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Big doings Down Under: Changes to Australia’s pet import/quarantine rules

In the course of checking and updating the links in Dog Jaunt’s book Bone Voyage (teetering on the brink of being released in print form!!), I learned that Australia has made some big changes to its pet import rules, effective as of 2 December 2013 (and affecting animals arriving after 3 February 2014). The most significant change is that the minimum quarantine period has been reduced from 30 days to 10 days — too long, still, for most casual travelers, but an improvement nevertheless.

Previously, the world’s countries were divided by Australia’s Department of Agriculture into six categories, ranging from the easiest countries to import from (e.g., New Zealand) to the hardest (a pet arriving from a Category 6 country like South Africa would have to stay in quarantine for at least 210 days). The U.S. fell in the middle, in Category 4: Pets arriving from the U.S. with all their prep work done properly would still face a minimum quarantine of 30 days.

Now there are only three categories of country, again ranging from easiest (the three countries in Category 1 are New Zealand, Norfolk Island, and Cocos Island); to fairly-challenging (visitors from Category 2 countries — generally speaking, other Pacific Ocean entities, plus outliers like Japan, Singapore, Bahrain, Iceland, and the Falkland Islands  — must get an import permit, but face “less conditions and testing”); to roll-up-your-sleeves. The U.S. is a Category 3 country, as are Canada, the U.K. and all of continental Europe, South Africa, and dozens of other countries.

As before, the countries that don’t appear in those lists are “non-approved,” but the situation has improved a little for pet owners in those countries too. Previously, an owner seeking to import a pet from, say, India, had to spend the 6 months preceding their travel date in an approved country (as well as negotiating Australia’s import conditions and testing requirements). Now, that owner can choose an approved country, bring her pet there (first meeting that country’s import requirements), and get the rabies vaccination and testing Australia requires — but then, if the owner chooses, they can return together to India for the period (about 5 months) between that testing and the date they have to return to the approved country prior to traveling to Australia. It’s a modest improvement: Owner and pet will still have to spend about 6 weeks in the approved country, and they’ll have to travel there twice.

If all of this is giving you the heebie-jeebies, take some consolation in the fact that the Australian pet import site is very well-organized, and steadily guides visitors through the process. Here, for example, is the step-by-step guide for travelers from Category 3 countries.

For a complete list of changes, go to the Department of Agriculture’s FAQ page and scroll down to the link for “What are the key differences between the old and new import conditions.” One thing that hasn’t changed: Pet dogs and cats still cannot travel in-cabin to Australia.


  • Jen

    Thanks for this post. We were just discussing whether Australia might be an option for a sabbatical location. After reading this (and information from the website) I think no. If I could get past the quarantine period or the no in-cabin pets, this would still frighten me from trying. “If an animal arrives in Australia and it does not meet all of the conditions on the accompanying import permit, then it may be exported to the country of export or euthanized at the importer’s expense.” Is this a common statement in an import policy? Would they really euthanize your pet if you made a mistake in your preparations?

  • Daunting stuff, isn’t it, Jen? But I do think do-able, especially if you plan to be there for awhile. I’d call their offices to confirm, of course, but I would guess that a decision to euthanize is only made if the owner is unwilling to pay for the pup’s return to the U.S. (in your case). They’d find a problem with the paperwork/prep right away, presumably, before your pup got taken to the quarantine facility, so you’d be there to discuss any issues with them. When you call, I’d ask them how often they have to turn dogs away — I suspect it’s very rare, given how clear their instructions are, and how accessible to questions they seem to make themselves.

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