this off to South Africa for analysis.
The testing lab in South Africa will send you an email to say that they have received the blood sample. They should give you a reference number. When you receive this you must pay the lab in South Africa the required fees via bank transfer. Do not lose this reference number.
Your dog will not be able to travel without this certificate. Carry it with you in hand luggage during the flight.
Measure your dog and find out what crate size you need. The Animal Instinct website shows you how to measure your dog and can help you calculate the size of the crate
Getting the right dog carrier was probably the hardest task for me, especially as Prince is a giant sized dog. Some of the vets in Uganda occasionally import carriers but the giant sized ones are hard to find. Allow plenty of time for this. Incoming shipments aren’t regular and the carriers are taken fast. I have heard Belgium Airways sometimes sells them.
I imported a secondhand dog carrier from the UK because I couldn’t guarantee finding one in Uganda in time. I paid £100 for it plus delivery to Uganda.
There are not many companies who will allow individuals to ship personal goods by air freight. I could not find anyone at Heathrow that would charge a reasonable amount. In the end I used a company based at Birmingham International airport called Aramex (UK) International Courier Lt, tel +44 121 782 2882.
The carrier flew on Emirates. I took the carrier unwrapped to the cargo shipping office so they could check what I was sending. I filled out forms at the first office, then paid at Aramex’s office. It is possible to send from the first office but that would have cost me nearly £400. By using Aramex, I only paid £180.
You need to keep and have the airway bill to collect the carrier. In Entebbe, it took nine hours to collect the carrier due to paperwork and checks. You have to pay an agent to help you. This should cost about 250,000 ugx. (Note: some agents tried to charge me three times this amount).
I mistakenly decided to wait for the cargo myself. I had no idea it would take nine hours and kept being told it was nearly done. Instead I would suggest you just pay extra for an agent to clear the goods and deliver it to you. I would recommend using this agent Deo: 077262770. He has a van which helps if delivering giant size dog carriers.
From what I understand, British Airways can take you and your dog direct to the UK, but your dog must fly as cargo as the UK has an embargo on dogs from Africa. I was told that BA would cost nearly £2000. Also, if Prince flew as cargo, I would have to pay an agent to receive him on the UK side. Not sure how true this is as different people have told me different things, but it was clear that BA would be a more expensive option so I decided not to take this route.
Instead I chose to fly Prince with KLM, one of the few companies that still allow your dog to travel as baggage. However, because of the embargo, they will only fly your dog as far as Amsterdam.
KLM charged me $200 to take Prince as baggage, although at the airport the check-in staff tried to charge me $400. I refused and only paid $200.
The KLM office in Kampala will help you book your dog on a flight and send you a confirmation email.Note: arrange this early as there is a limit on how many animals can travel on one flight.
Once you have confirmed your dog’s place on the flight and about three weeks before you fly (after you have received the Rabies certificate) return to the vet and ask them to arrange export papers.
You should receive an EU third country vet certificate and a Ugandan inter-state movement permit.
A day or two before you fly, your dog must have a last minute check-up and deworming and flea treatment. The vet will write you a health exam certificate.
NOTE: I was forced to stay an extra day in Amsterdam because the vet did not add the last check details to the third party certificate. There is a box for worming etc – shown in pink, above . This must be completed with the date, time AND vet’s stamp!
IMPORTANT: Do not put any marks or notes on the document yourself. I did, and nearly was not let into the UK because of it.
I was worried about how I would get the huge carrier and Prince to check-in. (Yes, you actually have to go to the check-in desk!)
I spoke to the security man nicely and they allowed me to drive right up to the departures door (usually you have to park and walk up stairs). When I arrived, I had Prince on the lead and the carrier was collapsed down. An assistant came to help me. (I ended up paying him 10,000 ugx on the condition that he stayed with me until after the dog was checked in).
I walked through with Prince and the assistant helped me to pass the carrier and luggage through the scanner.
Because of the dog, I was allowed in slightly earlier than the other customers (about 2 ½ hours before the flight). I went to the check-in desk and handed over my and my dog’s papers. They brought photocopies and stickers for the carrier.
Prince had to be put inside the carrier and weighed (the assistant helped me to do this!) It was only at this point that I constructed the carrier.
Once my dog was weighed, the assistant left me. I made sure Prince had water, treats, blanket and toys. I stayed at check-in with him for about 45 minutes, until ground crew came to collect him.
Note: feed your dog on the morning of the flight only. It’s not nice for the dog if he has to go to the loo in the carrier. I made sure my dog was fed as soon as he got off the plane.
The dog will be brought straight to the baggage area after your flight. Prince was there waiting for me with a member of ground crew as soon as I arrived. There were no further checks or anything to declare.
I was not lucky enough to have someone meet me with a car at Amsterdam. I thought I would have to leave the carrier at the airport. (It’s about 1m high and 1.2 m long so I couldn’t manage the carrier, my luggage and Prince). It would have cost me more to ship it home than to buy another one new.
I thought about donating it. The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals was willing to come and collect it. You can email them to discuss it. In the end, a good Samaritan saw me struggling and actually offered to help me send it home for free, but you can’t rely on that happening. I was just lucky.
After collecting my luggage, I left the airport, gave Prince food and we had a bit of a walk about. I then purchased tickets for the train to the Hook of Holland so we could catch the ferry to the UK.
It was quite tricky getting Prince and luggage on the train. I had everything in a backpack and the short leash and harness helped a lot. Lots of kind people helped me.
You have to change trains once but we just walked to an opposite platform so it wasn’t too hard. Prince seemed bewildered but everything went ok.
I think technically dogs are meant to wear a muzzle on the train in the Netherlands; this is why you need one. Mine didn’t wear a muzzle though and no one complained.
Note: there are two Hook of Holland stops – depart at the first one.
I had booked my tickets in advance with Stena Line who allow dogs on with walk on passengers as they have kennels on-board. You must book in advance but I suggest you pay the extra and book flexible tickets.
I had trouble with my paperwork as the time and date of worming were not stamped on the third party certificate. At this point I nearly cried! However the Stena staff were used to this happening (although maybe not for dogs from Uganda). They directed me to a dog-friendly hotel and booked us a vet, so it was lucky I had booked flexible tickets.
The hotel has a special dog friendly room, which cost 75 Euros, with a garden. Prince loved it and it’s just a few minutes walk from the train station and Stena office. The vet is just a few doors down from the hotel. Although I didn’t plan a stopover I would strongly suggest one. In hindsight it was a good thing that Prince and I were delayed as it gave us time to take a breather. Hook of Holland is a lovely place and there are nice walks for you and your dog along the beach and in the woods.
Once you have checked-in, go to a supervisor who will scan your dog’s microchip and check your papers. If all is ok, you are given a green pass and can walk your dog onto the ferry.
On the ferry, go to the service desk who will give you a passcode for the kennels and escort you there. The kennels are nice and, unlike the plane, you can visit your dog during the journey. The ferry is great and has cinema, restaurants etc.
When we docked in the UK, we just walked off the ferry. No more checks were needed (although apparently sometimes they do have an extra check upon arrival).
I had a friend pick me up from the ferry terminal and we were home!!!!
The Muzungu says:
Are you thinking of taking your dog to the UK or overseas? If you’ve been through this process, do you have any comments to add?
Do you have any other Uganda travel tips, expat travel advice or stories you’d like to share? Please check out the Diary of a Muzungu Guest Post page for information on how to share your story, I’d love to hear from you!