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Air Travel with Rabbits
by Kapil Sharma

Bringing your pet bunny overseas from Singapore might seem like a daunting task at first. However, if you plan and organize your travel with attention to detail, the trip can be completed comfortably and safely.

I recently relocated to Paris with my 6-year old adopted rabbit - Beta. This article offers some practical advice and suggestions if you too are planning on a trip with your bunny.

Planning
First, check the regulations of the country you will be moving to. Most countries in Europe and North America are very animal friendly. But then there are also countries, such as Australia, that are at the other extreme and where you should be prepared to face big challenges like compulsory quarantine, etc. You should search the Internet and contact the country’s embassy to obtain all requirements and forms for moving your pet.

Next, plan your travel dates. If you have never travelled with your rabbit before, start planning at least 2 months ahead of time.

Start by searching which airlines fly to your destination. You should try to choose the shortest, most direct flights.

When it comes to travelling with your pet, airlines have different rules. Some airlines, such as Singapore Airlines, will only allow pets to be transported in the pressurised cargo hold. However, I strongly recommend that you look for an airline that allows your rabbit to fly in the cabin with you. Air France, Lufthansa, and a few other airlines allow you to carry small pets in the cabin.

Check, and recheck, and check again, at different times before your trip, consulting both booking agents and airline reservation supervisors about your travel arrangements with your pet. Even animal-friendly airlines only allow a limited number of pets per flight. So reserve a place early.

Depending on the local regulations, you will need to see your vet and obtain a health certificate a few days prior to departure. I suggest that you see your vet at least a month before travel and then again a few days before you leave. It is important to diagnose and cure any potential health issues before you leave.

Finally, you will also need to apply for an export permit from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore. This is a relatively straight-forward procedure and I could do it all by mail.

As the travel day approaches
Get your rabbit accustomed to the carrier (get the maximum size allowed by your airline). Take your rabbit for walks or car rides in his carrier for increasing lengths of time. Even make lots of aircraft sounds if you can!

Put into your carry-on bag everything you might possibly need on the trip. Organise everything in layers, considering what you will need when. Don't forget that your checked luggage might not arrive with you, so be ready for that too. Carry anything that your rabbit is familiar with, so you have the use of it as soon as you arrive. Carry your rabbit's health certificate with your papers so you have it readily available if needed.

You should also have the contact information of a few rabbit-savvy vets at your destination. Beta travelled great but then developed a tooth infection after about 10days. Luckily, I found an expert English-speaking vet in Paris to pull out his bad tooth. You should always be prepared for the unexpected.

The travel day
If the flight is full, you will be asked to put the rabbit’s carrier under the seat in front of you. So try to get a quite seat with lots of legroom. If you are flying economy, I suggest you request for a bassinet seat at the front. Adjust the temperature carefully for the rabbit during the flight, covering the carrier with a blanket if necessary.

You'll find that a lot of people smile at you and your rabbit, some ask questions, and others ignore you (or try to). You can lay a towel over the carrier to prevent the rabbit from being scared.

You are not supposed to remove your rabbit from the carrier during flight. Airlines’ biggest fear is that the rabbit will get loose. Also, try not to inconvenience other passengers or dirty the aircraft. We risk losing our rabbits' cabin privilege, on the few airlines that grant it now, if we make it unpleasant for other passengers.

Every 2-3 hours, visit the toilet with the rabbit’s carrier. Take him or her out and replace the soiled towel and bedding with a new towel and fresh litter. It doesn’t take much time and your rabbits will arrive clean and dry.

Your rabbit might not feel like eating or drinking during the trip, but this can result in dehydration or other serious complications. Rabbits vary a lot in this respect because Beta was munching away throughout the flight. Remember to take a plastic container of his favourite cut greens and fruits to keep him hydrated. Also provide hay and pellets. Hold these things to his mouth if he doesn’t eat. Finally, ask your vet if you should carry any medication in case your bunny refuses to eat for an extended period.

Some countries do not allow foreign agricultural produce. So you may have to throw away all your remaining hay and veggies before clearing immigration. If this is the case, ask the friend waiting for you outside the airport to bring some fresh hay.

Bringing your bunny into Singapore
Bringing your personal pet rabbit into Singapore is relatively hassle-free. You will need to apply for an import permit from the AVA prior to your arrival. The relevant information and forms can be found at AVA’s website.

Upon your arrival, your pet will go through a veterinary examination at the airport. As the regulations currently stand, rabbits brought in as personal pets only require 14 days of home quarantine. So your bunny remains with you all the time.

Final words
From my experience, if you plan properly, rabbits travel remarkably well. Pets are for life and if you are relocating the rest of your family, there's no need to leave your pet bunny behind unless he or she is particularly frail.

References and useful links
Quotes from the article “Tips on Air Travel with Rabbits” by Jennie Langdon
http://homepage.mac.com/mattocks/morfz/flytips.html

Animal Yellow Pages: Travelling with your pet
http://www.metropets.org/YellowPages/travel.php

Pets Welcome
http://www.petswelcome.com/

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore
http://www.ava.gov.sg

 

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