The rules for bringing your dog or cat into Australia were updated last month in an effort to protect the country from rabies. For those pet parents wishing to bring their dog into Australia, they will now have to take additional steps for their pet to enter the country.
From 1 March 2023, the government revised its import conditions for dogs and cats, adding new quarantine requirements. Additional changes include strengthening animal identification, residency and post-entry quarantine measures, and recognising an adequate rabies neutralising titre test (RNATT) laboratory report for no longer than 12 months.
The changes come after the country’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry conducted a policy review of the rabies virus risk in imported dogs, cats and canine semen from approved countries. The department said that after a 2013 review, it has seen an increased rabies biosecurity risk for the importation of dogs and cats.
“Many countries, including Australia, have reported increases in detected and suspected fraudulent certification and other documents associated with companion animal imports,” the department said. “Consequently, a review of the policy was required.”
The new rules require that dogs or cats qualify in one of three country groups, having resided in the country continuously since birth or for a minimum of 180 days (six months) prior to import.
Group 1 countries include: New Zealand; Norfolk Island; Cocos Island
Group 2 countries: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Christmas Island, Cook Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Iceland, Japan, Kiribati, Mauritius, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tonga (Kingdom of), Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis & Futuna.
Group 3 countries:
Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Croatia (Republic of), Cyprus (Republic of), Czechia (Czech Republic), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland (Republic of), Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands , Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa (Republic of), South Korea (Republic of), Spain (including Canary and Balearic Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America (excluding Guam and Hawaii), Uruguay, Virgin Islands (British), Virgin Islands (United States of America).
- All dogs and cats must be implanted with an International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) compatible microchip prior to commencing pre-export preparation.
- Dog and cats must not have resided in unapproved countries during the 180 days prior to export to Australia.
- Dogs and cats from New Zealand must be continuously resident in New Zealand for 180 days immediately prior to export, or since direct importation from Australia or since birth, and must not have been in quarantine or under quarantine restrictions in the 180 days immediately prior to export.
For Group 2 countries, the following conditions must be met:
- Identity verification, including scanning of the microchip, by the exporting country’s competent authority as part of the import permit application process.
- There is no change to the current mandatory minimum 10 days post entry quarantine period if animals have been prepared in compliance with the pre-export measures.
For Group 3 countries:
- Rabies vaccination must continue to be current at the time of export to Australia.
- An adequate rabies neutralising titre test (RNATT) laboratory report will be valid for 12 months only.
- Minimum 10 days post-entry quarantine in an Australian government facility for dogs and cats that have had an identity verification, including scanning of the microchip, by the exporting country’s competent authority as part of the import permit application process. The verification must occur before a blood sample is collected for RNAT testing, and at least 180 days before export to Australia.
The Department adds that as an alternative to the above, a minimum 10 days post-entry quarantine in an Australian government facility for dogs and cats returning to Australia that have an identity verification before leaving Australia, through provision of formal evidence such as an Australian export permit as part of the import permit application process.
According to the Department, another alternative to the the minimum 10 days post-entry quarantine rule above is a minimum 30 days post-entry quarantine in an Australian government facility for dogs and cats that have not had an identity verification before a blood sample was collected for RNAT testing, and at least 180 days before export to Australia. These dogs and cats must still have a valid RNATT on a blood sample received by the testing laboratory at least 180 days before export to Australia.
For dogs flying in from Group 2 or Group 3 countries, it is a condition of import that cats and dogs fly into Melbourne where Australia’s Post Entry Quarantine (PEQ) facility is located nearby at Mickleham.
Reaction to the new rules
The new stricter rules have led to the launch of an online petition calling for a fairer process, reports ABC News. The petition has attracted more than 15,000 signatures as of this writing.
One of the petition organisers, Jasmine Yeung, is trying to bring her poodle Ruby to Australia with her from Hong Kong.
“New pet importation rule changes are being applied retrospectively which means most of us are forced to start the costly application process again – which can take more than six months,” Yeung said. “I’m a health professional registered in Australia and I’m ready to return but I’m stuck due to unreasonable measures. We’re calling on the Australian government to show fairness and remove the retrospective measures on the policy.”
In a statement, a Department spokesperson said the department recognised the importance of family pets and that the policy change could be causing some distress.
“To facilitate imports as safely as possible, transitional arrangements have been agreed for managing applications submitted prior to 1 March 2023, providing options for people to import their cats and dogs to Australia whilst balancing the biosecurity risks with the need for fairness and equity,” the statement read.
National Party Leader David Littleproud said the whole process had been botched.
Pet owners are also angry about how long the application process is taking with ABC News being told places at Australia’s only pet quarantine facility were in strong demand and getting a timely booking there was also a challenge.
While Australia is rabies-free, there have been three cases of the closely-related Australian bat lyssavirus (ALBV), which is endemic to Australia and is carried by several species of bats. The three human cases of ABLV infection were reported in 1996, 1998 and 2013.
Since 1867, there have been two cases of rabies that were diagnosed; one in 1987 and the other in 1990.
For more on the news rules for entering Australia with pet cats and dogs, click here.