So you’re planning to move to Australia, and want to bring your dog with you. You’ve googled things here and there and found the Australian Government website that outlines the steps you can take, but the pages of small text just seem a little overwhelming and give little insight into what the process is actually like for you or your dog? Do not fret, I was in that same spot a few months ago, not knowing what I was in for. So, let me take this time to let you in on what my experience was like with exporting my 10-month-old puppy to Australia. I will not go down into the nitty-gritty detail of what tests your dog needs, what special procedure the lab needs to test their blood samples with, or into the detailed timeline of exactly how many hours before takeoff your vet needs to check your dog for ticks during. You can find all the formalities on the Australian Government Website (https://www.awe.gov.au/biosecurity-trade/cats-dogs/step-by-step-guides). What I will do though, is share the story of how I took care of a puppy for 8 whole months before she was able to fly off to her owner, and forever home, in Australia.
It was one cold Saturday evening when a friend of mine called me with a special request. She was looking for someone who would be willing to raise a puppy until they were old enough to travel to Australia. I did not have a dog at that time and thought to myself, “Eh why not?”. I can now list plenty of reasons why not, as the Australian government tends to have a particularly hairsplitting outlook on life but, in the end, if I got the chance to do all of this again would I? Without a single shadow of doubt. Once you study the details and have your contacts ready the process is not too hard, but it is meticulous.
Fast forward two months and the little fluffball was home with me! I was in contact with her owner from the day I agreed to raise her and, at this time, I didn’t quite know all the paperwork that lay ahead of me. All I was focused on was giving my puppy the best start in life so she’d be ready to take on the world when the time came. We followed the curriculum of our Chasing the Tale Academy, which was written to help people raise well-rounded puppies ready to take on the world. Essentially I was a puppy trainer, and sitter, for 8 whole months before sending Sass off.
You might be wondering, “why does it take so long? Waiting for your puppy for 10 months is one hell of a task!”. I get it, personally, I can barely make it through the 2 long months it takes for the puppies to be old enough to leave their mum, let alone having to wait 8 MORE months. Well, the answer lies in the legalities of Australian pet imports. First and foremost, Australia does not have rabies in land-dwelling animals, and since it is an island they can also keep it that way as long as they keep careful track of the animals they let into the country. No rabid fox will swim all the way out through the Indian Ocean to reach the island so the only thing they have to worry about is importing pets. So Rabies. If you plan on importing your pet to Australia, this is the first thing you will need to worry about. In fact, you should worry about it at least 6 months in advance. Your dog will have to be regularly vaccinated against rabies and will have to have the rabies neutralising antibody titre test taken 180 days (6 months) before they can fly out to Australia. Sass had her first vaccination at three months of age, and the RNATT titre test three weeks after that. As soon as we got her results back (and the numbers were all correct) the countdown began!
It was at this point, or slightly before it, that I thought to myself “Yikes, I have absolutely no clue about Australian import laws and neither do I know anyone around me who has imported a dog into Australia before!”. “Where in Slovenia can I find a laboratory that is government approved? What does it even mean to be government approved? Do we have labs that aren’t approved by the government? Can I Google this?!”. Long story short, I couldn’t Google it but was lucky enough to have an amazing vet that was just as involved as I was and knew exactly where I could take the rabies blood sample. To top it all off, once I dropped the blood sample off at the laboratory the kind man at the reception warmheartedly informed me that “in Australia, they are very strict, so if [I] mess something up, they will euthanize my dog!” Thank you oh kind sir! I am not sure how valid that statement is but I guess that if she were to have incurable rabies then yes they would euthanise her, but not if she had a tick though. Anyways, that statement did not help my self-esteem, but in looking 8 months into the future I can proudly say “Look at me now reception man. Ha!!”. Well, not me, you can look at Sass now that she is happily roaming around the beaches of Australia.
