Timeline for moving Dogs to Kenya


By no means do I treat them as such but I do love my dogs like most people love their kids and when I move anywhere it goes without saying that they come along. My dog Simon has been with me for 12 years and in that time I traveled with him from Europe to Canada and from Canada to Kenya. Surprisingly moving Simon to Kenya has been the most difficult of the two and I wrote this to make it easier for you.

An IATA approved crate, a flight as luggage in the heated compartment and a dog passport or documents showing all vaccinations is all you usually need for moving to most countries with dogs.

Kenya is a whole step up but to take away your first worry, no quarantine period required for healthy dogs if you follow all the steps and get the documents. Time is everything here so take extra care on watching the time line. I will outline what we needed at the time which is about 2 years ago and all the links will be at the bottom for you to check on the latest news. Also read the entire post, some ridiculous things happened when looking for cargo (ripoffs!) and you can save yourself trouble and money here.


In the front our Simon, living the good life in Kenya with part of his dog crew.


Basic Docs For Dogs


This is the list I compiled when we traveled with our canine to Kenya from all the different sources Kenyan High commission, Cargo company and Veterinarian.

Dog has to micro-chipped and you have to know the number for shipping. Vets have a reader with which they can retrieve the number if you don’t know it.

Dog has to be rabies vaccinated at least 21 days in advance but not longer than a year.

International Health certificate from a veterinarian not older than 5 days before arrival and authenticated by the CFIA or USDA (or the equivalent for your country)

Pet Import permit from the Kenyan High Commission

Rabies inoculation Certificate from the Vet

*A statement from the CFIA (Canadian food Inspection Agency) that no rabies cases occurred in the current 30km area. It is on my personal list but I can’t retrieve where this requirement came from. It might not be mandatory, I remember though discussing this with the CFIA officer and they even had to draft one for us at the time. Just enquire if such is needed still.

The dog has to shipped by a cargo company. Airlines will not allow you to book a dog under regular luggage to Kenya.

Airlines Captain Affidavit stating that your pet was on a direct flight to Kenya.(The cargo and airline will provide these, you do not need to worry about this but ask)


First things


Let’s start with two biggest items on the list. Destination and shipping. On the Kenya High commission page you will find some info (the direct link is below). This is what it currently says (including spelling error by the way.)

Importing a Canine or Feline Animal into Kenya
Request letter providing owner’s name, address and telephone  number.
The pet’s name and sex
Copy of current health certificate/ vaccination record from the veterinery doctor.
Money order or bank certified cheque of CND $112.00 per animal payable to “Kenya High Commission”
Enclose a pre-paid self addressed return Xpresspost courier envelope from Canada Post (it should have a tracking number). Other courier services should have a “computer-generated label“
A copy of pet owner’s passport (bio page only)
I called them as well which was a good idea because it does not give you the details on processing times etc. The next most important thing is finding a cargo company. Two options here, we had Simon brought from Canada to Kenya straight with cargo which was the easiest and most economical option. I have also heard of people taking their dog half way as checked baggage on their flight and use a cargo company for last leg of the trip. Depending on where you fly from and with which ariline this can save you a bit of money. The cargo company staff will meet you in the airport and take it from there. It is not that much extra work.


4 weeks, getting started


Select a cargo company to ship your dog  and immediately get the requirements of the crate and documents. The Cargo companies are however not responsible for getting you the latest country regulations, it’s a courtesy and you have to call and double-check with the high commission if any changes have been made in the last weeks.

Double check all vaccinations particularly rabies and make an appointment if your dog needs to get his first shot so it is not shorter than 21 days before arrival in Kenya.

Order / buy your IATA approved crate in the right size. If you have any doubts please take your dog for a fitting. There are very strict regulations on how much space animals need and safety. It goes into how much space there should be with the ears being up and tail length etc. Don’t just wing it, they’ll not take your dog on the flight if it all doesn’t add up/

Call the High commission to consult what is needed for the permit. The high commission is very accommodating but the info on their website is very minimal. Our dog has an animal passport, a requirement for all animals in the Netherlands. It shows all vaccinations and treatments in their entire lifetime. We send that by email ahead for them to see if there was anything we missed. Make sure you talk to the right person that specializes in permits.


  3 weeks ahead of time


Get your buddy used to the crate. This  I learned from the first time I flew with my little buddy. The crate is not a treat for dogs. No matter how people stuff their dogs in a cage and call it a bench, it is not what dogs are supposed to be in and if you have a free spirit like our Simon, he is not going to be thrilled. I put the IATA crate in the living room with the top off for a while and put sometimes a treat in it. Simon did not care for it. How ever, he did get used to it and that did help me on Schiphol Amsterdam, when I traveled to Canada with him. I was in line to check Simon in and he as waiting on the leash. He looked around a few times, decided he didn’t like the crowd and just hopped into the crate.

