South Africa is a very common destination for pets and humans emigrating from the UK. There are direct flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town, then the pets can connect on to Durban or Port Elizabeth and beyond depending on where you are moving to. When taking pets to South Africa, dogs and cats have to clear through Cape Town or Johannesburg, where their veterinary documents are checked and they are officially cleared into South Africa. There is no quarantine for dogs and cats travelling from the UK to South Africa if all the importing paperwork is correct, so they can be collected from the airport and brought straight home.

The import procedure and requirements for flying dogs and cats from UK to South Africa are quite complicated and need to be correct or the pets will be put into quarantine on landing until they are correct.

Step 1: Applying for the import permit. All dogs and cats travelling to South Africa need an import permit from the Department of Agriculture. Applying for the permit is relatively simple – you send the payment to the department’s bank account, then fill out the relevant form – the most current version of the form to apply for import permit to import dogs and cat not subject to quarantine is here. The difficult bit is actually getting the import permit. The postal service in South Africa is not as definite as the service in UK, so often it is better to use someone in South Africa to apply for the permit. The original import permit needs to be at the airport when the pets lands, so they can leave UK with a copy of the permit, but the original has to be presented when the pets are actually imported into South Africa.

Step 2: Rabies vaccination. As UK is rabies free, pets travelling from UK to South Africa do not have to have a rabies vaccination, but it is very strongly recommended (mainly for your pet’s protection) after they land. You cannot do the rabies vaccination within 30 days of the flight, so either the rabies vaccination needs doing before this date or after the pets land in South Africa.

Step 3: Pick a flight date. Chat to us about the flight date for your pets. This will depend on when you are going to South Africa and if you have someone there who can collect your pets on your behalf. At PetAir UK, we can advise on all the aspects of importing your pets to South Africa and if we can help with all the import requirements for South Africa to be done in time.

Step 4: Apply for DEFRA export paperwork. Dogs and cats travelling from the UK to South Africa need to have UK DEFRA export paperwork, which is an export licence issued by the UK government department and has to be completed by a UK government recognised vet. This paperwork needs applied for and it will be sent to your nominated vets around 5 days before the flight date.

Step 5: Dogs need to have blood samples within 30 days of the flight to ensure that they will not take any exotic diseases into South Africa. These are taken by your vets and your dog will need 5 samples (heartworm, 2 x babesia, leishmania and brucella) if they have been in the UK all of their lives or they will need 7 samples (heartworm, 2 x babesia, leishmania and brucella and trypanosome x 2) if they have ever been out of UK. Also, on the day your vet takes the blood samples, they need to treat the dogs against heartworm. This heartworm treatment needs to be continued for 6 months. You need to take any remaining medication with you to South Africa and assure the importing department that you will continue the medication while your dog is in South Africa. Cats being imported to South Africa do not need to have these blood samples.

Step 6: Within 10 days of the flight, the pets travelling to South Africa do need a health check by your government appointed vet to ensure they are fit and healthy to fly and this is the point where your vet finalises the paperwork (DEFRA export licence) to allow your cats or dogs to be imported into South Africa. The import permit from the South Africa department of Agriculture has a health certificate on the back of the permit. The UK is in a rather unique position as we do not have to fill out that certificate because our vets are completing the DEFRA export paperwork.

Step 7: Your pet is ready for their flight to South Africa. They will normally fly on an overnight flight so that they settle well. The dogs and cats travelling to South Africa have their evenings in UK and then by morning they in in South Africa. They will be cleared on landing, their import paperwork checked/passed and then they will be eligible for entry into South Africa and onward travel home.

There are a lot of steps when it comes to South Africa pet travel. PetAir UK is the only UK pet shipper to be owned and run by vets and we are perfectly placed to help out with as much of this process as you would like us to. So please do feel very free to get in touch.

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