Rescue Dog from Cambodia – A Step by Step guide on the adoption process

Rescue Dog From Cambodia. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.

I met Happy (my rescue dog from Cambodia) about a year into my stay in Cambodia. I had been living and working in Siem Reap for a while and was settled into a cute 2-bedroom apartment with a friend. Life was pretty incredible and turns out, it was going to become more exciting. The cutest puppy ever was about to walk into my life!

Before we go any further, please be aware that it takes a lot of time and dedication to adopt/rescue a dog from a country such as Cambodia. I didn’t make the decision to take her home lightly!

One of the schools that the company I worked for volunteered at (I worked for a tour company that did a lot of volunteering) spotted puppies wobbling around the house next door. Coincidentally, the friend I was living with at the time had her dad over for a visit and he was volunteering at this school. Her dad took some photos of the puppies and had sent them over to my friend mentioning that the pups needed a home (momma dog wasn’t in sight and hadn’t been in days, it’s very likely she was hit by a tuk-tuk or car on the nearby road).

My friend and I had been looking into adopting a dog as we now had a stable home base, but had not made any concrete plans to do so. However, one look at those photos and we grabbed a tuk-tuk and made our way over to the school that was located just outside of Siem Reap.

Rescue Dog From Cambodia in a tuk-tuk. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
First tuk-tuk ride
Rescue Dog From Cambodia sleeping in chair next to MacBook Air laptop. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
First week at home

Upon arrival at the school, we could already see them. Two little pups, probably only 5 to 6 weeks old covered in flees and tics. Their tummies were so bloated from worms that they almost hit the floor when they wobbled around. We decided right away that we needed to help these adorable little fur-babies! Unfortunately, it was just not possible to take both of the dogs. It was a hard decision but we decided to take the girl and leave the little boy behind. The little guy was looking slightly better, and we made sure to leave the school money so that they could get treatment for the little guy. We had a good relationship with the school and the owner, he promised us that he would take the other pup to the vet. I’m happy to say that he kept his promise and the dog is now a healthy grown up. Unfortunately, we recently heard that Happy’s brother has been kicked and hit by some kids. We are unsure of how he is now, but it still breaks my heart that I had to leave him behind. 

A little bit about why we decided to take the girl. You have to believe me, it was such a hard decision but in the end, it was in my option (still) the best option. A lot of female dogs in Cambodia are used for breeding and breeding only. By the age of 2 they often have nipples so long they hit the ground, just from feeding litter after litter. By taking this little lady we made sure that 1, she didn’t have a future with sore nipples ahead of her. And 2 she wouldn’t be pushing any babies into this world as we’ll be sure to get her fixed whenever she is ready.


Vet visits and vaccinations

Rescue Dog From Cambodia sleeping in bed. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.

First things first, our little girl needed a name and a visit to the vet. We called the International vet clinic located just outside of Siem Reap town and made an appointment. The name was also easy, Happy, all we wanted for this little pup was for her to be happy, have a happy life and a happy future. So that’s what it was going to be, Happy. Everyone that now meets Happy says that they couldn’t have thought of a better name. My little girl is one of the happiest dogs you’ll ever meet, she loves other dogs, people and just having fun and being herself. 

Happy’s first vet visit was needed, as she was still covered in flees (we had removed most of the ticks by then) and had a belly filled with worms. The vet didn’t want to give Happy her first vaccinations after we just got her, as they thought she was only about 6 to 7 weeks old (a little older than we first thought) Puppies can’t get their vaccinations until they are at least 8 weeks old. We did get her all the treatment she needed for the flees and worms, and by the time we had to come back for the vaccinations she was looking like a normal little pup.


Life with a rescue dog from Cambodia

Rescue Dog From Cambodia by the pool. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Day by the pool
Rescue Dog From Cambodia eating a slipper. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Eating moms slipper

After the vaccinations were all sorted life kinda went back to normal. Or at least how normal it can be with a little puppy running around. Both my friend and I went back to work, taking turns on making sure the pups was okay by keeping her company and going for walks.

