Mya is my best friend so there was no way I was going to travel halfway across the world without her. But just like any travel plans, there is a fair bit involved, particularly when travelling with your dog.
The planning process started with us linking up with Jetpets Travel in August (several months before our departure) to assist us in navigating this process from start to finish. They offered a premium service and after months of research on different pet transportation companies, I felt they were the best fit for us. Early in the process Mya and I visited the Jetpets office based in Tullamarine, Melbourne. We met with our Jetpets travel consultant Tanya and got Mya paired up with a Jetpets in-house vet. They organised all the vaccinations she needed to travel overseas and the vet checks leading up to our departure. It was great to have it all organised by professionals and was one less thing for Mya and I to worry about.
Often people have asked me about how she travelled in the crate. Thankfully for Mya, I have had her crate trained while she was still a pup, but familiarity with something new helps reduce stress for everyone involved. As part of the Jetpets service, they select a crate that is suitable for your pet’s size. They will ensure that the crate allows for your pet to be comfortable and move around the crate during their travel.
We got our crate approximately three months before our departure, which was great as this allowed Mya time to get used to her new crate. With time this actually became a safe space for her and she preferred it during thunderstorms etc. For the journey, they also provided a bowl of fresh water and a second bowl of frozen water to ensure that Mya had plenty of fluid to drink during her flight. It is recommended you only give your dog a small meal prior to travel.
Soon enough the day arrived and our journey to Canada began. Jetpets picked up Mya in the morning from our house and arranged all her final vet checks (to ensure she was healthy enough to fly). I put one of my flannel shirts in the crate with her to give her a familiar smell and to help her feel more comfortable. Although it was nerve-racking to see her leave, I knew she was in good hands!
At the time we left Australia, there weren’t any direct flights from Melbourne to Vancouver. I’d previously travelled overseas on my own and been through the unfortunate experience of losing my luggage at an international stopover. The last thing I wanted was for someone to lose Mya! As a result, avoiding an international stopover was an absolute priority for me.
Instead, we decided to break the trip up into a short trip from Melbourne to Sydney and then the following day would be our trip from Sydney to Vancouver.
I watched Mya get loaded on and off the plane. The flight from Sydney to Melbourne is just over an hour and as soon as she landed in Sydney she was taken to a nearby kennel where she was able to stretch her legs and go to the toilet. I was lucky enough to be able to visit her at the kennel in Sydney. Although, when I first saw her she was a little upset with me after not having been with her all day, but she came around when I was able to take her to a nearby grassed area to throw a ball and reassure her everything was okay. I think the biggest issue for Mya during this time was that she didn’t know where I was, what was happening or if I was coming back.
The next leg of our journey was from Sydney to Vancouver; which is approximately a 15-hour flight. Mya was taken to the airport early in the morning, so I wasn’t able to see her, but I made sure I was all checked in and at the gate early enough to watch her get loaded safely onto the aircraft.
The plane contained an animal hold that is climate controlled, dimly lit and separate from the general luggage. Mya wasn’t alone on the flight; from memory I believe there was another three dogs with her.
Upon our arrival in Vancouver International Airport, Mya was unloaded straight away and taken the customs facility. Jetpets arranged for all of her import paper work to be completed and by the time I cleared customs I was able to pick her up. Luckily, because we were travelling from Australia, which is an island (without many diseases), there was no quarantine time on our arrival into Canada.
Looking back I am glad Mya had the short flight first to learn that I was coming back to her and that nothing bad was happening. I think this helped put her mind at ease during the long flight, although this might not be the case for other dogs. I am aware that there are no direct flights from Australia to Vancouver from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
A few people have asked me if I sedated Mya for the journey. I did not and have been advised by many vets that this is not recommended as there is no one in the animal hold to monitor their wellbeing like there would be in a vet clinic when an animal is sedated. Instead, I knew that the time I had put into getting her comfortable inside her crate would minimise the stress on her. People often ask me about the noise from the engines. I recently flew with Mya next to me in the cabin and the sound from the engines didn’t seem to phase her, but it may impact other dogs. I have heard of mobile phone apps that you can download to try and simulate the noise, but I have no idea how valuable they are. I’ve also heard of people giving their dog a calming herbal tea, this wasn’t something we did, so I can’t offer any insight into if this is valuable or not.
Of course, I was worried throughout the whole process, after all, Mya is my family and I don’t know what I’d do if I made a decision that harmed her, but Jetpets were always more than happy to answer any questions or concerns I had. When Mya and I were reunited in Vancouver, Mya seemed excited and just happy to see me.
