Transporting pets
Source: pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

When you decide to move the family Down Under, of course that involves the pets as well. After all, we all deserve a lifetime of shine, Neighbours and Home & Away, right?

But of course, as an island nation, with a fragile ecosystem of its own, Australia has very strict rules about importing pets to the country. The good news is, bringing your cat and dog is straightforward, you just have to be aware of the rules and follow them closely – and you will have to accept it is not a cheap process.

If you wish to make the move to Australia and you are travelling with pets, here is everything you need to know…

Who Makes the Rules?

The import of animals is controlled by the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the website has detailed information and a step by step guide to be sure you have completed all the stages to import your pet successfully.

The UK falls into Group 3 of countries that are allowed to import cats and dogs. We are described as a country in which rabies is absent or well-controlled. As a result, we need to apply for an import permit for our animals.

BICON, the biosecurity import conditions system, also approves the importation of horses from selected countries, including the UK.

How to Import Cats into Australia

If you are looking to bring your cat to Australia, it will have to spend 10 days in quarantine upon arrival, no matter what. Any pet arriving without the correct permit could be held for longer, subjected to additional testing, exported or even euthanised and you will be expected to cover that cost. So it pays to get it right the first time.

You will need to complete 15 stages to successfully import your cat to Australia and you must ensure that all vet-related activities are carried out by a government-approved vet and all testing by a laboratory recognized by the UK government.

Make sure you begin the process early as to complete all the tests and approvals you will need at least a few weeks, particularly because you can’t travel with your cat until at least 180 days after a successful rabies blood test.

The Process

Firstly, your cat must be microchipped, with a device that can be read by an Avid, Trovan, Destron or other ISO compatible reader. And your cat must be scanned and recorded with each veterinarian visit, just to keep all documentation in check.

The next stage is to give your cat a rabies vaccination and then wait three to four weeks before returning to the vet for a blood sample and testing by an approved laboratory. These results will then be valid for up to two years but you must wait at least 180 days after the satisfactory test before you export it to Australia.

After a government-approved vet has signed the RNAT (rabies) test declaration, you will need to apply for your import permit, at least 42 days before the date of travel, this will then be valid for up to 12 months.

When booking the flight for your cat, take note that it must arrive into Melbourne Airport (and no internal connections are allowed) as it is here where your cat will be kept in quarantine for at least 10 days at the Mickleham post entry quarantine facility. Make sure you book this service in advance.

The Australian Department of Agriculture also advises: “The department recommends that your cat receives a vaccination that protects against feline enteritis (also known as feline panleucopenia or feline distemper), rhinotracheitis and calicivirus and is valid for the entire post entry quarantine period.

Another thing to take into account is a parasite treatment. Two treatments must be given at least 14 days apart and within 45 days before the date of export. The second treatment must be given within five days before the date of export. An external parasite treatment must also be started at least 21 days before the date of travel.

A final veterinary check and health certificate must also be emitted within five days of travel and you must ensure your pet will travel in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved crate for cats.

Here’s a quick summary of the above steps:

  • Ensure your cat is microchipped.
  • Rabies vaccination and test performed at least 180 days before export.
  • Apply for an import permit at least 42 days before export (valid up to 12 months)
  • Make arrangements for quarantine. Your pet must arrive at Melbourne airport. Links and info can be found here.
  • Consider vaccinating your pet against feline enteritis as recommended by the Department of Agriculture.
  • Treat your pet for both internal and external parasites.
  • A final check and health certificate must be issued within 5 days of travel.
  • Ensure your pet will travel in an IATA approved crate.

How to Import Dogs into Australia

If it is your dog that will accompany you Down Under, the process is not dissimilar to the one outlined for cats by the Australian government.

Your dog will need to be flown to Melbourne as it will have to spend at least 10 days in the Mickleham quarantine facility. You will also need an import permit. Without that you could face paying for your dog to be held for longer, subjected to additional testing, exported or even worse, euthanised.

You will be expected to use only government-approved veterinarians and laboratories for all stages completed before your dog’s transport. Make sure to check the list of dogs not allowed into the country. These include American pit bull terriers, the dogo Argentino and Czechoslovakian wolfdog.

The Process

As with cats, your dog will need a microchip that can be read by an Avid, Trovan, Destron or other ISO compatible reader.

You will also need to vaccinate your dog against rabies and then wait three to four weeks for a blood test known as an RNAT test to ensure it has worked. Your dog can’t travel until at least 18 days after this test is successfully carried out and an approved vet must sign and stamp the RNAT declaration.

Once this is done, you must apply for your import permit and also book the quarantine accommodation in Melbourne for your dog’s arrival. Keep in mind you must book a direct flight to Melbourne as they can’t be transported with Australia via domestic flights.

A whole raft of further tests is needed before export. Your dog must be treated with a product that kills ticks and fleas on contact at least 21 days before blood collection for Ehrlichia canis antibody testing (which must take place within 45 days of travel).

Then, if your dog is not de-sexed, it must also be tested for Brucella canis within 45 days of travel. Other tests to be done within the same period are the test for Leishmania infantum (known as leishmaniosis) and Leptospira interrogans (known as leptospirosis), although the latter can be avoided with a vaccine.

The final steps involve a two-step internal parasite treatment with the stages administered at least 14 days apart and within 45 days of export. The second treatment must be given within five days of travel. A final vet visit within five days of travel ​is also required for a clinical examination and a veterinary health certificate.

Here’s a quick summary of the above steps:

  1. Check that your breed is allowed into Australia using this list.
  2. Ensure your dog is properly microchipped.
  3. Vaccinate your dog against rabies and have appropriate blood tests carried out.
  4. Apply for import permit.
  5. Make arrangements for quarantine in Melbourne. All pets imported to Australia must fly directly to Melbourne.
  6. Ensure all necessary tests are carried out before export. These include treatments to kill ticks and fleas, as well as tests for Brucella canis if your dog is not de-sexed.
  7. Treat your pet for both internal parasites.
  8. Perform a final visit to the vet for an examination and a veterinary health certificate.

Importing horses

If you have a horse in the UK, the good news is you can take it to Australia with you by applying for an import permit.

Also, before travel, your horse will have to spend at least 14 days in an approved pre-export quarantine station, during which they will be monitored and tested for diseases. They will also have to arrive in Melbourne when travelling to Australia, as, like cats and dogs, they will have to spend time at the Mickleham quarantine facility, this time for at least 14 days.

The organisation and process for importing horses is very different, and is overseen by Australian Biosecurity Import Conditions.

The Australian government also recommends you use a commercial horse import agent as the process can be extremely complicated and prohibitively expensive.

An agent will be able to take care of the many stages for you, ensuring all veterinary tests have been carried out, organising the pre-travel quarantine and other documentation ensuring your horse hasn’t come into contact with various types of rabies or equine encephalomyelitis and other parts of the drawn-out process such as parasite tests, which have to take place within 24 hours of travel. More information on the documentation you will need can be found here.

If you’re in the early stages of planning for a move to Australia, you may be interested in our international removals services. We offer a free, no-obligation quote.