For many people, pets are not simply animals, they are part of the family. Therefore it’s only natural to assume that when we emigrate, they come along too. But unfortunately it’s never that easy and getting a working Australian visa for yourself is often a piece of cake compared to getting a permit for your beloved pet!
Therefore, after days of scratching our heads in puzzlement and muttering profanities under our breath, we at Embrace have delved into the complex business of pet permits to bring you our definitive (we hope!) guide to the tangle of red tape.
Please note that this is a guide for cats and dogs only, as most other pets will not be allowed to be exported to Australia from any other country apart from New Zealand. So Hammy the Hamster may just have to stay with a friend or relative.
STEP ONE – Meeting the Criteria
In order to take your pet with you to Australia you need an Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) Permit. Before you even apply for the permit it’s worth getting a few things in order first. One of the things you can do straight away is to ensure that your pet meets the following conditions:
- They must have been living in the UK for more than 6 months.
- They must be at least 12 weeks old.
- Females must not be more than 3 weeks pregnant or be suckling young.
- For cats, the breed must not be or be cross-bred with a serval cat, which is an African wild cat.
- For dogs, the following breeds are NOT allowed into Australia:
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brazileiro
- Japanese Tosa
- Pit Bull Terrier or American Pit Bull
- Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario
- Your pet must not be derived from a non-domestic hybrid, or if it is, it must be at least 5 generations removed.
- Your pet must be microchipped and readable by an ISO compatible reader. It’s worth asking your vet to check this before you apply, because if they can’t read the microchip then your pet will not be allowed into the country.
STEP TWO – How many pets can I take?
Most Australian councils have a limit on the number of cats and dogs that can be kept at home. Usually this is two of each, but there can be exceptions and you’ll need to apply for a Multiple Pet Permit. You should try to contact the council where you intend to live to ask them about their guidelines before you apply for your import permit, or you could be paying out a lot of money for an additional pet that may be refused entry by the local council. Debra Copeland found this out to her cost when she applied to take her 5 Pedigree cats over with her to the Rockingham area of Perth.
“Apparently in most councils you can only keep two cats by law unless you apply for an exemption certificate … you can’t apply for this exemption until you are over there and have an address … the council will write to your neighbours asking them if they mind you owning more than two cats and if they have a valid reason for not wanting you to have more than two cats you are basically refused. The cats are then taken off you and re-homed or put to sleep.”
Debra’s position is made even more difficult because if you have over 4 cats you need to apply for a cattery licence!
This may seem overly strict, but the rules are better understood if you bear in mind the problems Australia has with cats, which include the killing of native and fragile wildlife and the huge increase in the stray cat population. You may be a responsible cat owner, but unfortunately many others aren’t.
STEP THREE – Contact your vet
Your AQIS application will come with veterinary certificates A and B. A government approved officer in the country you are migrating from (e.g. the UK) will complete certificate B for you and endorse certificate A. Certificate A will be completed by a government approved vet who will prepare your pet ready for export around 4 days before your pet is due to travel, more information on this is in Step 6. Samples will be taken from your pet and sent to an approved laboratory for testing.
To apply for the certificates from the UK and for guidance notes, contact the Central Operations for Exports, Animal Health Division in Carlisle on 01228 403600 (option 2). They will provide an application form for your export health certificate, which is vital to begin the process. You will be asked to provide vet details on the form and Defra will then check to ensure that your vet is one listed as an official government vet. The forms will then be forwarded to the vet. Defra will provide your vet with a list of vaccinations that are required for your pet as well as a list of blood tests. As of yet, Defra do not charge for this service, but your vet will charge both for the certificate and every sample and/or vaccination that is required.
For people migrating from the USA, the Dept of Agriculture is responsible for issuing you with the certificates and guidance notes you will need. Visit their website for more information.
STEP FOUR – Applying for an AQIS Permit
You can apply for your AQIS permit here and send it back to:
AQIS – Live Animal Imports
GPO Box 858
Australia Fax: +61 2 6272 3110
Phone: +61 2 6272 4454
You can post, email or fax your application with any supporting documents and once received, it should take up to 10 working days for them to get back to you with your permit. However they do have an online application system that is far cheaper to use and very secure, you’ll need to scan any relevant paperwork in, but if you’re comfortable with using the PC then this could be the option for you.
Once you have successfully applied for an AQIS permit, they are valid for 6 months from the issue date. So don’t apply too far in advance, it’s worth making this one of the last things you do, so long as you are confident that you meet the full criteria
AQIS Import Permit assessment and application fees.
(All fees are in Australian dollars)
If you have applied for a permit manually (i.e. by post/email/fax) the fee is $150. If you have applied using the AQIS online system the fee is $85.
After that there is an assessment fee. For the first cat or dog the fee comes under Category 4 which is $240, for any subsequent animal the fee reduces to Category 1: $40.
Live animal import permit fees
Manual applications: $150, online: $85.
Assessment for first cat/dog: $240, subsequent cat/dog: $80.
AQIS accepts cheque and credit card payments (Visa, MasterCard and American Express only).
