I am writing this sitting in my Airbnb rented apartment in Sepang, Selangor Malaysia.
We are headed to Australia from Thailand but had to stop off here in Malaysia because Australia won’t accept animals direct from Thailand.
Nut, Mickey and Frankie are in quarantine nearby having served 4 of their 7 nights required by the Malaysian Government before they can enter Malaysia.
Yes it’s quite a journey!
This is our story so far…
By November 2016 I was absolutely 100% certain I was ready to move back to Australia after more than a decade away even though I knew it would mean the complicated and expensive relocation of my three fur kids.
I had been doing a fair bit of research and it seemed like a daunting task but I knew it was one of those things that would hopefully become clearer if I just got on with it.
I contacted plenty of pet relocation agents but their quotes were all for a door to door service including a lot of things I would be better off doing myself. There was never a breakdown of costs in these quotes and they all exceeded US$20,000 for my 3 kids.
I knew things were going to be expensive but I had no desire to simply line the pockets of an agent paying stupid money so I got started myself following the instructions on the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture website
Neither of my dogs or my cat were prohibited breeds and they were also all already microchipped so the next thing to look at were their vaccination books.
For anyone else reading this do check your animal’s breed is allowed to be imported into Australia (for example Pit Bull Terriers are banned)
The next step is to get them microchipped.
Nut, my medium sized dog, was due for her rabies booster and the smallest dog and the cat had had their annual boosters within the last 5 months.
I opted to get Nut her booster shot and then wait 30 days and have all 3 animals blood samples taken for their RNAT (Rabies Neutralizing Antibody Titer) I went to PAWS Phuket for all of this.
The RNAT is a test that proves an animal has been vaccinated against rabies and that the vaccine was effective.
The RNAT test is compulsory 180 days before a dog or cat can enter Australia. The blood can be drawn anywhere but there is a short list of labs trusted by the Australian government to carry out the test so the blood must be sent away. My kids blood samples went to a lab in Surrey, England (eventually)
The first time my kids gave blood it was sent to the wrong lab (a lab in Europe that the vet normally used for animals going to Europe) and we lost 10 days and then had to subject them to the test again. I was not amused, but as we all know these things happen (it’s become somewhat easier for me to say this over time)
If you’re reading this and making your own plans do yourself a favor and ask the vet at least 5 times if they got the microchip number correct on the blood sample and which lab they are sending it to.
It probably won’t be a lab they are used to using for dogs flying to Europe. Always check and recheck this kind of thing with the Department of Agriculture’s website just in case they change the list of approved labs or something.
Don’t assume your vet knows what they’re doing, they may have sent a few dogs to Europe but they don’t routinely send them to Australia. Help your vet get it right.
Even the most competent person can make a mistake, you don’t want it to be with your fur kids blood sample.
Remember if you get this step wrong you will have to start all over again.
I know I’m going on about this a bit but I’ve seen it go wrong a few times for me and for other people.
January 27, 2017
The blood test results came back and the kids had all passed.
On the paperwork was a date of receipt which was January 18, 2017
I used an online date calculator to add 180 days and got July 17, 2017
So now I had the basis of a plan.
Since Australia wouldn’t accept animals exported from Thailand we would hang out in Phuket and where I could continue to work until about the end of May and then I would send the kids to Singapore to be prepared for export from there while I went on to Australia to get us set up and find work. PAWS Phuket were already sending a dog to Singapore a few months ahead of me.
But as I began talking to agents a few things came to light; firstly that everything in Singapore was ludicrously expensive, secondly that I wasn’t going to be happy sending my kids off on an overseas trip and into 30 days of quarantine and a minimum of 2 weeks boarding with people I’d never met and thirdly I’d better look into this E.Canis thing the agents kept asking me about.
So what the hell is E.Canis?
Dogs entering Australia must be tested for E.Canis antibodies. They don’t even have to have the disease, if they are producing too many antibodies they won’t be eligible to enter Australia.
E.Canis is a tick borne illness and it’s extremely common in South East Asia and other parts of the world, but not Australia.
My big girl Nut had always been protected against ticks and has had but a few on her in her entire lifetime. Frankie on the other hand was found at a dam covered in ticks and still seemed more susceptible to picking them up here and there so this E.Canis thing got my attention.
The actual export test would be done a lot later but I wanted to be prepared so along we went to the vet.