As the evidence shows, her rabies titre test (RNATT) came back with a perfect score, upon which I was met with a new challenge. I had to find an official government vet who would sign the rabies titre declaration. Easy enough right? Wrong. My dear friend Google had no answers for me so I emailed every government institution that had anything to do with wildlife, vegetation, pets and even house plant regulations to find my contact. After a mild breakdown and some desperation, my persistent emailing had me referred from one department to another until I finally received my contact – who was an absolute superstar. The Slovenian government vet made sure everything was sorted out in advance and that all of the paperwork was signed and in order. For anyone going through this process, every page of the RNATT declaration, as well as any other paperwork, (the import permit and any other tests) must be signed, dated and stamped, even the pages that only have instructions on them and have nothing to fill out.
All in all, the paperwork was the only hassle in this process. I dare complain, but I was only met with minor hiccups so my venting above is all in good fun. One thing I would recommend to anyone going through this process though is, to find your contacts in advance. Ask them where the government approved labs are and talk to your government vet about it as they have most likely (if not definitely) gone through this process before.
After completing the rabies vaccine and necessary tests, I had a few months worth of a break from the veterinary office. It was not long before I was back though. 45 days before Sass’ flight I was back to do another batch of tests. Every dog that flies into Australia from Europe must be tested for the following diseases:
- Ehrlichia Canis
- Brucella Canis
- Leishmania Infantum
- Leptospira Canicola
Slovenia does not have a laboratory that could test for the above-mentioned diseases so we had to send the blood samples abroad. Sass had almost all of the above (with the exception of Leptospira Canis, as she was vaccinated against that one) sent to yet another laboratory, this time in Germany. Again though, *here enter meticulous Australian import laws* who state the very specific testing methods that a lab must use for each disease. However, not only does the lab have to use specific testing methods, but these import laws also state the specific concentration with which some of these diseases must be tested. Overdilute the solution and your dog will likely enter Australia a month or so later. Needless to say, you can probably imagine what our submission slip (the paper you send along with the blood samples that lets the lab know what you want to test) to the laboratory looked like…full of tiny notes and messages. My vet also called the laboratory to ask them whether they have the testing methods available and, to my luck, they did. When everything was sorted, the only bump we had to smooth out was the fact that the poor DHL man was already on his way to the airport when we called him from the vet clinic; so the man drove all the way back to pick up Sass’ blood.
When the results came back, all that was left for me to do before Sass could fly was to take her papers to be signed by the government vet and to take Sass for a final vet check.
While I was busy preparing Sass for her export, her owner was on the other side of the world busy preparing Australia for her import. What I mean by that is, amongst other things, she had to ask for Sass’ import permit once her rabies titre test came back. This is best done ahead of time as it can take a while before they get back to you. Trust me, after you receive the import permit you will also have to book quarantine for your pup so you don’t want to do it all last minute and stress yourself out. In addition, there are times where the quarantine facility is closed, so the following months could be especially packed. You get the point, it’s best to book the quarantine in advance to ensure your pup has a guaranteed spot during your expected time of export.
In addition, booking an agency (which Sass’ owner also did) to help you out with reserving the quarantine and filing for the import permit can be a big help. Agencies like Dogtainers will help you with things like creating a date to date schedule for when you need to have your dog tested, book flights and quarantine, and help you choose the right crate for your dog to fly in. In addition, if anything were to go wrong and your flight and quarantine had to be postponed, an agency would help you arrange that and find the best possible solutions. The agency will also let you know if anything is missing on the import permit.
Once Sass had all of her vaccinations, her tests, her internal and external parasite treatments done and dusted, all we had to do was have our government vet sign everything. Now, I don’t say this lightly, make sure to triple check everything that your gov. vet wrote on the import permit. It is best to check things over 10 times than to find out that your import permit is incomplete while you’re at the airport.
