Importing Your Dog To Australia: Reviewed By Our Vet
Moving with a dog is pretty stressful, but how about moving countries with your dog? If you’re reading this article, you’re about to take on the mammoth task of importing your dog to Australia which is exciting! Whether you’re returning to Australia or creating a new life here, you have a ton of things to arrange and your pup needs to be factored into those plans.
The following article is written from a combination of government guidelines and personal accounts that I cite as resources. (1) I haven’t gone through this process first-hand so I encourage you to check out the links at the end once we’ve broken it all down. Let’s get into it!
8 Essential Criteria For Bringing Your Dog To Australia
Before you start this lengthy process, let’s first figure out if it’s even worth doing!
- How long are you going to be in Australia?
To put it bluntly, if you’re travelling to Australia for 8 months or under, I wouldn’t bother. The process of bringing your dog to Australia is lengthy and expensive. This should only be considered for more permanent moves or long-term contracts. Don’t bother bringing your dog for a scouting mission! You should only displace your dog if you’re 100% certain about your move. I know that’s tough to hear but it will be more distressing to put your dog through the process of importing them to Australia than leaving them with a trusted friend or foster care while you travel for 6 months.
- Are you importing your dog from an “approved country”?
The Australian government has approved countries for the import of dogs and cats. They have three groups of approved countries in a big old list you can find on their website.
- Do you have 6-7 months before you intend to bring your dog to Australia?
One of the most cumbersome steps in this process is the blood sample test for rabies. It’s called the rabies-neutralising antibody titre test or RNAT for short. But there’s nothing short about it! It needs to be done in an approved country and with an approved vet at least 180 days before your travel. That is to say, you can only travel with your dog to Australia 6 months after this sample is received at a testing lab. Make sure you start this process with as much time ahead of you as possible.
- Will your dog be under quarantine restrictions in a different country when you’re intending to import them?
This is a disqualifier. Make sure your dog has gone through any quarantine requirements in the country you’re currently in before you import your dog to Australia.
- Is your dog over 30 days pregnant or suckling when you’re intending to travel?
The government will not allow any heavily pregnant or suckling dogs over the border.
- Does your dog belong to a restricted or wolf breed?
We did an entire article on restricted dog breeds in Australia. Suffice it to say that if your dog’s breed is on this list, they can’t enter the country. Likewise, wolf crosses like the Saarloos wolfhound are not allowed in.
- Is your dog microchipped?
Your dog must have a readable microchip that will be scanned by the veterinarian you choose to help you with the export process. They must record your dog’s microchip number on all of the documents.
- Is your dog vaccinated against rabies?
Your dog has to have a rabies vaccine in an approved country. If they’ve been vaccinated already, check that you have documentation to prove that the shot hasn’t expired. Most are valid for 3 years.
If you’ve passed these crucial criteria, you’re ready to begin the process. Buckle up!
Importing Dogs To Australia - Step by Step
Let’s go into the step-by-step process to import your dog according to the Australian government. (2) It’s important to always check government websites for the latest information. This article is accurate as of October 2022.
Step 1: Finding the right help
To import your dog to Australia, you need to find a government-approved veterinarian that is certified to help export dogs. They are an essential part of the entire process so be mindful and do your research.
Step 2: Complete an RNAT test between 6-24 months of when you’re intending to import your dog
The next important step involves your vet. Your dog needs to successfully complete a rabies test by giving a blood sample. The vet must process the blood sample at an approved laboratory. If your dog has only been vaccinated against rabies recently or had a booster, wait for 3-4 weeks before doing the RNAT test.
The laboratory must receive the blood sample at least 180 days before your intended travel date, but your dog doesn’t need to stay in the approved country for this time. So for example, you can have the RNAT test done in the United Kingdom and then go hopping around Europe while you wait out the 6 months.
There’s a government RNAT declaration that your vet needs to complete to sign off on your dog’s travel.
Once you have the declaration with your dog’s microchip number, the date of the test, the date of the sample and the result, and you’ve waited at least 6 months, it’s time for step 3.
Step 3: Purchase an import permit
Things are getting serious now! You need to submit your import permit application via the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) website.
You need to complete this at least 42 days before you intend to travel. If your permit is granted it’s valid for 12 months or until the RNAT declaration expires. Whichever comes first.
The current cost for an import permit for your dog is $360 AUD. This is true as of the writing of this article in 2022.
Step 4: Book quarantine accommodation for your dog and start your travel arrangements
The Australian government requires that your dog stays in quarantine for 10 days upon arrival to Australia. The specific facility is called the Mickleham post-entry quarantine facility. The current cost of your dog’s stay is just under $2000 AUD.
Travel essentials for your dog
- Your dog must arrive direct at Melbourne International airport from the approved country where you did the documentation. Your dog can’t arrive at a different Australian airport and then do a domestic flight to Melbourne.
If there are no direct flights from where you are and you need to stop in a non-approved country, this is only allowed if your dog stays on the International side of the airport during the transhipment.
- Your dog must travel as cargo in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved crate for dogs.
- There are companies that can help you import your dog more smoothly if you don’t want to make the travel arrangements yourself.
Step 5: Check that your dog has the correct vaccinations at least 14 days before travel
Your dog needs to have certain vaccinations that are still in date as of 14 days before travel.
