We have two cats which we’ll be taking with us to Australia. In reality it would be a thousand times cheaper to buy two new cats when we get out there but the cats have been part of the family for a number of years now so they’ll be making the trip down under with us.

A government department called AQIS which stands for Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, are the folks in Australia that deal with animal imports.

They have some really useful information and forms which need to be completed if your taking your dog or cat with you to Australia. The more applicable sections of the site can be found by clicking here (page opens in new window) however I thought it’d be useful to document the main steps associated with taking your dog or cat to Australia with you.

Cats and dogs may only be imported to Australia from approved countries. Conditions for importing cats and dogs from approved countries vary depending on the country of export. These conditions may involve a longer quarantine period, restricted breeds or similar.

Fortunately for us, the UK is seen as a pretty ‘clean’ country from a pet perspective with only New Zealand being viewed better where no quarantine periods are required at all.

The UK is classed as a Category 2 country so and dogs and cats being brought into Australia need to spend 30 days quarantine in Australia before you can pick them up and take them to your new home.

Other Category two countries include (long list this): Bahrain, Barbados, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia (includes Tahiti, Society Islands, Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Gambier Islands), Guam, Hawaii, the Republic of Ireland, Japan, Malta, Mauritius, New Caledonia, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan and Vanuatu.

I’ll cover both cats and dogs as I think these will be the animals that you’ll most likely want to take with you if your going to emigrate into Australia. There are a number of steps that you’ll need to go through prior to sending your beloved pet to the other side of the world.

Step one, you need to make sure that your dog or cat is eligible for export to Australia:

Your Dog or cats must have been continuously living in the UK or similar for a minimum of 6 months immediately prior to shipment. Your pet must not have been under quarantine restrictions in the 30 days prior to export and your pet must be at least 12 weeks old at time of export.

If your dog or cat is pregnant, they must not be more than 6 weeks pregnant nor be suckling young at time of export and finally certain breeds of dogs cannot be exported into Australia. These breeds tend to be the more fierce breeds such as:

Dogo Argentino, fila Brazileiro, Japanese tosa’s, Pit bull terrier, American pit bull or the Presa Canaria.

I know that many of these breeds make great and loving family pets but I’m afraid the Aussies don’t see it that way so If you have any of these breeds then unfortunately you’ll need to leave them at home.

In addition, under animal hybrids e.g. Bengal cats or wolf crosses are not eligible for import, unless they are proven to be 5th generation or more away from any pure-bred non-domestic ancestor.

Step two, your dog or cat has to be micro chipped for identification purposes.

The chip must be able to be read by an Avid, Trovan, Destron or other ISO compatible reader (your vet will be able to confirm this). Fortunately we’ve had both of our cats done. Pop over to your local vets to get this sorted. I think for our cats it cost about £25 each.

Step three, Get your permit.

Your pet will not be allowed to enter Australia without a valid AQIS permit to import. The AQIS import permits are only valid for 6 months from the day that AQIS receives your application so make sure you get your timing right and don’t apply years in advance. The AQIS import permit will be sent to you immediately following approval by AQIS of your application.

For those of you on a tighter timescale, you can ask for the import permit to be faxed, a copy of the import permit may be used. A permit will be sent to the person/company that you nominate as the “exporter” on your application form so if you’re using one of the companies specialising in pet export then make sure you provide their details on the form.

Keep in mind that even though you will have received your permit to import your pet into Australia, it does not guarantee a space at your preferred Quarantine Station so Bookings must be made for your pet/s at these stations. There are currently three main quarantine stations covering the whole of Australia:

Eastern Creek Quarantine Station which covers Sydney and the New South Wales regions, Spotswood Quarantine Station which covers Melbourne, Victoria and Byford Quarantine Station which covers Perth and the rest of Western Australia.

Step 4, Your pets health check

In a similar way to us humans, your pet also needs to undergo health checks by a government approved body before being allowed into the country.

An Official Veterinarian is a government officer usually employed by the government veterinarian administration (e.g. in the UK – Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs). These official Veterinarians generally do not work in private practice but are able to sign certificates on behalf of the government’s veterinary administration. Again, your local vet may be the best port of call for this. Although they may not be able to do all the checks themselves, they should be able to point you in the right direction

Step 5, make your pets travel arrangements.

You can only get your pet into Australia through the following airports, Mascot Airport in Sydney (New South Wales), Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne (Victoria) or Perth Airport in Perth (Western Australia).

AQIS does not place any restrictions or the airline you choose to use, however your pet must travel as “Manifested Cargo” (not in the cabin) and in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved container for dogs and cats.

Please note you will be charged an additional fee of $25 if your pet arrives in Australia outside business hours (8:00am – 4:00 PM). You are also required to seek the approval of the relevant quarantine station for after hours pick-ups prior to import.

Step 6 – Get your pet vaccinated.

Vaccinations must be valid for the entire period spent in quarantine in Australia. If vaccinations expire prior to your pet’s release from quarantine they may be re-vaccinated at the owner’s expense.

Dogs must be vaccinated against distemper, infectious hepatitis, canine parvovirus (parvo), para-influenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough).

If the Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) is not available in the country of origin, dogs may be vaccinated for kennel cough on arrival in Australia at the owner’s expense. Note: Vaccinations against Leptospira interrogans.var. canicola is not recommended within 6 months of export as your pet’s high antibody response will most likely result in it being ineligible for export to Australia.

Cats must have been vaccinated against feline enteritis (feline panleucopenia, feline distemper), rhinotracheitis and calicivirus.

Step 7 Final Vet Checks.

Prior to sticking your pet on a plane (normally less then a week before) your pet needs to have some final health checks. The first step is normally a visual inspection; if everything’s OK then Veterinary Certificate A will be completed.

On the day of your pet’s departure, the final checks will be made by a vet, the result of which will be the completion Veterinary Certificate B.

The Official Veterinarian who signs Veterinary Certificate B records the identification number of the seal on Veterinary Certificate B, and physically seals your pet into the cage. After this has been completed your cat or dog would not be released from its cage until it gets to Australia.

A water container is fixed inside the cage with an external funnel with a hose leading into the water container to allow water to be replenished without opening the cage. Your pet would then be put onto the plane at which point its new adventure really begins.

Not that straight forward is it? Well, thankfully AQIS have all the information on their website which you can find by clicking here (link opens in new window). There are also numerous pet ‘migration agents’ who will manage the whole process for you (for a fee).

Shipping yourself, your cat and/or your dog to Australia was never going to be a straight forward process but I’m sure you’ll all appreciate being back together at the other side.

February 2014 update: Great news, the period that you need to keep your furry pal in quarantine has been reduced. Check this article for further details