Walking her proved to be close to impossible. There are so many street dogs around that always protect their “home”. This means that the only place we could go to actually walk her without being attacked by strays was just outside our apartment on a little field. This is probably the reason why Happy only just now (here in the Netherlands) has learned to properly walk on a leash.


Moving a dog from Cambodia to the Netherlands

I won’t go into the details on why I decided to leave Cambodia, that’s a story for another time. But just know that I had to go, and I only had a few months to get all my stuff in order, including taking Happy back to Europe.

Because everything was suddenly going so fast, it meant I only had about 4 months to get all Happy’s paperwork before we had to step on a plane back to the Netherlands. I found out that it is close to impossible to find a list of things you need to arrange when moving a dog from Cambodia back to the Netherlands (or Europe). That’s why I decided to share my story and all the steps I had to go through before I was able to take my furry companion with me. At the bottom, I’ll also let you know the costs I had to pay to make all of this happen.

Be aware that the process of taking a dog, especially a dog from a high-risk rabies country can take months. As vaccine’s need to be updated and blood test have to be sent to laboratories. 

Rescue Dog From Cambodia in a bike basket. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Riding in moms bike basket
Rescue Dog From Cambodia in a cabinet. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Hiding everywhere

Step 1: Microchip

First thing you need to do is get your furry friend a microchip. This is mandatory as they’ll check it at the airport before they fly and before you’re allowed into the country upon arrival. Always triple check that the microchip can be read before departure. On my last visit to the vet I made them check again just to be sure. 

Step 2: Rabies Vaccine

The dog will need to be up to date on all its vaccinations, this includes a rabies vaccine. The rabies vaccine is only necessary for high-risk rabies countries, you can find all high-risk rabies countries here. Please make sure that the rabies vaccine is given AFTER the microchip is put in, these steps need to be taken in this specific order. Don’t ask me why, but my vet set that it was vital that we did it in this order.

Step 3: Rabies Titre Test

This step will take place at least 30 days after your dog has received the rabies vaccine. This is probably one of the most expensive steps and also one that takes the longest. 

What they do for the Rabies Titre Test is that they first take blood from your dog. With Happy, they took it from her tiny furry paw. She was definitely not happy about it at the time, but with lots of treats we were able to make it happen. Second, the blood is sent to an approved laboratory for the actual rabies titre test. Here they do a bunch of blood tests to see if your dog has rabies or not.

Apparently, it is possible for a dog to have rabies before they receive the vaccine, the vaccine will then not work and the dog is not allowed to leave the country (as they’ll probably get symptoms and die before this is possible anyway). However, I’ve also heard that puppy’s die from rabies within a few days, this is why I was already pretty certain that Happy didn’t have this horrible disease.

All sounds easy right? But there’s this one tiny thing.. The rabies titre test is done 3 months after the blood! Please make sure that you book the flights for your dog and you not until after this date. Be sure to confirm with your vet when you’ll receive the results as you can then at least book your own flight. You can add on the dog at a later stage, more on this later!

Step 4: Buying a Travel Crate

Buying a travel crate can better be done early on in the process. It’s very important to train your dog to feel comfortable and safe in their crate. Sometimes this takes a few days, sometimes weeks. I did it by starting to feed her in her crate and by giving her all her treats here. This way she would think of her travel cage as a place where all the fun and good stuff happens!

I bought Happy’s crate from a homestay for dogs where Happy would also always go if I was out of town for a few days. I believe that they have recently shut down their location in Siem Reap, but they are still in Phnom Penh. The company is called Pet Services Cambodia, they’re amazing people that help a lot of rescue animals with their travels oversees.

Rescue Dog From Cambodia on a tuk-tuk. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Professional tuk-tuk rider
Rescue Dog From Cambodia in a travel crate. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Ready for the big trip

My furry friend travelled in a SKO-5 travel cage. I believe the biggest crate is the 6 or 7, so you could say that Happy was just above average height and length. Make sure that your dog fits in the crate correctly and has some room to wiggle around. This isn’t only good for the dog, but also a requirement from airlines, as they will be stopped and send back when they feel the crate is too small.

