Want to hear a sad story?

Well, I’ll tell you anyway.  Imagine shipping your beloved four-legged friend across the oceans only to be personally denied an inbound travel exemption.

Your pet sitting in quarantine in Australia whilst you are stuck abroad – heartbreaking!  Well, that’s what has happened to a dear client of ours and unfortunately, this is now the reality we are facing.  Anyhow, here’s hoping to pet and human being reunited soon.

This got us thinking about our beloved pets as we can emphathise how our furry four-legged friends often form part of the family.  When it is a matter of migrating its ohana – translation: no one gets left behind.  But migrating pets is not a walk in the park, often taking more time, work, and finances than what would be required for a regular human.

So where do you start?  Below we have curated a list of to-do’s that can give you an idea of the process and some key considerations before you plan to jet set with your pet into Australia.

1. Check the relevant biosecurity laws and standards

Whilst the options for what you can and cannot have for a pet may be blurred, not all animals are permitted to be imported into Australia for the purposes of managing biosecurity risks.

As such, it is important to directly reference Australia’s biosecurity laws and standards which will detail exactly which animal species are allowed to be imported (and even then with some added stipulations).  A helpful place to start is the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Biosecurity import condition system (‘BICON’) – a database that details the import conditions around each animal species.

Currently in Australia, the following pet animals can be imported:

  • Birds (selected species from New Zealand only);
  • Cats (import via approved countries only);
  • Dogs (import via approved countries only);
  • Horses (approved countries only); and
  • Rabbits (New Zealand only).

Once you are sure that your pet is available for import you then need to check which group they fall into and whether they require or are eligible for an import permit.  The grouping system is different for each animal pet and each country where they are being imported from.

2. Check the conditions on the import permit

If your pet is eligible for import, you will likely be required to apply for a permit in your home country several months before you plan to travel, and there is a range of other eligibility criteria that needs to be satisfied.

For example, if you were looking to migrate your dog you must ensure that:

  • Your dog has been living in the approved home country for at least six months prior to any attempt to import them to Australia;
  • Your dog must be at least 12 weeks old;
  • Your dog must be five generations or more removed from any dog that is not a domestic breed;
  • Females must not be more than 30 days pregnant or suckling their puppies;
  • All pets must be microchipped.

Failure to comply with the conditions on the import permit may result in the dog being (at your cost):

  • Held longer in post-entry quarantine;
  • Subject to additional testing;
  • Exported;
  • Euthanised.

As a general rule pet owners are also required to provide a number of certificates and declarations detailing the requirements that have been met.

3. Have your pets checked by a government-approved or official government veterinarian

Yes, there is a difference and this difference can mean the difference between your pet being approved or refused from entering Australian borders.

A government-approved veterinarian will be typically accredited or hold accreditation issued by a Government body.  In Australia, this is known as Australian Government Accredited Veterinarians (AAVs).  And it is these veterinarians which have the authority to carry out and sign off on any livestock export.

Ensure you check with your veterinarian that they are accredited or government-approved prior to having them sign off on any testing required for import.

4. Test, vaccinate and then some

Depending on the species of your pet, there will be a number of required tests and vaccinations to complete at different stages before the proposed date of export and as a requisite for receiving the import permit.

At least 42 days before the proposed date of export dog owners will need to ensure that their pup has been:

  • Vaccinated with an inactivated rabies vaccine;
  • Microchipped,
  • Tested for Ehrlichia Canis;
  • Tested for Brucella Canis;
  • Tested for Leishmania Infantum;
  • Undergone an RNAT test laboratory report.

Once a permit is issued and at least 14 days before the date of export your dog will be required to undergo additional vaccinations such as for:

  • Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola;
  • Distemper;
  • Hepatitis;
  • Parvovirus;
  • Para-influenza; and
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica;
  • Parasites (at least 21 days before blood sampling for Ehrlichia Canis);

Within 5 days before the date of export the dog must go a final pre-export clinical examination to ensure that they are free from external parasites and clinical signs of an infectious or contagious disease.  A veterinary health certificate must also be completed by an official government veterinarian within this time frame.

As a general rule testing for vaccinations is both species and country-specific and this information can be found on the BICON database.

5. Prepare for take-off

Congratulations you have been issued an import permit.  You are free to choose any airline to jet set your pet in however all pets must arrive direct into Melbourne International Airport.  Arrangements to any other state will have to be arranged by you.

It is at this stage of the process where you have to take the emotional, mental, and health needs of your pet into account.  Flying can often feel like an anxious process for an animal and any hiccups along the way can affect their experience and health post-flying.

Ensure that your pet will travel in an International Air Transport Associated approved crate and if you know your pet to be generally anxious in new or unfamiliar situations, take proactive precautions such as mild sedatives as any issues that occur en route will not be the responsibility of the Australian government or Airline.

6. On arrival in Australia

After your pet arrives into Australia, they will be collected by Agricultural Departmental staff to be transported directly to the Mickleham post entry quarantine facility.

Your pet will be required to stay at Mickleham for a minimum of 10 days.  Any issues that increase biosecurity risks may result in a long stay.

But soon enough, they will be back in your arms ready to support you in your new life.

The Takeaway

Migrating pets should not be an afterthought but approached with the same foresight and proactiveness as you would your own visa.

For a streamlined, efficient, and stress-free process the key is to become familiar with the legal and regulatory guidelines of both the home country and the country to which you will be moving.  And yes, the information is admittedly overwhelming as equally as it is comprehensive but for ohana – well it’s worth it.

If you would like to seek assistance with involving your pets in the migration process you can reach out to one of our pet-friendly consultants on (+61) 2 8234 8400 or email us.

PS that’s my beloved Osho in the photo 😊