Can I Rescue a Street Dog or Cat and Bring It Home?

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It happens so often. You are traveling on vacation in a foreign country, walking down the street or sitting at a cafe and you spy the beautiful face of a dog or cat looking scared and hungry. It can be an abandoned kitten or a dog that somehow manages to stay alive while living on the street. You cannot help wanting to rescue it, change its life, take it home and love and care for it. But think to yourself, is it really wise to rescue a street dog or cat while on vacation and bring it home?

No one can blame you for how you feel, but one important thing to know is how easy or hard it will be to bring this soul who has stolen your heart home safely and within current laws on pet import to avoid quarantine or refusal at customs and what you should do to prepare them for export.

Health and import regulations for importing a live animal

All countries worldwide base their pet import regulations based on diseases that can be contagious to other animals or humans, particularly rabies. Rabies is a brutal disease that kills nearly 60,000 people a year from bites from dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, ferrets and other warm-blooded mammals that can carry the rabies virus.

Rabies is not the only concern that countries have when dealing with the import of dogs and cats whose health care history is unknown. Other diseases such as leishmaniasis, ehrlichiosis, and heartworm are issues that animals who live on the streets can be infected with.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before rescuing a dog or cat in a foreign country.

What country are you visiting?

Let’s first consider the country that you are visiting. Many of the most beautiful vacation destinations in the world are classified by the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) as high-rabies countries as they don’t have structured programs in place to control rabies. Some examples of high-rabies countries are Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and China.  Depending on your home country, it could take 4 months or more and multiple veterinary visits before bringing your rescued dog or cat home. Click here for countries considered to be high-rabies.

Oftentimes, regulations are less stringent when importing a dog or cat from a rabies-free or rabies-controlled country.

Where is your home?

If you don’t own a pet already, you may not be aware of the requirements that will be imposed on your rescue pet when entering your country.

Here are some examples of pet import regulations when importing a dog or cat from a high-rabies country:

Home Country: European Union Member State

Pet Import Regulations from high-rabies country: microchip, proof of rabies vaccination, 30 day wait after vaccination, rabies titer test (FAVN), 3 calendar month wait before travel, EU health certificate

Pet Import Regulations from other countries: microchip, rabies vaccination, 21 day wait, health certificate or EU Pet Passport

Home Country: United States

Pet Import Regulations (all countries): proof of rabies vaccination administered no sooner than 30 days before travel, health certificate, screwworm inspection (when entering from some countries)

Home Country: Canada

Pet Import Regulations (all countries): proof of current rabies vaccination (no wait after vaccination), health certificate. If imported unaccompanied, microchip, health certificate and import permit

Home Country: South Africa

Pet Import Regulations (all countries): microchip, proof of rabies vaccination (minimum 30 days in advance), blood tests (dogs), import permit, 14 days of quarantine (dogs)

Home Country: Australia

Pet Regulations (all countries): microchip, rabies vaccination, rabies titer test (FAVN) 180 days before import, import permit, blood tests, parasite treatments, health certificate. Pets can be imported directly from approved countries otherwise pets must be moved to an approved country about 6 weeks before import.

No matter what country you are bringing your rescue home to, we would urge you to research current and detailed pet import regulations by clicking here.

You must be able to allot the time involved to meet your home country requirements for pet import. If you cannot do that, then you need to make arrangements for their care and veterinary visits until either you can come back to get them or fly them as unaccompanied air cargo to you. This will take coordination with veterinarians and someone to check your dog or cat in at your airline’s cargo facility.

Is your airline pet friendly?

Another consideration are the airline pet policies you are using to return home. Many airlines do not accept pets for transport such as Ryan Air, Jet Airways and AirAsia. Many other airlines will only transport pets as air cargo through the services of an agent like British Airways and SAS. If your ticket is booked on an airline that does not accept pets, then your pet will need to fly as unaccompanied air cargo which is more expensive than it  would be if you fly with your rescue.

