Heather Duncan is an expat living in Muscat. Here she shares her experiences of moving her beloved dog, Penny, to Oman.
Deciding to take my dog from cold Scotland to the Middle East certainly was not an easy one, and it wasn’t helped by the lack of information online; even my local vet wasn’t sure how to go about finding the information, so it was up to me.
Before deciding to move to Oman, I had been twice on vacation to meet up with my husband and I knew that the quality of life for us would be great, but I was very unsure what kind of life our dog would have. I had only seen a couple of dogs during my vacation in Oman, and they were stray dogs running away from humans.
As soon as you type a few words in a search engine about exporting dogs to Muscat, you are faced with outdated information and horror stories! It is true that there was once a rule that only allowed animals to be exercised between the hours of 10am and 3pm, when the locals were at work or at school, but this was quickly quashed and no longer exists.
Many Muslims are either scared of dogs or see them as unclean, so I found out that Omanis are not a nation of dog lovers. The most exposure many people have had to dogs is seeing the stray desert dogs, called Wadi dogs, running the streets and eating out of bins. These Wadi dogs can be aggressive, just like any stray dog in any country, but sadly here they are treated very badly and now fear human contact.
When thinking of relocating your dog from a cold country like the UK to the Middle East, you need to put emotions aside and think practically. Can your dog really handle the heat? You need to think about the anatomy of your dog, flat-nosed dogs like Pugs and English Boxers are going to really struggle as they cannot filter the hot air into their small noses and combined with white skin are very susceptible to sun burn.
I did a lot of research into whether my 10-month-old German Shepherd would cope with the heat, I had to be realistic whether she could adapt and that I wasn’t just taking her for my own selfish reasons. Luckily, all my research said that German Shepherds were resilient enough to cope with the journey and the heat.
Once we decided to bring our dog to Oman and that we would have a house with a secure garden to give her a good quality of life, then there was the actual logistics of getting the dog there. I had never exported an animal from the UK before, and I was worried about doing such complicated paperwork on my own, so I hired a pet freight agency to assist me.
If your dog is small then your experience should be much easier, but for me, my dog is 42kg and very big, therefore she needed a special crate made just for her and a specific flight routing due to her crate then being too big for certain planes to carry. In the end she was too long for most airlines to accommodate; our last chance was out of Edinburgh with Lufthansa, which thankfully worked, or it was going to be a six-hour drive to Manchester or a 10-hour drive to London.
Some airlines allow you to check your pet in as “excess baggage” or even buy them a ticket and have them sit next to you. This all depends on the airline and the route you are flying, so it’s worth doing your homework and not just assuming that your dog will be able to board the plane with you.
Your dog must hold a valid “Pet Passport” issued by your vet, this works like a human passport and is specific to the animal. It will hold the details of all their vaccinations, microchip numbers and any other distinguishing marks your dog has. You must ensure that your dog has been vaccinated against rabies 30 days before travel. This not only allows them to enter Oman, but it will help when/if you decide to take them back to your native country again. It is a good idea to keep the rabies shot up to date every year, as it may prevent them having to go into quarantine on arrival at your next destination.
My agent in the UK arranged the export permit on my behalf, which must be applied for at the Ministry of Agriculture. This is required to get your dog through customs leaving the country so that they can begin their transit; it confirms that the UK vets and Ministry are happy that the animal poses no risk to any other animals or wildlife upon arrival in their new country.
The veterinary surgery that comes recommended by the Omani government is called Muscat Vets, who are in the Qurum area; they come recommended as they are the busiest and most knowledgeable. Emails and phone calls are answered very quickly and your mind is put at ease. Muscat Vets assisted in arranging for the Import Permit, allowing us to get all documentation for arrival arranged.
I had heard horror stories about animals being left out in the heat on the airport’s runway while the mess of paperwork was being untangled, but they even arranged for a representative to be at the airport to deal with the import documentation. These documents are all written in Arabic, so his help was great, and we got our dog away from the airport and into the air-conditioned car as fast as possible. Sadly, the people who had chosen to save money by not taking the representatives' help were still there with their animals in crates.
Luckily for us, our experience of shipping our dog went smoothly, especially as she is a big dog. But I would strongly advise that you research whether your dog can cope with the heat and the fact that it isn’t an animal-friendly country like the UK.
Even if your animal isn’t fit to fly, and you can’t live without a pet, there are hundreds of unwanted dogs and cats here who would benefit from a loving home. My friend recently adopted an eight-week-old puppy from Muscat Vets as she was so sad leaving her Labrador behind in the UK as the travel would be too much for him.