Taking pets to Australia by plane is complicated and can be quite expensive. However, many thousands of dogs and cats fly to Australia to start their new lives with the families who move there. There is a strong feeling amongst the expat community that bringing your pets is the final piece of the jigsaw to assist your settling into your new lives in Australia.

Since 2012 and the relaxation of pets being allowed to enter the UK, the Australian now class the UK as rabies absent/well-controlled rather than rabies free, which means that the preparation has now been extended greatly to try to ensure that rabies does not enter Australia.

Below is a watered down version of what it takes to fly your pet to Australia from the UK – the full version is here – published by the Australian quarantine department. If your situation has doesn’t neatly fit the information supplied on the website or there are bits you don’t understand please get in touch!

Since 01st March 2023, the rules have changed slightly and now pets need to serve 30 days quarantine rather than 10 days, unless they are pets returning to Australia. Pets need to have their identities verified by a government veterinarian and due to the way government vets are organised in UK, this is not possible at this time, but we hope it will change.

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Step 1: Decide when you want your dog or cat to fly to Australia – preparation is key! Most pets in the UK are not routinely vaccinated against rabies, so we have assumed this for the below. Dogs and cats travelling to Australia will need to begin their preparation process with a rabies vaccination – this should be given around 9-10 months before you want them to fly.

Step 2: Around 3-4 weeks after this they will then need a rabies blood sample (Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test (RNATT)) completed at their vets. This determines if your dog or cat has made enough antibodies to keep them safe from picking up rabies. It is valid for one year. Your dog or cat is not allowed to enter Australia until at least 180 days after the date the rabies blood sample reaches the government approved laboratory for testing. The idea being that if they made antibodies because they actually had rabies, then it would have shown itself in this waiting period! You may have to repeat this process twice during your pet’s preparation, depending on the waiting times in quarantine. Our experienced team can advise you on this during the process.

Step 3: Call PetAir UK for a bespoke quote. Once you have the above 2 steps completed, we can start the ball rolling for your pet to depart the UK.

Step 4: Once your pet has passed the RNATT, a UK government vet (Official Veterinarian) will need to fill out an RNATT declaration (here). The vet looks at the RNATT, as well as any rabies vaccination history, and then is able to fill out the RNATT declaration, sign it, and stamp it with an official UK government stamp. Crucially, the vet who takes the blood for the RNATT cannot sign off the RNATT declaration, it must be an entirely different veterinary practice, which can make this process a little complicated. At PetAir UK, our vets will do this for you as part of our service.

Step 5:

Once the RNATT declaration has been completed, we can now apply for your import permit. In order to allow your dog or cat to be allowed into Australia, the Australian quarantine department will issue an import permit, which is valid for one year. The application requires the following details:

  • Name and address in the UK
  • Name, address and Australian phone numbers in Australia
  • Your pet’s name, pet’s date of birth and chip details
  • The copy of the rabies serology certificate (RNATT certificate) and the actual RNATT declaration.

The import permit process can be slow – taking anywhere up to 12 weeks from application to procurement.

Step 6: Once your import permit has been issued, we can apply for a quarantine space in Melbourne. This can take a few weeks to be booked and is issued on a first come, first served basis.  Once quarantine is booked, you then need to pay for the 30-day stay, in order to confirm the booking. You can find more details about quarantine here

Step 7: So, we’ve completed the first stages of getting your pet ready to fly to Australia and, depending on how organised you have been, now is a chance for a bit of downtime to organise all the other things you need to arrange for your move. If you’ve been organised, then you need to race on with the next sections!

Step 8: If you are travelling with a dog, around 6 weeks prior to flight, you will need to visit your vet again. This appointment is for your vets to have a look at your dog, examine them for ticks and apply a long-acting anti-tick treatment. You need to be quite careful about what tick treatment your vet uses as the Australians only accept certain ones. This appointment is also a great chance to check the vaccination status of your dog. To enter Australia, your dog must be fully vaccinated against Leptospira and so if they are not, then at this appointment your vets can do the first of two ‘Lepto’ vaccines, to get you all back on track. At PetAir UK, we will provide you and your vet with a comprehensive veterinary schedule, providing all the necessary instructions and required documentation for your travel. This can bring peace of mind to the tricky process!

Step 9: We will also apply for the DEFRA export paperwork around now. This paperwork can then be completed by our vets the day before the flight.

Step 10: Around 3-4 weeks prior to flight, both dogs and cats need to visit the vet. This is the date that dogs need to have blood samples to check that they are not carrying any diseases with them into Australia. At this point, dogs will need another tick treatment, an internal worming treatment, and your vet needs to check they have not got any ticks on them. If your dog needs a second ‘Lepto’ vaccine, then this is the day to do this. Important** – different Lepto vaccines need to be given at different intervals – this is where the veterinary schedule can be a lifesaver!

If you are flying with cats, then today is the day for the vets to check they have not got any ticks on them, apply an anti-tick treatment, and apply an anti-worm treatment. Preparing a cat to fly to Australia is much simpler!

Step 11: Final check date. Within 5 days of the flight, your dog or cat needs to be checked to make sure they are fit and healthy, and free from signs of infectious or contagious diseases. Dogs and cats are required to have another treatment against worms and ticks at this point. A government approved vet then needs to fill out the DEFRA export paperwork – this must be a different vet practice to the one that has done the preparation work. At PetAir UK, we take care of all of this for you. We can collect your pet(s) the day before the flight from anywhere in England, Scotland or Wales, complete this paperwork, board them at our lovely kennels and cattery close to the airport, and take them to check-in on the morning of their flight. You will also get photos of them once they are settled in with us for the night.

Step 12: Flight Day! Keep an eye on the tracking link we have previously sent you, to see when your pets have been checked in and when their flight has taken off. Depending on the airline, some will take pictures and send a much-anticipated update during the stopover too.

Step 13: Once your pet has landed in Australia, the quarantine team will collect them from the airport and transport them to the quarantine station to settle them in. You will be emailed directly by the quarantine team to let you know they are safe and well.

Step 14: Reuniting! Everyone’s favourite day! The day you get to collect your pet from quarantine, for them to begin their new life down under. We can also organise onwards flights from quarantine to other areas of Australia if required. Please don’t forget about us on this exciting day – our favourite part of the job is receiving reunion photos and videos!

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