It all sounds daunting, right? Well, actually, it can be. Sometimes, as heat breaking as it is, it is better to try and find an abandoned animal care and adoption organization in the country you are visiting instead of bringing it home. There are rescue organizations in so many countries that may be able to help. Oftentimes pet stores, veterinarians, government agencies responsible for animal control or animal hospitals are aware of rescue organizations in the country you are visiting.

If you rescue a street dog or cat, can you provide for their needs when you get home?

Consider that older dogs that have lived on the street may have issues with confinement, anxiety, shyness and socialization. You should be prepared to deal with these issues. There will also be a huge cultural adaptation for a rescue pet. New environments can bring insecurity issues that will require close monitoring.

Rescuing a puppy or kitten may be easier in that they are still in the learning stage. They have not had as much time to bond with their environment and experience life challenges as an adult dog has. Changing their environment will not be as traumatic for them.

Before falling in love with an abandoned puppy or kitten, consider how difficult (or easy) it would be to rescue a street dog or cat and take it home with you. We would all agree that saving a life is worth every minute and every dollar spent. Dogs and cats (as well as all animals that can be domesticated) deserve a chance to live in a safe and loving environment, and there are a lot of volunteers and organizations who strive towards that goal. You are simply taking part in that effort.


Can I Rescue a Street Dog or Cat and Bring It Home? — 32 Comments

  1. Hello Manjit – your kitty will need to be a minimum of 12 weeks of age (a veterinarian can attest to age), be microchipped, then vaccinated for rabies. After 31 days, the kitty must have a rabies titer test. It will be eligible to enter the UK without quarantine 3 calendar months after the blood is drawn for the test. All told, she will need to be 7 months of age before she can enter the UK without quarantine. Susan

  2. I saw this beautiful little kitten maybe just about 3-4 weeks old in Morocco. Some guy who was walking visitors to the hotel and did not see the kitten. He almost stepped on it. His foot hit the little kitten and she went rolling about half a metre. I screamed and got very tearful. What is the procedure to bring a stray cat home to uk..

  3. Hello Jenessa – unfortunately, we do not have offices in Panama; however, you can search for a licensed pet transporter in this country at

  4. Hi,
    I’m looking to import a dog from Panamá City, Panamá to Vancouver, Canada.

    Any recommendations for a pet import/cargo company? Is it possible to do it without travelling back there myself?

    Met the dog while there a few weeks ago.

  5. Hello Daniel – you will need to take your pup to a veterinarian in Colombia for an assessment of age. If your pup is over 3 months of age, it should be vaccinated for rabies. No more than 5 days before traveling, pets must have a pre-travel examination by a licensed veterinarian and receive treatment against internal and external parasites. When the veterinarian’s health certificate is provided, an export certificate will be issued that is good for 5 days from the time of issuance. The you should approach the ICA office located in the Port, Airport or Paso de Frontera (PAPF) in the company of the pet where the departure will take place, five (5) days prior to the flight for the respective documentary and physical inspection of your dog, and the issuance of the corresponding Health Inspection Certificate (CIS). If your dog will need to travel as accompanied checked baggage, then you will need to register the transport in the ICA system. Susan

  6. Hi I’m in Colombia and I live in Canada. I’ve fallen in love with a street dog, she’s been visiting my apartment for about two years and we’ve grown to like each other. I’m wondering what would be needed to bring her to Toronto, Canada with me. I’d appreciate the help!

  7. Hi. Me and my partner have found a cat Turkey and fallen in love. How do we go about transporting it to London England?

  8. Its me again
    *Hi there!
    I am currently living in united arab emirates and my home country is india,i will be returning back in few months and i have a stray cat which me nd my sis rescued.She is living with us now.We love her sm and never in my dreams also i wanna leave her So can somebody help me with the information what shld i do,what all are the needs take her back with me.please guys!!*

    I forgot 2 mention that its been 1 year since we took her inn.

  9. Hello Ingrid – all your cat will need to enter Canada is proof of current rabies vaccination. Ask your airline whether a health certificate is required.

  10. Hi , I have a farm cat here in Italy that I want to bring home to Canada with me , my flight leaves from Denmark on December 7 is there a way I could take her this time or should I wait until my next trip and get her vaccinations now instead?
    Thank you

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