STEP FIVE – Quarantine
Once your AQIS permit has been approved you will need to book your pets a place at an AQIS post arrival animal quarantine service. There are 3 of these stations to accommodate both cats and dogs and these are stationed in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. The quarantine period is a 30 day minimum period for the UK, for the USA quarantine times can vary and once all the blood tests are complete you will be informed as to how long your pet needs to be booked into the quarantine centre.
Remember though, that just because you have your permit, this does NOT guarantee you a place at any of the quarantine centres.Â
Lee Purcell from Eastern Creek Quarantine Station says: “Demand for accommodation at the Quarantine Station is high, with the Quarantine Station often running at or near 100% occupancy. As such, notifications & bookings are required to ensure we can accommodate your animal. Currently, the Quarantine Station does not operate a dedicated booking system. Importers are required to notify the Quarantine Station of the intended importation on issuance of the Import Permit. Quarantine Station staff will be able to advise of accommodation availability at that time, & a tentative reservation made. Bookings will only be confirmed when actual shipment details are advised by the airline. “
When you contact the centre they will need:
- A valid AQIS Import Permit number
- Animal details including breed, weight, age, gender etc.
- Flight number and date of arrival in Australia (you can confirm this nearer the time)
- Air waybill number (again, confirm nearer the time)
- Contact telephone number
- Details of any special needs your animal may have
The quarantine stations can get extremely busy. Danika Cotterell from the Byford Quarantine Station says:
“Currently we take bookings approximately 2-3 months in advance, and we seem to be busy all year round, although Christmas can often be busier.”
Two animals may share the same kennel at the discretion of the quarantine centre, provided they are from the same household, this often works out cheaper for the second dog/cat.
The quarantine centres will need to be paid separately, an invoice will be sent directly to you, so make sure they have your up-to-date contact information. Fees need to be paid on a weekday before you collect your pet. Payments cannot be processed at the weekend.
As a general guide, expect to pay around $800 AUD for a 30 day quarantine period.
Visiting hours differ hugely from each quarantine centre, so do contact them to find out when visiting times/dates are.
Sydney Quarantine Centre
60 Wallgrove Road, Eastern Creek, NSW 2766
Phone: +61 2 9625 4566
Spotswood Quarantine Centre
Postal Address: PO Box 1079, Newport, VIC 3105
Physical Address: 43-47 Craig Street, Spotswood, VIC 3105
Phone: +61 3 9391 1627
Byford Animal Quarantine Centre
Postal Address: PO Box 61, Byford, WA 6122
Physical Address: 106 Nettleton Road, Byford, WA 6122
Phone: +61 8 9525 1763
STEP SIX – Veterinary Certificates
Around 4 days before your pets’ departure date, take it to your vet to be checked for fitness to travel. Take all your other certificates and paperwork with you as these too will be checked over. Once your pet has been declared free from parasites and illness and the paperwork is all correct, veterinary certificate A will be signed off.
STEP SEVEN – Travel Arrangements
Your pet can only travel to Perth, Melbourne or Sydney. Flights must be booked from Mon-Fri between 8am and 4.30pm. Do not book them onto flights at the weekends or any Australian public bank holidays (worth checking when these are). Your pet will be allowed to travel unaccompanied.
Once the flights are booked, call the quarantine centre to confirm the booking for your pet and provide them with the flight number, date and time and the airway bill number.
There are no restrictions on which airline you choose, but the animal must have a suitable container in which to travel. The International Air Travel Association provides approved containers which you can get from their website IATA.
Your pet will be checked over by a vet on the day of departure who will add the last remaining signature onto your Import Permit. The crate will also be checked to ensure it’s suitable. All other paperwork must be present, including your vaccination certificates, AQIS permit, veterinary certificates and any other relevant travel documents. It’s important that you take a copy of this paperwork for your own records, ensuring that the originals stay with your pet.
Your pet will be met at the airport by a quarantine officer and taken directly to the centre. The centres will only take animals during the week from 6am – 12am, not at the weekend or any public bank holidays. If you need to check up on your pet, please leave sufficient time for the animal to get settled at the centre. So if your pet is taken off in the morning, wait until the afternoon before phoning. If it’s the afternoon, wait until the next morning.
Sound like hard work?
If you’d rather pay someone to do the hard work for you, and let’s face it, you’ll have enough to deal with just getting yourselves organised for the big move! You may wish to consider a pet travel service.
Most pet removal services offer the following basic package:
- Freight charges
- UK airport fees
- Vet sealing in Heathrow
- IATA containers
- Application of the Export permit
- Application of the Import permit
- Agency fee
Other services they may provide are:
- All veterinary services if required, with in house vets.
- Flight delivery.
- Paperwork check.
- Blood test results check.
- Pre-flight boarding for as long as necessary.
- Manufactured made to measure air kennels.
- Pre-flight grooming if required.
- Pet collection anywhere in the UK.
- Customs clearance, collection and quarantine for pets returning to the UK.
AirPets offer all of the above and come highly recommended by Anglo Pacific. Here are a few other pet travel services you may wish to consider.
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