Of course, some of the more challenging parts of travelling with your pet are helping them return home safely. We really want to do it right, so that we don’t have any issues and we don’t need to try and smuggle Mya into Australia in a suitcase.
There are a number of requirements for a foreign dog and even a returning Australian dog to enter Australia. As Mya has been abroad she is now classified as a foreign animal.
First, you need to work out whether the country you are coming from is classified as a group 1, 2 or 3 Country as this will affect the process.
Since Mya is coming from the USA and Canada, this is classified as a group 3 country. Dogs coming from a group 3 country must have a valid import permit. It is important that you follow all the steps on conditions on the import permit to ensure there are no complications such as increased quarantine time for your pet.
Upon arrival in Australia, dogs must spend a minimum of 10 days in the Mickleham post quarantine facility (close to Melbourne International Airport). I know 10 days sounds like a long time, but if you make sure you do all the necessary work beforehand it should be a smooth process.
Here is a tabulated summary of what to expect- please refer to the detail explanation and URL links below for further information.
Step 1: Contact the competent Authority in the country you are exporting from
Timeframe: Before you start the export process
- Ensure you are aware which Veterinarians and laboratories are approved to prepare your dog for export and if the country has any additional export requirements that are not registered on the Australian Department of Agriculture website.
- The Australian Department of Agriculture recommends you take this document (in the link below). The link below also provides some additional information that can be passed onto your government approved veterinarian for preparing your pet for their journey to Australia.
Step 2: Confirm general eligibility
Timeframe: Before starting the export process
- Dogs must be from an ‘Approved” country to the exported to Australia. A full list of approved countries in available in this section via the document link.
- There is also a number of breeds that are prohibited from entering Australia. This is worth checking out early. You can call the Department of Home Affairs on +61 2 6264 1111 or 131 881 (within Australia) for more information.
Step 3: Verify existing microchip or implant a new microchip
Timeframe: Dependant on Vaccine Validity.
- Dogs must be identified by a microchip that can be read by an Avid, Trojan, Destron or other ISO compatible reader
- A government approved veterinarian must scan the microchip at each visit and must be correctly recorded on all documentation.
- It is highly important that the microchip is able to be read and is recorded at each visit to enable the dog to be imported into Australia.
Step 4: Check Rabies Vaccination
Timeframe: Dependant on vaccine validity.
Your dog must be vaccinated with an inactivated ed rabies vaccine that is:
- Given in an approved country when the dog was at least 90 days old
- Valid, according to the manufacturer’s directions at the time of export.
- Is approved for use in dogs by the competent authority of the country of export
Rabies vaccinations given with a three-year validity are acceptable if given with manufacturers instructions.
Step 5: Rabies neutralising antibody titre (RNAT) test
Timeframe: between 180 days and 24 months before the dates of export
- Wait 3-4 weeks between the rabies vaccination and blood sample collection for the RNAT test
The RNAT test must meet the following requirements:
- A government approved veterinarian must scan the dog’s microchip and collect the blood sample for the RNAT test in an approved country
- Dogs microchip number must be written clearly on the blood sample tube and laboratory submission form
- The testing laboratory must be approved by the competent authority in the exporting country. It is acceptable to draw blood in an approved country and test it in a laboratory in a different approved country if required.
- The testing laboratory must use either a fluorescent antibody virus neutralisation (FAVN) test or a Rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test (RFFIT)
The laboratory report must be in English and include the following information:
- Dogs microchip number
- The blood sampling date and location
- The signature of the person issuing the laboratory report
- The test type and result
- A result of 0.5IU/ml or more is acceptable. A result of less than 0.5 IU/ml is not acceptable and in this circumstance, you must re-vaccinate and repeat the testing process.
- The RNAT test us valid for 24 months from the date of blood sampling. If it is past 24 months at the time of export to Australia, you must have your dog re-tested.
- The dog is not eligible for export to Australia until at least 180 days after the date the blood sample is collected for the RNAT test (with a satisfactory result). There is no requirement for a dog to stay in an approved country during this period.
NOTE: there are no exceptions available for this mandatory 180 day waiting period.
Step 6: An official Government veterinarian must complete the Rabies Vaccination and RNAT test declaration.
Timeframe: before applying for the import permit.
An official government veterinarian (not the government approved) in the country of export must:
- Check the RNAT test laboratory report and Rabies Vaccination certificate
- Complete, sign and stamp the RNAT declaration.
- The microchip number, test result and blood sampling date must be consistent between the RNAT test laboratory report and RNAT test declaration
- Ensure the completed RNAT test declaration states the name of the testing laboratory, not the submitting laboratory.