Sass and I ran into a couple of obstacles with the import permit; minute things such as the vaccination report having only 3 zeroes in her microchip number instead of 4, or the date that was meant to be on every page being only on the last few. Anyways, I’m sure the government vet was overjoyed every time I walked into her office with yet another small detail to be smoothed out, but hey, in the end, we made it and the day finally arrived for Sass to fly off into the big world.
On the day of her flight, we woke up at 5 in the morning to head over to Vienna. Her flight was not until 5 in the afternoon but she had to be checked in at 11 am so we headed out early. Before arriving at the airport we had an hour to spare so we made sure to go for another walk to let Sass run around and stretch her legs before her journey. She also had a full day a day before we left so she was tired out and ready to sleep on the plane.
After a cold and windy walk, we drove the final stretch of the way to the airport. Google maps in hand, we searched for the cargo terminal where Sass was to be dropped off. Needless to say, we got lost among the UPS trucks a couple of times before finally finding our way to the correct terminal. I wasn’t sure we were in the right place until I averted my gaze down from the giant “Terminal B” sign to see a man waving at us with a giant smile on his face and a labrador with a deflated football in its mouth heading our way, tail wagging and all. We found the right entrance. Amongst trucks, wooden crates and giant garage doors were a few people from Animals First who already expected our arrival. Their joyous attitude put me at ease and comforted me that Sass was in good hands.
Sass, on the other hand, was having fun meeting the labrador who didn’t seem to notice her at all. We later found out that the very spot where we stood was privy to the transport of many wild animals, from polar bears to pandas and tigers, hence probably why the labrador showed no interest in Sass. As we stood there and talked over all the paperwork and the size of Sass’ crate, another man also reeled in crate after crate full of birds which Sass was overjoyed to watch at a distance of a mere millimetre or two. Once we packed all the paperwork it was time for Sass to get going. The man we talked to assured us that the facility where Sass would stay during her layover in Doha was very experienced and knew what they were doing. I was so engulfed in the conversation that I almost missed when they placed Sass in her crate and reeled her away. They knew what they were doing and gave me no chance to overthink saying my goodbye which made the whole experience more easily digestible. After reeling Sass away they ensured me that she would stay in a Quiet room until it was time for her to leave. They also shared a link where I could track exactly when and where Sass was on her journey.
And that was it, with her paperwork duct-taped to her crate, a written message atop it, freshwater inside and her door closed shut with zip ties it was time for her to go. She was reeled off into the quiet room we talked about with a big forklift and all those birds she had so much fun staring at a minute prior. That was it, off she went and I watched the tracker every step of the way until she arrived in Australia.
Once in Australia, the stressful part was only ahead. It was like a test of all the paperwork and struggle we went through to make her journey happen. To my relief though, Sass’ owner soon got an email stating that she was admitted into Australia and was already in the quarantine facility!! The quarantine period is 10 days. Sass arrived in the quarantine facility in the evening which (despite being only a couple of hours) would already count as the first day. The email read that she was doing well, ate all her meals without any problems and that despite being a little shy she was lively and well. It came like a warm affirmation that she was okay, happy and that all the training, socialisation and adventure Sass grew up with alongside Chasing the Tale set her up for success; she was taking in new people and places in her stride. What lay ahead of her was a final vet check halfway through her quarantine period and then freedom!
Not long from then, Sass was cleared as healthy and free of any parasites. Yet another sigh of relief as I was busy brushing through her fur a day before her flight to make sure she didn’t carry any ticks with her to Australia. Thus, after 10 long months, multiple countdowns and a stressor here and there, her owner was finally able to go pick her up! She said she fit right in and got along well with her other dogs when she arrived home.
Sass is now busy learning agility fundamentals and exploring the beaches of Australia with her friends. So, albeit the long and tedious process, the temporal and financial investments it was well worth it in the end. I hope this blog has given you an insight into what the process is like, beyond just the official steps that have to be taken, and this goes as words of encouragement that if I can do it so can you! Besides that, I wish Sass an amazing life in Australia and can’t wait to see her again when I find my way there.