The relationship that India has with its animals can at best be described as ambiguous. While attitudes to animals—depending on what animal it is—range from reverence to loathing (there honestly is no saying which is worse), most dog owners in India don't have it easy. Though it has been changing, most middle-class colonies barely tolerate presence of dogs and stories of residents being harassed, evicted from their homes and even assaulted for keeping dogs are not unheard of. It will be that rare middle-class dog owner who will disagree that living with your dog in most places in India is an everyday struggle.
Ironically, abandoning your pet in these countries invites severe penalties, but the bureaucracies, the risks, the costs, the challenges... makes some expats consider exactly that.
Intuitively, one would imagine that moving with your furry companions to countries like Australia, the UK and Singapore would be a dream.
Till you actually do.
The irony is that in all of these countries, abandoning your pet invites severe penalties, but the bureaucracies, the risks, the prohibitive costs of moving one's dogs and the challenges with socialising them often makes some expats consider exactly that. To be fair, most of these regulations are meant for protecting pets already residing in the country (there's a reason that it's mostly island countries which have the strictest rules) but that is at best cold comfort to owners
Air travel with pets is downright scary
There is no polite way of saying this: Most Indian airlines suck at carrying pets. If you doubt that and would like a bit of tragedy to go with your morning coffee, go ahead and Google "airline killed my pet."
We will let that sink in
Then there is the matter of how your furry companion is treated. Most island nations treat your pet as livestock, not family. While semantics may be the least of your concerns here, it does make all the difference in, for instance, how your pet travels—as cabin baggage, checked-in baggage or as live cargo. Among other things, keep in mind that besides the fact that Fido will be airborne in a pressurised cabin, cozy in his crate with assorted hamsters and ferrets for visual relief, and that the costs of flying your pet in as cargo is almost double, live cargo is also treated differently and is often transported on a different flight.
Quarantine regulations are straight out of hell
Australia requires you to quarantine your dog in a rabies-free country (most owners prefer Singapore) for two months before he can brought to the island. As cargo. That is, after a series of tests are done in the home country and the dog is cleared of all potential ailments (and unless you were living under a rock last year, you would know that they make an exception for absolutely nobody. No, not even Johnny Depp). We know of owners who have failed to reunite with their pets for well over a year because their pet's blood sample failed to clear certain tests (Brucella Canis is the worst. It doesn't seem to go away from the bloodstream even if its manifestations are benign).
You are required to sign a form which says in legalese that you are okay with your dog being put down if found infected and will not ask questions...
Add to the fact that quarantine facilities are mostly full and require booking well in advance. That however, isn't the scariest part. Quarantine rules require periodic inspections. And you are required to sign a form which says in legalese that you are okay with your dog being put down if found infected and will not ask questions, nor sue the facilities! Rumour had it that in the UK, the whole batch would be put down if a single dog was found infected. Later found to be false but then, that itself tells a story.
Which brings us to...
There is as much information as misinformation out there
Oh, and the paperwork would put the most hidebound bureaucracy to shame.
Word of caution: DIY isn't advised when it comes to moving with your pets. We were about to add "even if you have done it before" till we realised that nobody who has done it before ever attempts to do it themselves again. Information available on the net, even from the authorities is sketchy, imprecise and often conflicting. Each missed detail is, at the very least, extremely costly (a family had to pay an extra 5000 SGD and had their dog held at the airport for three days because they couldn't gather that they had to get an import permit) and often, disastrous (dogs routinely get deported, detained and occasionally, even put down for failing to have the necessary paperwork)
Makes one wonder how those refugees fleeing the warzone in Syria managed to cart their pets along to Europe. If you aren't careful and very unlucky, you risk getting a shake of the head or a shrug instead as they cart Fido back to where he came from
Moving with your dogs isn't cheap
Moving abroad is never easy. For starters, it takes complete re-orientation to be making one's monthly budgets in Euros, Pounds or Dollars. Unless you are moving to some of these countries in an executive role, to join an investment bank or to lead an extortion mafia (I am told that there is a slight difference between the second and third), also add to that the fact that a large chunk of your savings is set to evaporate in moving our pooch with you. No wonder a good number of families often turn down offers to move to these countries
Unlearning bad doggy habits
Okay, so you have successfully negotiated the byzantine bureaucracy. Your pet's health record is updated. His breed is approved. The airline delivered him to you in one piece. You are now officially in doggy paradise. Not so fast!
According to most training professionals, India is anywhere between two or three decades behind the west in pet ownership culture and regulations.
How we socialise dogs in India is different from how they do so in dog-friendly countries.
Moving abroad with your pets often calls for unlearning some of the most terrible habits one picks up here. We lock away dogs when folks come visiting. We don't pick up after them. We treat barking at odd hours as normal and there are very few dog parks where your pooch can socialise with other dogs without trying to go for their jugular.
According to most training professionals, India is anywhere between two or three decades behind the west in pet ownership culture and regulations. It often translates into a friendly memo from the housing society in getting your dog to please shut up at night or be prepared to hand him over to social security
This is typically not only because socialisation is an alien concept in India (we have heard views to the effect that socialisation and even neutering "interferes with the natural order of things". This coming even from enlightened owners. Never mind that ear cropping and tail-docking are seen as perfectly natural) but also because socialisation involves a very deep personal involvement of the dogs' owners. While most countries in Europe and North America now mandate enrolling your new pup for basic training on obedience and manners, it takes nothing away from the fact that how your dog responds to you has more to do with how he/she bonds with you than with the training he/she has received.
And therein lies the rub.
Many families hire trainers who are expected to magically transform an unruly mutt into an obedient angel. Well, a dog doesn't respond to commands. He responds to you...
Socialisation takes access—to spaces, people and other dogs. It is well nigh impossible in most Indian colonies where dogs are whisked away when guests come visiting and very few areas within a housing complex are accessible to animals.
Also keep in mind that a good number of us are not used to walking the dog ourselves, let alone picking after them. Many families hire trainers who are expected to magically transform an unruly mutt into an obedient angel. Well, a dog doesn't respond to commands. He responds to you and how you bond with him.
The good news is that dogs are more adaptable than they get credit for. Dogs can pick up training at any age and often adjust better to new surroundings faster and better than the rest of the family!
All of it isn't to say that taking your dogs with you to a dog-friendly country isn't a good idea. Just keep in mind that it won't be easy. But yeah. It surely will be worth it!