Regardless of where you’re travelling from it’s recommended that your dog is vaccinated against Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola. This vaccine usually has two initial shots taken 2-4 weeks apart. It needs to be valid at least 14 days before your dog’s travel date. But this vaccine is optional. You can choose to have your dog tested instead during the testing step (Step 7 - we’ll get there!)
If your dog is travelling from the USA, Singapore, Canada or South Korea, they must have a canine influenza virus vaccine (CIV) between 12 months and 14 days before they travel.
The strain of CIV that your dog needs will depend on the area they are travelling from. Your approved vet should know the best CIV vaccine for your dog. Make sure the documentation has your dog’s microchip number clearly displayed.
Step 6: Start parasite treatments 21 days before blood testing
We’re almost there! Your dog must have external parasite treatments before they travel. That is flea and tick treatments administered by your government-approved vet.
The treatment must start 21 days before blood sample collection for their Ehrlichia canis antibody test (in step 7).
The first day of treatment is day 0.
If your vet finds any fleas or ticks on your dog’s body during the course of the treatment, they need to get rid of them and restart the treatment from the beginning.
Your dog has to have protection throughout the importation process and sometimes during quarantine too. This could mean continuous treatment depending on the product.
Step 7: The testing phase
So this is the part where your dog is tested for several diseases to ensure they will be allowed into Australia. Your government-approved vet must do these tests diligently and scan your dog’s microchip after every blood sample collection. We’ll break it down per test:
- Ehrlichia canis - all dogs
All dogs need a test for Ehrlichia canis within 45 days of travel and 21 days after external parasite treatment has started.
- Leishmania infantum - all dogs
All dogs need to be tested for Leishmania infantum within 45 days of travel.
- Brucella canis - only if your dog is not desexed
If your dog has been desexed, they don’t need to do this test. If they haven’t been desexed, this test needs to be done within 45 days of travel.
- Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola - only if your dog was not vaccinated in step 5
If you decided not to vaccinate your dog in step 5, you’ll need a negative result for this test within 45 days of travel.
Step 8: Start internal parasite treatments
All dogs must have two treatments for internal parasites given by your government-approved vet.
- The first treatment must be within 45 days before your dog’s travel date.
- The second treatment must be within 5 days before your dog’s travel date.
- The treatments must protect against nematodes and cestodes.
Step 8i: Treat your dog for Babesia canis (if your dog has been to mainland Africa)
This treatment is only conditional on if your dog has ever visited mainland Africa. The treatment needs to be done by your government-approved vet too.
Step 9: Final clinical examination within 5 days before travel
Now you have all of the documentation for your dog’s vaccines, test results and treatments, bring them to your dog’s final clinical examination by your government-approved vet.
The vet needs to check thoroughly for external parasites and contagious diseases.
This examination must happen within 5 days of travel.
You will have access to a veterinary health certificate template when you apply for an import permit. Your vet needs to complete this to sign off on your dog’s travel (finally!)
With the health certificate, the following reports need to be signed and stamped by the vet and the government veterinary authority:
Now your dog is finally ready to travel!
Step 10: Travel to Australia
Here are some important things to bear in mind for your dog’s travel:
- Don’t put any toys or valuable items in your dog’s crate as they’ll be destroyed when your dog’s crate arrives in Australia. But a portable water bowl is a good idea.
- When you arrive at Melbourne International airport, your dog will be collected by staff and taken directly to Mickelham for quarantine.
- Make sure your dog’s import permit is still valid on the date of travel. If not, you’ll have to apply again and may even have to do some of the veterinary tests and examinations again.
Cost Of Bringing A Dog To Australia
Phew! So quite the process isn’t it? How much does it all cost?
I can’t give you a definitive answer because it largely depends on your veterinary bills. That will change from country to country as some vet bills are cheaper than others.
Your flight costs are also a huge factor as it depends on where your dog is travelling from and the available rates for travel on a trusted airline from the approved country.
I recommend reading first-hand accounts to get a broader picture of how much it could cost you. (3)
Here are some extremely rough estimates for now:
People who have done this process report spending anywhere from $4000-7000 AUD. You’ll need to do thorough research to break down the costs for yourself.
Final Thoughts: Take Your Time When Importing Your Dog To Australia
If there’s one salient piece of advice I can give throughout this entire process, it’s this: give yourself plenty of time! Timing is everything. Just because certain things can be done up to 14 days before travel, that doesn’t mean you should leave it to the last minute. If the test results are positive then your travel plans will be foiled. It’s very expensive to move flights and quarantine arrangements so give yourself lots of time to do all of the medical procedures and tests your dog needs before travelling to Australia.
We hope this article was helpful to you! Please read the references and links in full for more information.
- Cleaver, S. May 24, 2022. “Bringing a dog to Australia: My experience”. Travelnuity. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.travelnuity.com/bringing-a-dog-to-australia/
- Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. “Bringing dogs to Australia”. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity-trade/cats-dogs/step-by-step-guides/category-3-step-by-step-guide-for-dogs
- Cleaver, S. May 24, 2022. “How much does it cost to bring a dog to Australia in 2022?”. Travelnuity. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.travelnuity.com/cost-of-bringing-a-dog-to-australia/