Get an emergency contact in Kenya. Assuming it’s a work or family move and not a vacation, you have people locally that can pick up your dog at the airport if it is impossible for you or if your flight is delayed. The shipping company will need those names to add them to the shipping documents. Only then are those you assign able to clear your dog. Do not hope someone in Nairobi airport is going to take your dogs for walks or give them water if the owner shows up a day late. They might but dogs are put in a hall with the rest of the cargo shipments. I would never take the risk.


10 days left to go


Book your dogs airline ticket. The cargo company will guard your timeline and they will let you know when they need to book and what documents they need for that, health certificate, your passport, vaccinations details. Some of those you can bring when dropping the dog off for his flight, some they need for booking so have everything ready. Your dog might not be on the same flight as you and that is okay since not all airlines will have space or availability for transporting animals and not all airlines are equally good at it.

Our dog flew KLM about 4 hours earlier than we did for instance. KLM has a very solid program for flying animals. A stopover in Amsterdam (since they don’t leave the airport it is considered a direct flight) brings them to the Animal hotel. It is a kennel where animals get water, food and a walk if needed. No pluche seats and room service in case you were thinking 🙂 Simon arrived about the same time in Nairobi which was very important to me. I didn’t want him to be there by himself for hours before we got there. More on collecting your dog below.


7 days, time to amp it up


Send all the documents (Vaccination documents, passport copies, permit request letter) to the Kenyan High Commission. I send the scans of the passport in advance along with the letter and our passport by email for them to start on the permit. The cheque (i know right! so old skool…) and the express return envelope, prints of all the documents and letter I send by snail mail the same day. The permit was returned to us within 2 days. On the back of the permit it lists all requirements so please read those when you get it to see if anything was left our during the communication.


5 days before arrival in Kenya


Now it’s time to knock it all in 12th gear. Check the date of arrival and work 5 days back. It’s the date of arrival and not departure, can’t say that enough, in case you missed the first 3 times I said it 😉

Get the International Health Certificate : http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/exports/live-animals/health-certificates/pets/canadian-international-health-certificate/eng/1321285405995/1321285496577 Print in in LEGAL, please don’t print it in two parts on letter. It’s been a while but I remember somewhere there was trouble with accepting this.

Vet appointment with your dog for checking up, signing and stamping the Health certificate and get you a rabies inoculation certification that also mentions the microchip details and such. Get a flea and tick treatment or have the Vet sign off on the dog having had one recently. Our experience, no guarantees, our dog used to get the flea/tick drops once a month and we did not need to give him a flea dip before the trip. The vet marked it in his passport as a being treated and flea free.

CFIA/USDA (or country equivalent)  to authenticate the Health Certificate. CFIA is very thorough and the officer will check on the latest info they have on traveling to Kenya with animals.

Fax or email all the documents shipping documents, health certificates etc to your contacts in Kenya. Do not forget this in case something happens and your dog needs to be cleared by someone other than yourself.

Now you have your trip booked, your dog prepped, your crate assembled, and you double checked with the  cargo company on timings and arrival at the airport. You are good to go.


The night before traveling


Freeze the drinking bowl with water. The crate comes with an attachable bowl. Pets need to have water for on the flight but isn’t that going to spill? The night before flying freeze the bowl with water so it will stay solid for a long time and wrap it in a cool bag on the way to the cargo drop off.  Obviously this only makes sense if you live within reasonable distance of the airport.

Prepare the crate. I’m a sentimentalist and I put a towel I had him sleep on in his bed for a few days  so he could have a home smell to it. Please don’t put any stuffed animals and toys in the crate. The cargo company might through it out or not allow it since they overcrowd the already cramped space. The bottom needs to be very absorbent in case they have an accident. Dogs are very hygienic and will hold it until absolutely impossible and it’s not very likely he will pee in his crate but just in case. The top has a little compartment to fit a leash (get a nylon one from the dollar store, they fit in there) and a small bag with a few biscuits. On entering most customs will not allow even dog food and it will be thrown.

Prep the dog. We fed Simon only a few dog treats before we left. The more food the dog gets, the more poo he has to hold midflight. Very uncomfortable. Don’t feel bad, the fasting is not bad for them and they can catch up when once arriving in the new home. Simon didn’t eat or drink anything during checking in or on his stopover due to the stress of the flight. The cargo company stays in touch with every handler on the flight and stopover, this is how we know.

