Taking your pets to Australia might be considered one of the more stressful parts of your journey down under. As an extended part of many families, leaving the care of your dogs or furry feline friends in the hands of strangers requires a little research and a lot planning.
This article was originally published over ten years ago, so with this in mind, we’ve reviewed this article and have updated it to keep it in line with more recent practices.
Taking Our Cats To Australia
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.
At the time we moved to Australia a government department called AQIS which stands for Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, were the folks in Australia that dealt with animal imports. Following a period operating under the name DAFF Biosecurity, it has since been absorbed into divisions in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
They have some handy information and forms which need to be completed if you’re 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 primary 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 more extended 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 3 country. Group 3 countries are described as approved countries and territories in which rabies is absent or well-controlled. As a group three country, our cats needed to spend 10 days quarantine in Australia (it was 30 days when we moved) before picking them up to take them to our new home.
Other Category three countries include (long list this):
Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Canary and Balearic Islands, Cayman Islands, Chile, the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malta, Malaysia (Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak only), Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Netherlands—Antilles & Aruba, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, the Republic of South Africa, Reunion, Saipan, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland (including Liechtenstein), Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States (including the district of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands (but excluding Guam and Hawaii, Uruguay.
Moving your Dog To Australia?
I know not everyone is a cat lover so if you are looking to move to Australia with your dog then you’ll be pleased to know that the approach is pretty much identical for both cats and dogs. When it comes to steps, there are several that you’ll need to go through before sending your beloved pal to the other side of the world and the same process applies whether you are shipping a dog or a cat to Oz. So let’s get into it.
Shipping your pets to Australia
The process of shipping your pets to Ausralia cam be broken down into seven key stages.
Stage 1. 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 before shipment. Your pet must not have been under quarantine restrictions in the 30 days before export, and your pet must be at least 12 weeks old at the time of shipping.
If your dog or cat is pregnant, they must not be more than six weeks pregnant nor be suckling young at the time of export, and finally, certain breeds of dogs cannot be exported into Australia. These breeds tend to be the more aggressive breeds such as:
Dogo Argentino, Fila Brazileiro, Japanese tosa’s, Pitbull 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.
Also, other 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.
Stage 2. Get your dog or cat microchipped 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.
Stage 3. 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 six 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 includes Melbourne, Victoria and Byford Quarantine Station which covers Perth and the rest of Western Australia.
Stage 4. Your pets health check
Similarly 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 can 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
Stage 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 (8:00 am – 4:00 PM). You are also required to seek the approval of the relevant quarantine station for after-hours pick-ups before import.
Stage 6. Get your pet vaccinated
Vaccinations must be valid for the entire period spent in quarantine in Australia. If vaccinations expire before 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 six months of export as your pet’s high antibody response will most likely result in it being ineligible for shipping to Australia.
Cats must have been vaccinated against feline enteritis (feline panleucopenia, feline distemper), rhinotracheitis and calicivirus.
Stage 7. Final Vet Checks
Before sticking your pet on a plane (usually less than a week before) your pet needs to have some final health checks. The first step is often 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 of 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 enclosure. 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 the Australian Department of Agriculture has 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.
Are You Taking your pets to Australia?
If you are taking your pets to Australia. We’d love to hear from you. Post in our comments below.