I’ve always thought that our relationships with our animals reveal a lot about who we are. For me, once an animal becomes part of our family, it stays exactly that – a member of the family, commanding all the love, devotion and loyalty that any other family member would warrant.
When I accepted a job with the company that originally relocated me and my family to Denmark, I became famous in the HR department as the only person to ever negotiate the international relocation of two rabbits (Mr & Mrs Pip) as part of my contract. So, when it came to planning our move to Australia, our family dog Mr Pup figured large in our conversations.
Planning to move a dog to Australia is a complex and nerve-wracking process, not least because, one wrong piece of paperwork and you could find your much-loved pet denied entry to Australia, or at very least, subject to a much longer period of quarantine than initially anticipated.
The good news, however, is that, depending on where you are shipping your pet from, those quarantine periods have come down substantially over recent years.
Not so long ago, it was pretty widely known that taking a pet to Australia meant a mandatory six months in quarantine for the animal. Today, if you ship your pet from a country with no rabies and high standards of animal health, the quarantine period can be as little as 10 days – which is what we are shooting for with Mr Pup, our much-loved family cockerpoo.
It’s no exaggeration to say that our planning for Mr Pup had to begin long before our plans for our own move began to take shape. The whole process has been tricky to manage and has required a certain amount of luck – after all, you have to plan a precise schedule of vaccinations, health checks, documentation checks and other stuff, before you ever know your own exact departure date.
As I say, we got lucky because we had initially hoped to move to Canberra this time last year, but our house didn’t sell the first time we tried the market, so we had to put our plans on ice and try again, more successfully, this year. But, it turns out that the few bits of paperwork we arranged for Mr Pup last year were essential to making our 2014 schedule possible. Which means, had we started work on his paperwork once we knew our house was sold, we’d already be too late to meet the documentation requirements for him.
For the record, and to illustrate the complexity involved, I’ll talk you through them as I understand them (and I should stress that, if you want to take your own pet to Australia, you should come to your own understanding of the official rules — we aren’t in Australia yet, so I still can’t be sure we’ve done everything correctly).
Mr Pup’s plan for moving to Canberra
- First of all, ensure your pet is microchipped, and have every step of this process documented/registered against that microchip. This is critical.
- Your pet must be vaccinated for rabies at least 180 days before export. A three-yearly vaccination is okay so, in theory, your pet could be vaccinated as much as three years before your move.
- Between six and 24 months before export, your pet must be tested for resistance to rabies and the lab report must be in English. 180 days must have passed between the test and the date of export. The test results are valid for 24 months.
- You must submit proof of vaccination and the test results to your country’s official government vet and have them complete a rabies test declaration, stating the name of the testing laboratory.
- Using the documentation gathered so far, at least 42 days before export, you must apply to the Australian Department of Agriculture (and pay) for an import permit. Ours cost AUD 485.00. They say this can take 20 working days, which would really run the clock down when you look at everything else you need to do, but ours came back in 24 hours. This step is actually quite useful, and can be taken as confirmation that you have followed the process accurately so far.
- After you receive the import permit, you should book space in a quarantine facility for your pet. There are only two – one in Sydney and one in Melbourne and, regardless of your intended home in Australia, your pet must enter via one of these quarantine stations. It can take up to five days for them to come back with a provisional booking, and you must pay to confirm it. We are at this stage now and it looks like they are taking the full five days to respond.
- When you know you have a quarantine space booked, you can book your travel. We’ve made initial enquiries and understand that we are looking at about DKK 16,000 (about GBP 1,700) and that it takes 21 days for the booking to be confirmed. Again, this runs the clock down quite a bit. Take care when booking because, unless your pet is booked on a direct flight, there are rules about which countries your pet can change flights in. Hopefully your freight agent can advise. You’ll probably need to buy a proper air-freight cage for your pet, which is large enough for them to be comfortable throughout their journey – these are usually bought from the air freight company and are not cheap.
- Your pet needs to be vaccinated against various common diseases – these depend on whether you have a cat or dog, and whether he or she has been de-sexed or not, but Mr Pup needs vaccinations for: distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, para-influenza and bordetella bronchoseptica. If your pet has already had the necessary vaccinations, check that the period of protection lasts beyond the end of their expected quarantine.
- A side note here, it’s not a requirement for import, but heartworm is present in some parts of Australia, so you might also want to add a heartworm prevention regime to the list above.
- 45 days or less before export, Mr Pup needs to be tested for Brucella canis, or we must provide evidence of his de-sexing. He also needs to be tested for Leishmania infantum and Leptospira interrogans.
- 45 days or less before export, he needs to be treated for parasites (nematodes and cestodes), and then again 14 or more days later, but within five days of export. I know, it’s getting complicated, isn’t it?
- He also needs to be treated for fleas and ticks, at least 21 days before being tested for Ehrlichia canis – but the test must take place within 21 days of export.
- Within five days of export, he needs a full vet examination to confirm he is free from parasites, infections or contagious diseases.
- He then needs a final piece of paperwork – a veterinary health certificate – which is issued by your country’s official government vet.
- Then, it’s into the cage, off to the airport and off to a new life down under.
Apparently you can’t visit your pet during the quarantine period, and only the person who submitted the paperwork can go and collect them at the end. In truth, I think the whole family will go. I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful reunion and will really confirm that we’ve all arrived ready to start our new life down under.
So, there it is. The best advice I can give is to read the rules thoroughly, then read them again with a year planner in front of you, and work back from your anticipated move date, plotting all the dates in as you go. That’s how I made sense of it all – but I reckon someone clever could create an iPhone or Android app which asks you where you live, what animal you have and when you want to move, then enters all the necessary dates into your phone’s calendar authomatically.
As I say, Mr Pup’s not there yet, and he’s pretty oblivious to everything that’s involved. But regardless of the hassle, I know that Australia can’t be a true home for us unless the whole family can be together when we get there. And that includes Mr Pup.
Information taken from the rules for shipping a dog from Category 3 countries such as Denmark, as at August 2014. You can read all about the current rules for bringing a dog or cat into Australia at the Department of Agriculture website here.