Australian animal quarantine laws

April 8th, 2008

The process of importing and exporting pets under Australian animal quarantine laws can take several weeks and even months to follow through. Hence, careful planning must be undertaken to avoid stressing yourself and your pet.

Dogs Life spoke to AQIS senior vet officer Dr Geoff Parker about general export procedures for importing and exporting from Australia, and discovered pet owners really need to research the rules for the country to which they intend exporting their pet.

So what is involved in this business of importing and exporting animals?

You may think the odd hamster, guinea pig or bird is cute and harmless, but they are just some of the pets not allowed into Australia. (Parker says bonafide pet birds can only be imported from New Zealand.)

So which animals are allowed?

Most dogs, cats and horses are allowed from approved countries. The usual period of quarantine is around 30 days, our furry Kiwi neighbours being the exception.

What you will need for exporting

Consult an AQIS-accredited vet for vaccinations, treatments and check-ups. Prices will vary according to different vets. See the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website for a list of vets in your state ( Download or request a Notice of Intention to Export (NOI) form from your Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) office and return the completed form to an AQIS office in your region or state.

Make an appointment with AQIS (phone at least 10 days before your departure date and submit the NOI at this time). The appointment must be after the completion of all tests, treatments etc. Collect official documentation (an Export Permit) from AQIS.

An AQIS inspector will clear, process and issue an export permit for around $75. The process usually takes about 30 minutes; if it takes longer than that, an increment of $37.50 is charged for every 15 minutes. This will also include the issue of a health certificate. This process should be undertaken within two days prior to departure. Organise transport for your animal with an animal transport company.

What you will need for importing

The import quarantine system is divided up into six categories: New Zealand, Cocos Islands and Norfolk Island fall under category 1.

Category 1

New Zealand: There is no need for quarantine for countries under this category. Bringing a pet from New Zealand is fairly straightforward. Your pet needs to have continuously lived in New Zealand (or Australia) for more than 90 days immediately prior to shipment or since birth. Pets must be more than two months old. Pregnant pets must not be more than 42 days pregnant at time of import. An import permit is not required but a Statutory Declaration needs to be signed by the owner or exporter.

You also need a health certificate signed by a registered veterinarian approved by the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. You need to inform the AQIS office in your state three days prior to the arrival of your pet. Costs for transporting a pet under this category can be relatively low as dogs and cats must travel as manifest cargo.

Different airlines will have varying regulations so check with your chosen airline if travelling with an animal. You will need to let your travel agent or airline know at the time of reservation that you are travelling with an animal. Guide dogs are acceptable in the cabin with suitable absorbent mats. You are required to provide a proper, escape-proof crate, sufficient food and water for your pet, otherwise the airline can decline taking on your pet.

Airlines usually require one-and-a-half to three hours check in at freight terminal prior to departure. Sorry folks, but some breeds are not allowed entry into Australia. They include Dogo Argentino, Fila Brazileiro, Japanese Tosa, American Pit Bull, Pit Bull Terrier and the Presa Canaria. These banned breeds apply across the board for all categories. For more information about the banned breeds, visit the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website on

Category 2

Some of the approved countries that fall into Category 2, which require 30 days quarantine, include Bahrain, Cyprus, Fiji, French Polynesian islands, Hawaii, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Singapore, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Sweden and Vanuatu.

The minimum requirements for Category 2 and over are that your pet be more than three months old, must have resided in that country for at least a minimum of six months and must not be more than six weeks pregnant. An Import Permit is valid for six months from the day the application is received.

Category 3

This category requires 60 days quarantine. Some of the countries in this category include the islands of Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Nauru, Christmas Island, Palau and Tuvalu.

Category 4

Approved countries and territories recognised by Australian authorities in which rabies is absent or well controlled require a minimum 30 days quarantine, rabies vaccination and antibody test. They include European Union countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, etc); some South American countries (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay); Hong Kong, Malaysia, USA, Canada and United Arab Emirates.

Category 5

This is considered a high-risk category and the only country in this category is South Africa. A rabies vaccination and rabies neutralising Antibody Titre Test (RNATT) Declaration must be completed if importing from Category 4 and 5 countries. The official vet of the government of your exporting country must complete the form. You do not have to complete this declaration if you’re importing from Categories 2 and 3.

Because of the high-risk factor, all dogs and cats travelling from this country must spend three months in a government-approved kennel in South Africa immediately prior to departure for export and 120 days on arrival at an Australian quarantine station. Animals must have been in South Africa for at least six months, more than nine months old and not be more than six weeks pregnant.

Category 6

AQIS vet, Dr Geoff Parker stressed that this category includes all other countries pet dogs/cats cannot be imported directly into Australia from Category 6 countries.

What you will need for an import permit

You will need to apply for an Import Permit from AQIS and include around $280 with the application (full schedule of fees can be found at the AQIS website listed below).

Your pets microchip number must be provided on application and an Import Permit will be returned to you. Veterinary Certificate A & B must be completed by an official veterinarian in the country of export, prior to arrival of your pet. Eligible pets need to have lived a minimum of six months in the country of export, be at least three months old, no more than six weeks pregnant, and must not be a banned breed (see Category 1 from Importing Requirements for a list of banned breeds). Please go to the AQIS website for further information on all exporting countries listed and procedures. Their website is

Costs for importing

At the time Dogs Life< spoke to AQIS, import charges for quarantine entry fees were $10 per animal, around $27 for clearing documentation and $71 for veterinary inspection on arrival. Transport to quarantine station ranges from $95 to $120. Transportation before and after business hours may be higher. And what will a stay at the quarantine station set you back? They charge $17.55 daily, including food and care for the first dog, and $12.55 for the second animal (these prices are the same in all three states). Something to consider is that there are only three quarantine stations in Australia. People who live outside New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia should take into consideration the limited quarantine facilities, which are located at Eastern Creek, NSW; Spotswood, Vic; and Byford, WA. There are limited spaces in the Spotswood and Byford facilities. Authorities recommend you check availability first before booking your pet onto a flight. A very important thing to remember to avoid chaos and heartache is that animals arriving on weekends, public holidays and outside station hours will not be accepted without prior written consent from AQIS. The Quarantine Stations business hours are 8am to 4pm weekdays.

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