Don’t give pets anything sedative before flights, according to vet and airline. Your dog can never be sedated or medicated outside of supervision. Dogs could respond different to medication due to altitude. In a pre-flight assessment of the dogs health a drowsy dog is hard to judge and an unhealthy listless dog can cause all sorts of confusion and liability considerations.


Time to fly!


Of course you have already planned out your route. Your dog is ready to be delivered to the shipping company who will do all the boarding for you. Time for a last walk and handing them over to the staff.


Pick up in Nairobi (we tag teamed it!)


We are lucky to have a very loving family in Nairobi. My sister in-law planned our entire arrival like a military operation. Two duos: One to pick us up with the luggage and one other duo was already on their way to the Trans Global Cargo Center to pick up Simon. We arrived past midnight and there was very little staff present. It turned out to be a great idea to send someone ahead because we spend almost 2 hours waiting for our little man to clear. This was mostly due to waiting for staff that was busy elsewhere to stamp documents. During the day this must be far more efficient. Most of the clearing of cargo is now automated and the days where one of our friend had to pay almost 300 USD in non existing fees to various people are long gone. We only needed to pay a minor fee for clearing.

For reasons unknown the crate was solidly tied together with tie wraps on 6 different points which were almost impossible to cut  when he was handed to us. Our dog team however came well prepared and we were able to release him fast for a little walk outside of the cargo center.


Photo: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport website

Dog License Nairobi


Nairobi has a strict policy on pets and a license is needed for every dog. If there are more than four dogs a license has to be applied for the premises as well. Do it as soon as possible, the time for new canine residents to be licensed is limited. While writing this the online application for dog licenses in the making. At the time of writing this post dog licenses can be gotten at the Department of Veterinary Services, Off Waiyaki Way, Kabete, Nairobi
Tel: +254 (020) 2700705. Very soon there will be an application process online. The rate currently is 1000Ksh but rumor has it will be raised.


What to watch out for – Cargo rip offs


My search for a good cargo company was riddled with the wildest of quotes. One quoted 5000 CND (!) from Toronto to Kenya with a stopover in Dubai without even knowing the weight or the size of the dog and the crate. No breakdown of the costs, no nothing. My guess is that they were aiming at expats with a fancy budget for moving. Another one was not specialized in livestock and when asked a few questions he himself decided that shipping a Jack Russell was out of his reach. Comparing options is definitely something you want to do here. We had quotes range from 1000 CND to 5000 CND for the exact same dates and service.  In case you are very curious on the total costs: we spend 900 CND on the cargo, 300 CND on permits and fees. Seaair (http://www.seaair.ca/) came in best in both knowledge and experience on shipping animals and best quote. So for taking your dog for a vacation that might be a little much. Our 13 year old little man has been retiring in the sun for the last 18 months and for me it was worth it completely.


Veterinary care in Kenya


In case the quality of veterinary care is a worry for you in considering to take your dog along to Kenya. No need to worry, Kenya has excellent vets. You know what, vets in Nairobi are so much better than Canada. In Ontario I always felt like I wasn’t allowed to leave without spending a bomb. Kenya has excellent trained and certified vets. We have 4 dogs and our vet is Dr. Moshinali Likoniwalla (+254 722 724 487). Very kind, very precise and reliable. He has done minor procedures on our dogs, does all the vaccinations and he assisted us when we had to let our old German Sheppard go. He also is a wild life vet and he treats Rhinos and all wildlife which is a little off topic here but its so cool (seriously)

The other veterinarian we brought our dogs to is in Village market, Dr Shifaz (+254 712 4166 / 0722511761)  who runs a clinic with his daughters. When Mossin was out of town Shifaz treated our dog for an emergency. Both are excellent vets and they do house calls.


Dr Moshin performing a dental cleaning on one of our dogs


You didn’t bring your own dog but you would like one?

In that case, there is a place you need to go right away. #KSPCA (Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals) is the Kenyan animal shelter. Caring and loving staff and very well-kept animals. You will be spoiled for a the variety of pets and guard dogs. I personally would be very inclined to bring home one of the former stray dogs, a local mix breed which is very hardy, healthy and kind. See below Roxy,Poppy, Winston and Emma from the adopt me page from KSPCA http://www.kspca-kenya.org/get-involved/adopt-a-pet/


Useful links and resources

Kenyan animal shelter http://www.kspca-kenya.org/donate-now/

Travel info on pet travel http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/kenya.cfm

Cargo shipping recommended http://www.seaair.ca/

Kenya High commission Ottawa Canada http://kenyahighcommission.ca/certificates/importing-a-canine-or-feline-animal-into-kenya/

Nairobi JKIA Freight and Cargo https://kaa.go.ke/corporate/cargo/cargo-at-jkia/





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