Step 7: Apply and pay for the import permit
Timeframe: after you have received the completed Rabies Vaccination and RNAT test declaration, and at least 42 days before the proposed date of export.
- Submit your import permit application, including full payment and all supporting documentation online through our Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON)
Supporting documentation (original documents are not required) must include:
- Rabies and RNAT test declaration
- RNAT test laboratory report
- For animals with ongoing medical conditions a completed veterinary medical form detailing the condition(s) your animal is suffering from and the treatment (if any) that is required to manage it.
- Additional charges may apply if the information is missing, incorrect or if an application is put on hold.
- Please allow at least 20 working days for the department to process your application
- Import permits are valid for up to 12 months from the date of issue.
Step 8: Book tentative post entry quarantine accommodation and make travel arrangements
Timeframe: after you have received your import permit
- Dogs must spend at least 10 days of the Mickleham post-entry quarantine facility. You consult the Australian post-entry quarantine facilities webpage for further information ( follow the link in step 8 of the link below)
- The department does not put any restrictions on the airline you choose. But the dog must arrive direct into Melbourne International Airport. Domestic transfers from an Australian City to Melbourne are not permitted.
- The dog must travel as manifested cargo (not in the cabin) in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved crate for dogs. Visit iata.org for further information.
- There are various animal transport companies that can help make these arrangements for you. Visit the International Pet and Animal Transport Association ipata.org For more information.
- The department takes no responsibility for animals that escape route.
- All transport costs are at the importer’s expense.
- The dog in transit (touch down but stay on the same plane) or transship (change aircraft) in a country en route to Australia.
- Dogs transhipped through International airports in non-approved counties must not leave the international side of the airport.
- It is the importer (your) responsibility to contact the competent authority in the country of transhipment to find out:
- Whether they allow animals to tranship
- Whether they have a facility to accommodate animals during transhipment
- How long the animals can be helped
- If any additional conditions apply.
Step 9: Check other vaccinations
Timeframe: dependant on the validity of your dog’s vaccination and at least 14 days before the date of export.
- The department recommends that your dog receives a vaccination that protects against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Para-influenza and Bordertellabronchiseptica and is Valid for the entire postentry quarantine period.
USA only: dogs exported from the USA must be fully vaccinated against Canine Influenza virus (CIV)
- Use any CIV vaccine registered in the USA for use in dogs.
- Use a vaccine that is effective against the particular strain(s) prevalent in the area in which the dog has been living.
- Vaccinations must be given between 12 months and 14 days before export
- Vaccinations must be valid for the entire postentry quarantine period.
Dogs may be also vaccinated against LeptopspirainterrogansserovarCanicola as an alternative to the testing outlines in Step 14. If you chose to do this dogs must be fully vaccinated against LeptospirainterrogransserovarCanicola, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually an initial course if two vaccines 2-4 weeks apart followed by yearly boosters), at least 14 days before export. The vaccination must be valid at the time of export.
Further information relating to these vaccinations for veterinarians preparing dogs for export to Australia is available via the link in step 9 of the link below.
Step 10: External Parasite Treatments.
Timeframe: start at least 21 days before the date of blood sampling for Ehrlichiacanis (step 11)
- A government approved veterinarian must treat the dog with a product that kills ticks and fleas on contact at least 21 has before blood collection for Ehrlichiacanis antibody testing. Continuous protection from external parasites must be maintained until the time of export and treatments may need to be repeated by the Veterinarian in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- To calculate 21 days after initial external parasite treatment counts the day the treatment applied as 0. E.g treatment on January 1st the blood sample cannot be collected until January 22nd.
- See the department’s webpage link in step 10 for further information on acceptable treatments.
Step 11: Testing forEhrlichiacanis
Timeframe: within 45 days before the date of export.
- A government approved veterinarian must scan and verify the animal’s microchip and collect a blood sample at least 21 days after external parasite treatment starts and within 45 days before export.
- The sample must be tested for the Ehrlichiacanis infection by an indirect Fluorescent Antibody test (IFAT) for the detection of IgG antibodies. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests of IFAT for the detection of IgG antibodies are not accepted.
- The test must produce a negative result at a dilution of 1:40.
- If the external parasite treatments do not provide continuous protection from at least 21 days before the date of blood sampling the test result will be invalidated and steps 10 and 11 will need to be repeated.
Step 12: Testing for Brucellecanis (Brucellosis)
Timeframe: within 45 days before the date of export
- If the dog is desexed it doesn’t need testing for Brucellosis (evidence may be requested by the competent authority in the exporting country or the department)
- If the dog is not desexed a government approved veterinarian must scan and verify the animal’s microchip and collect a blood sample to be tested for Brucellosis canis using a rapid slide agglutination test (RSAT), a tube agglutination test (TAT) or an Indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT) within 45 days of export.