I ordered a simple “SNAP” test. The Snap test gives a simple positive or negative result for exposure to pathogens E.Canis, hearworm, lime disease and a few others. It’s used every day as a diagnostic tool in veterinary clinics. The snap test is not the same (or anywhere near as expensive) as the test required for export which gives you an actual titer to work with, but I thought it would at least rule out a problem…or not.
Anyway, sure enough Nut tested negative to everything but Frankie did test positive to E.Canis.
Since that first test I had put Frankie on doxycycline and retested her every month. The tests came back positive every time.
But how far off were we?
With only a positive/negative result to go by it was impossible to know and this question would plague me for months.
After much deliberation, I decided against sending the kids via Singapore and began working on a new plan;
I would take the kids to Malaysia myself in June.
They kids would have to do a 7-day quarantine but I would have access to them between 10-4pm so I could make sure they were being looked after and get some exercise and didn’t get tick bites. I had seen one man online in photos with his dog inside quarantine but it was in 2012 so I didn’t know if would still be the same.
I would stay in Malaysia and rent a pet friendly house and get them through the required tests and push things along to get the quarantine date in Melbourne. I had found out that I couldn’t book Melbourne quarantine until the second RNAT (rabies titer test) was passed in Malaysia and that the quarantine could fill up so the whole trip would remain somewhat open ended and I’d be booking things at the last minute.
With all the uncertainty I felt it best to take a hands on approach.
By contrast in Singapore the kids would face a 30 day quarantine followed by boarding. With 3 animals I would be spending more than $100 on that per day and then also additional fees, as well as my own living costs in Australia, all with no idea how well the kids were being looked after and what I was really paying for.
In Malaysia I’d be in control, I’d be looking after them and getting them through the nasty blood tests and it would be just like a bit of a family adventure. They would get their walks and their playtime and I’d be there myself, getting things done and pushing hard to lock down those places in quarantine.
Happy to have decided, I got the kids their travel crates and started serving them all their meals inside them. Pretty soon they were running for their crates whenever the fridge door opened.
I found an agent in Malaysia to handle everything. He seemed to be well regarded by a lot of people and his name just kept coming up in online forums along with words like “reasonable”, “affordable” and “efficient”.
Look on Facebook for Pet’s Pet Taxi or email Petri at firstname.lastname@example.org
Petri would organize our import permits for both Malaysia and Australia and meet me at KLIA to take the kids to quarantine and then help us with our vet appointments, paperwork and bookings for the kids flight to Melbourne and their place in Melbourne quarantine.
I simply had to send him all our bits and pieces; microchip certificates, vaccination books, sterilization certificates, measurements of the kids and their crates, RNAT blood test results….some of these things took time to round up, microchip certificates had to be resent from Bangkok and sterilization certificates had to be typed up and signed so I was glad I had started early.
I had found out that Australian quarantine only feeds animals once a day (outrageous) and had my vet write a letter requesting 2 feeds per day on the grounds that they would all get sick from the over production of stomach acids if they were not fed twice as they were used to. This letter went with the application for Australian import permits.
Petri forwarded me the invoices for the permit applications and my parents paid for those from within Australia direct to the Australian Department of Agriculture.
At this point I put all the documents in one folder on One Drive ready to share with anyone who needed it. I kept the originals safe with a couple of photocopies of my passport to have ready at the airport etc.
I finally ordered a proper (IFAT) test for E.Canis for Frankie which meant sending a blood sample to the UK again (no lab in Thailand even does these tests) and 10 days later it came back positive but not a high positive.
I regret not doing that test sooner as now I don’t know where we started from before putting her on doxycycline but I’m hopeful that by the time we get to the real test in July the antibodies will have dropped further and Frankie will pass the test.
As a precaution in April I put both dogs on Bravecto (an oral medication to prevent ticks and fleas) in addition to their regular Frontline Plus spot on treatments so they certainly weren’t picking up ticks. Now as I write this and we are no longer in Phuket so I’m hoping the total lack of exposure to those nasty ticks helps.
If you are thinking of relocating with dogs to Australia I recommend stepping up your tick bite preventative measures and next time you visit your vet order a Snap test to see if E.Canis antibodies are potentially an issue for you.
Petri, my agent in Malaysia, didn’t seem too perturbed by Frankie’s blood test result, he’d seen worse, so I asked him to book quarantine in Malaysia for June 5 and once it was confirmed I would book a flight.