Step 5: Documents

You will need quite a few official documents before your furry friend can fly with you. Here is a list of all the documentation that is needed before departure from Cambodia. You can get all these documents from your vet, please be aware that I was with the International Vet Clinic in Siem Reap. I’m not sure if other local vets will also be able to help you.

Export Permit: This document will contain your departure details, such as flight numbers and departure and arrival times. Make sure you have all of these before requesting it.

Microchip certificate: This is just a document that states that your dog has a microchip.

Rabies certificate: This is also just a document that states that your dog has received the rabies vaccine.

Non-commercial EU document: This document states that you will not be selling your dog upon arrival in Europe. 

Health check and certificate: Make sure to get this document in the week before you travel! Not any earlier.. This is a document that shows that your dog is fit to travel, you’ll have to go to your vet for a short examination before you can receive this document. Make sure to plan this in properly. 

Pet passport: Just like you, your furry friend will need a passport for their international travels. 

Step 6: Booking a flight

When you book your flight, just make sure that you don’t have a lot of long layovers. I personally did it a little different than most. I flew from Cambodia to Malaysia, this is only a 2-hour flight. Happy and I stayed in Kuala Lumpur for a few days (happy stayed in quarantine, this way she is also allowed into countries such as the UK etc., this was a personal choice). From Malaysia, we flew directly to Amsterdam on an 11-hour flight. This way Happy didn’t have any layovers and the longest she’d be by herself was 11 hours.

I have to say that Happy is a very easy and overall happy dog, her name really suits her! She had no issues with the flights, the quarantine and actually came out her happy little self in Amsterdam. A bit of gross talk.. She did pee in her cage a few times, but she held her poo for the full flight. I was so proud of my little girl!

Rescue Dog From Cambodia. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Dragging my blanky out of the cage
Rescue Dog From Cambodia. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Moms bike basket is quite comfy

As for booking your dog onto your flight. Nine out of ten times your dog will have to go into cargo, only small dogs can stay in the cabin (under the seat in front of you). And this isn’t even the case for all airlines. The costs and rules really depend on what airline you fly with. I flew with Malaysia airlines from Cambodia to Malaysia and with KLM from Malaysia to the Netherlands. They both wanted me to book on Happy afterwards, I just called them both and made sure all arrangements were made after I paid for my ticket. I got a confirmation via email and had to pay the extra fees for the dog upon check-in at the airport. 

Malaysia Airlines: when Happy and I flew with them they charged $10 per kilo, including the cage. I was lucky that happy was still on the lighter side and everything all together came to 18 kilos, which means $180 in total.

KLM: as far as I know they have always charged the same amount to fly your pet with you in cargo. For the last few years or so it has been $200.

Cost Overview

Please be aware that these were the cost in 2018. Over time there is a big chance that things will change. Always make sure to check with your vet about costs there. I would also recommend to ask around at other organisations that have services for moving pets what their costs are. In the end they should all be pretty similar! All costs are in USD.

Rescue Dog From Cambodia. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Happy being happy in the Cambodian sun

Primary Vaccinations: 2x $20
Microchip: $50
Rabies Vaccine: $10
Rabies Titre Test: $220
Export Permit: $75
Microchip certificate: $5
Rabies certificate: $5
Non commercial EU document: $10
Health Check + certificate: $55
Pet passport: $15

Travel Cage: $190
Flight Cambodia to Malaysia (extra charge pet): $180
Flight Malaysia to Netherlands (extra charge pet): $200
Quarantine in Malaysia: $300

TOTAL: $1055 (without $300 quarantine)

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Rescue Dog From Cambodia. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.
Rescue Dog From Cambodia. Find out everything you need to know about adopting a puppy from a country in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia.


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