- The test must produce a negative result
- If the test is positive you must contact the department for further advice (see a link to this information in step 12 of the link below).
- The dog must not be mated or artificially inseminated from 14 days before blood sampling until export.
Step 13: Testing for Leishamaniainfantum (Leishmaniosis)
Timeframe: within 45 days before the date of export.
- A government approved veterinarian must scan and verify the animal’s microchip and collect a blood sample to be tested for the condition listed above.
- The sample must be tested using an indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT) or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) within 45 days of export
- The test must produce a negative result.
Step 14: Testing for LeptospiraCanicola (leptospirosis)
Timeframe: within 45 days before the date of export.
This step only applies if the dog has not been vaccinated against LeptospirainterrogransserovarCanicola as per step 9.
- A government approved veterinarian must scan and verify the animal’s microchip and collect a blood sample to be tested using a microscopic agglutination test (MAT) within 45 days of the date of export.
- The test must produce a negative result (less than 50% agglutination) at a serum dilution of 1:1000.
Step 15: (only if the dog has ever visited mainland Africa): babesiacanis treatment.
Timeframe: within 28 days before the date of export.
- If your dog has ever visited mainland Africa a government approved veterinarian must treat it with a single dose of imidocarddipropionate at a rate of 7.5mg/kg body weight, or two doses at a rate of 6.0mg/kg body weight given at least 14 days apart treatments must be by subcutaneous injection and given within 28 days of export.
Step 16: Internal parasite treatments
Timeframe: two treatments at least 14 days apart with the second treatment given within 5 days before export.
- A government approved veterinarian must treat the dog twice with an internal parasite treatment effective against internal parasites (nematodes and cestodes). The two treatments must be administered at least 14 days apart and within 45 days of export. The second treatment must be given within 5 days before export.
- See the department’s page via the link in this section for acceptable treatments.
Step 17: pre-export clinic examination
Timeframe: within 5 days before the date of export
- A government approved/ official government veterinarian must examine the dog and find them free from external parasites and clinical signs of infectious or contagious disease within 5 days before export you must bring all documents to this examination.
Step 18: completion of veterinary health certificate
Timeframe: within 5 days before the date of export
- The veterinary health certificate is appendix 1 of your import permit.
- A valid import permit, with a veterinary certificate completed by an official government veterinarian in the country of export, must accompany the dog on arrival in Australia.
- An official government veterinarian must complete, sign and stamp all pages of the veterinary health certificate.
- Any corrections made to the veterinary health certificate must be struck through, remain legible and be signed by the official government veterinarian (correction fluid must not be used)
- An official government veterinarian must also sign and stamp every page of the the
- Ehrlichiacanis laboratory report
- Leishmania infantum laboratory report
- Brucellosis canis laboratory report (if no desexed)
- Leptospirainterrogansserovarcanicola laboratory report (if not vaccinated)
- RNATT declaration
- RNATT laboratory report
- Copies can be used, by they must bear the original signature of the official government veterinarian and stamp the competent authority on every page.
- It is recommended that you also keep a copy of every document
Step 19: Travel to Australia
- The dog must travel in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved crate for dogs (see step 8)
- In most cases, the dog will be checked in at the freight terminal, not the passenger terminal.
- The dog must arrive in Australia before the import permit expires
Step 20: on arrival in Australia
- Departmental staff will collect your dog on arrival for transport to the Mickleham post-entry quarantine facility.
- The dog must stay in quarantine for a minimum of 10 days. Any issues that increase biosecurity risk may result in a longer stay.
I know these 20 steps probably sound like a lot of information and a lot to do. I thought the same thing the first time I read it. Make sure you read it carefully as there may be some steps that aren’t relevant to you. To make this a little simpler for everyone (and myself) I have summarised the steps for returning home and the timeline in the table above.
I hope that this has given you more insight into what is required to take your furry friend overseas and of course bring them home to Australia. Obviously, make sure you check with your returning/entering countries Department of Agriculture information for more specific information.
Always remember good preparation to travel with you and your pup / furry friend is the best thing you can do for a smooth travel journey.
Disclaimer: Much of the information about returning to Australia has been directly obtained from the Australian Department of Agriculture website. This information may change or be updated without us being aware, so please check the link below for the most up to date information.
Finally ,all people ever hear about in the news are the bad stories, I have now heard so many success and positive stories about people travelling with their pets. If you have travelled with your pet, please leave a comment on this page so that others can read about your experience and get a more balanced perspective.