Animals who make aliya

Airlifting your pet to Israel is a relatively easy process, but beware: It can prove cruel to your credit card.

dog with sunglasses 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
dog with sunglasses 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Unlike countries such as Australia, the UK, South Africa and Singapore, Israel is considered a “pet-friendly” place when it comes to flying in furry family members. “Nine thousand pets are scheduled to arrive in Israel during July, August and September,” says Dr. Eitan Kreiner, the founder of Terminal4Pets.
Facing no quarantine or cargo policy, pet owners need not suffer cuddle withdrawal. Immigrants are free to snuggle with their loved ones side by side or below deck on the same flight, depending on the airline.
But beware: Flying your pet over can prove cruel to your credit card.
Ticket costs may vary considerably according to season and weight. Deborah Knickerbocker made aliya nearly two years ago from Miami – along with her Jack Russell Gater, bulldog Moose, and six cats Kelly, Jupiter, Storm, Oussie, Skunk and Bella.
The family had to take two separate flights as a maximum of five animals per family is permitted per aircraft.
Knickerbocker’s advice to those taking this precious cargo aboard: “Make sure the airlines approve your animals; at a certain time of year, for example, people can’t fly pets because the demand for seats is too high.
“We used Terminal4Pets, the Israeli Pet Travel Agency,” she says. “They provided us with solutions needed to ship our pets safely and legally to and from Israel.”
Terminal4Pets collaborates with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency to provide pets with a free checkup and microchip identification as a welcome to Israel. Pet owners thus need not worry about their animals roaming without their ID card.
Taryn and Jonathan Baker arrived from South Africa and had to fly back a few months later to pick up their dog, Scruffles.
Says Taryn: “We got Scruffles at just four weeks old from the SPCA. We had to wait till Pessah to get him, though, because the puppies weren’t ready to leave their mom yet. We have always called him our ‘frum’ puppy because he was keeping Pessah from day one. We had to bring him back later instead of on the aliya flight because we stayed in an absorption center when we first came over.”
Asked how it felt to be finally reunited with Scruffles again, Taryn replied, “We were so happy, it was like having our family together again.”
So how has Scruffles adapted to the recent culture shock? He has adjusted well, says Taryn, although he still has some South African in him. He still barks to protect us at the sound of every person coming round the corner.
Joshua Polsky brought his beloved dog Bear in July 2009 all the way from St. Louis.
“I had to jump through hoops to get him here. Before I was aware that I was allowed to bring him on my Nefesh flight, I had considered shipping him over. I was quoted between $5,000 and $6,000,” says Polsky.
Because most domestic airlines won’t fly animals, Bear and Polsky took a road trip all the way to JFK airport. Ulpan Etzion, where Polsky was scheduled to arrive, was not enthusiastic about hosting the fuzzy, floppy-eared new immigrant. So Bear found a home through Facebook close to his owner for six months, while the latter went about learning Hebrew and finding a job to support the family.
Bear and Polsky currently reside in the heart of Tel Aviv. Bear enjoys the sea air and long weekend walks on the beach.
“I still can’t believe someone left him at the pound,” says Polsky. “He is my family, I couldn’t leave him behind.”
But things aren’t always smooth for pet owners immigrating to Israel. Those bringing along a “dangerous breed” must be extra-cautious, and every country is entitled to define what a a dangerous breed is.
In Israel, it is most often Rottweilers, which have been known to bite children.
Ayala Bar, marketing manager of Terminal4Pets, comments: “Although a Rottweiler might not necessarily be a dangerous dog, it’s considered as being among the dangerous breeds. And pet owners transporting dangerous breeds are required to request a special permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. It’s a long and complicated procedure.”
Israel may be pet friendly; nevertheless, there is great concern about the rabies threat.
According to the new pet-import law (as of May 2010), every pet owner intending to travel with a pet is required to submit the pet to the rabies blood-test procedure. All pets arriving in Israel must be over four months old, not pregnant, and certified in good health. Pets must receive rabies vaccinations at least one month and no longer than one year prior to the flight.
The rabies blood test means that people who are considering shipping their pets to Israel need to begin the process at least three or four months prior to the flight.
Asked about the importance of animals making aliya, Bar replied, “Many immigrants who move here are without family or friends. The first few months can be trying and lonely. People are so grateful for the company and affection an animal can provide.”
What better way to end the day after a visit to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry than to open your front door to a furry friend that doesn’t talk back and just loves to cuddle.