Moving internationally with pets is a pretty big deal, and Australia in particular requires quite a bit of research, planning and attention to detail.
Because it’s a rabies-free country, Australia is relatively strict about importing pets. If planning to bring a dog or cat when relocating to Australia, one will need to start the import process several months before the move to have a good understanding of all vaccine, permit and quarantine requirements.
Moving pets from the United States to Australia
This overview is geared towards pets coming from the United States, so if starting elsewhere please refer to the Australian Government Department of Agriculture for guidance. Either way, there will be quite a few steps to take before a pet can enter the country.
Here’s a quick look at the requirements, which will help plan the pet’s import timeline:
The “quarantine period” for pets coming from the United States is 190 days -- 180 of those are spent at home and the final 10 are fulfilled in an official quarantine facility upon arrival in Australia.
Pets must have an ISO-compliant microchip, which must be implanted before the rabies vaccinations are administered. Two to three weeks after the first rabies vaccine is administered, pets need to undergo a Rabies Neutralizing Antibody Titer Test to ensure that the rabies vaccine has provided adequate antibody levels. This test must be done by an approved government facility. The day that the blood is drawn for the Titer test is when the 190 countdown begins, however the test will remain valid for two years.
An international health certificate, or APHIS 7001, must be issued and endorsed by the USDA within 10 days of departure (a vet and/or pet travel specialist can help with this).
In addition to these official health requirements, one will also need to book the pet’s flight (preferably on a pet friendly airline), obtain an airline-approved travel crate, and help the pet to get used to the crate before the flight.
Because of the complex nature of importing pets to Australia, many pet owners decide to hire comprehensive or partial assistance with their move in the form of professional pet shippers. This makes the process more expensive, but most people find it well worth the cost.
Before leaving, it’s also wise to talk to a vet about any health-related concerns. Fit, healthy pets make better travelers, and there are certain things that can be done before the flight, like helping a pet get plenty of exercise and making sure they’re hydrated.
Pet quarantine in Australia
If all pre-travel requirements are correctly carried out, a pet will spend 10 days in an official quarantine facility upon arrival. Note that quarantine fees and procedures as well as quarantine locations tend to change from time to time, so if planning to relocate a pet it’s important to consult the official Australia Government Department of Agriculture website to find the most current information.
As for what the quarantine facility will be like, imagine a safe but no-frills boarding facility. Pets are given ample food and water, dogs can spend time outside for bathroom breaks and exercise, and cats are housed in a separate area. The staff is trained to handle pets’ needs and can administer medications, and a veterinarian can be brought onsite should one be required.
Many pet owners find themselves feeling seriously worried about how their pet will do during quarantine, but the truth is that this is a safe, necessary part of the process and most pets handle everything just fine.
Living in Australia with pets
Once a pet fulfills the quarantine period, the new adventure can truly begin. Australia has the potential to be a fun and exciting place for pets (think beaches, parks, and plenty of space for exploring), and in general cultural attitudes are welcoming of pets.
As compared to some countries, Australia doesn’t present as many challenges when it comes to finding pet-friendly housing, dog parks, and pet supplies. Before moving, check online for information about dog-friendly places to go, pet stores, and animal services like vets and groomers.
Remember, plenty of resources exist to help, so please refer to Australia’s government website or a pet travel specialist for guidance or questions about traveling with pets to Australia.
A note about New Zealand
New Zealand, also a rabies-free island nation, has strict pet import rules as well. Pet owners moving here will need to carry out very similar steps as those going to Australia, but please reference the official New Zealand government website to find out exactly what’s required.
No matter where you end up, travel safely, everyone!
~ Article written in July 2015