Now this was a lot of fun…
Booking the flight
Malaysia Airlines had direct flights Phuket to KL but no one could tell me definitively if those flights would allow animals to be flown as baggage. I had no desire to just rock up to check in with 3 animals hoping for the best.
The MA website leads you to believe that you can take animals as baggage but with suggestions of contacting your local office and advising them of your plans. I don’t know how many times you’ve managed to speak to a real person at an airline about a booking but this proved something of a challenge initially. I tried a few travel agents and they weren’t able to help.
Meanwhile a local transport agent told me that the kids would have to fly cargo into KL. That’s not what it said on the Malaysia Airlines website but it made me uncomfortable that no one seemed to really know (or want to tell me)
Of course the same agent then quoted me close to US $2,000 to get them all to KL but when I pressed her I found that the quote included paperwork that I was already handling and flying the kids via Bangkok to complete said paperwork.
I told her that there was no way I was subjecting the kids to more flights than absolutely necessary and they had to go direct and also to please quote me in Thai Baht.
She came back with a quote for a direct flight for THB 57,000
After days of emails and phone calls and frustration I finally got us booked; me in Business Class and the kids as baggage, but in all honesty I was sweating all the way to check in that someone was going to refuse the kids carriage.
They didn’t and in the end I got us all to KL for THB 14,000 (about THB 6500 for my ticket and then THB 7,500 paid at the gate when the kids were weighed in their crates; they were altogether 48kg)
I highly recommend Business Class for this leg of the journey (In fact I don’t think I could have taken all 3 animals on an Economy ticket)
If you’re reading this and following my particular trail contact Malaysia Airlines Phuket office before you book your ticket.
To save you a lot of headache talking to people who simply can’t help, here’s the man to speak to:
M : +66 84 898 3629
P : +66 76 327 097
F : +66 76 327 097
Khun Jeerawat will need to check all your documents; vaccination records, health certificate from the vet, copy of your passport etc
Email him and let him know your plans and he’ll let you know exactly what he needs.
Naturally I didn’t yet have my import docs for KL or my export docs for Thailand but I explained they were on the way and I would email them as soon as I had them, which I did.
It’s actually very nice to get it all done in advance so you have a smooth check in!
With the flight and quarantine booked it was time to confirm accommodation and I did this through Airbnb.
Finding cheap accommodation for me for the week or quarantine was easy but finding pet friendly accommodation for the 5 weeks with the kids was not so. “Pet friendly” on Airbnb actually means you can bring 1 cat or rabbit. I could soon see that our accommodation wasn’t going to be cheap.
Anyway, I got something booked in the end and there’ll be more to say about that later.
June 1, 2017
This was a big Mission day.
I had to drive the kids to the Department of Livestock which is next to Phuket Airport (immediately after the airport on the left, look for the sign saying “Cargo” and drive in)for their Health Certificates and Export License.
I took all their paperwork from their vet and vaccination books and luckily Petri had emailed me their import permits for Malaysia the day before.
As the kids were flying as baggage not cargo I didn’t need to take all of their crates. Nut’s crate is so big I would have had to dismantle it and put it back together again there so this was a relief.
Mickey miaowed angrily all the way but the girls always love being in the car.
The lady at the desk informed me that I should have been there 10 days before but she helped me anyway and then handed me a piece of paper to come and collect the papers the next day (damn, another long drive!)
I booked a van to take us to the airport, easy to do at any travel agent but I took pains to explain I would be carrying a lot of luggage and 3 animals. The driver asked if the dogs were Rottweiler’s but was fine with taking my lot.
Our flight was at 10.30am but I booked the van for 6am (we needed to allow a lot of time for loading the van, traffic and whatever else!)
At this stage I realized that I would need help at the airport on Monday getting the kids and my luggage from the van to the check in counter (through a security check?) so I emailed Khun Jeerawat again and asked him if he could arrange something.
3pm Back to the airport to pick up the Health Certificates and Export License. This cost THB 750 for all 3 kids.
Khun Jeerawat had replied to my email and said that he’d have staff meet me and instructions on where to get dropped off and that there was now no security check on the way in (thank goodness)
This is why you must fly Business Class on a mission like this.
The Big Day!
I barely went to bed but I was up at 4am.
The kids had a light snack. I took the girls for a bathroom walk and left Mickey to his litter tray.
I moved all of the crates to the front doorstep.
Quick shower, breakfast and then took the girls for another short walk down to meet the van at the main road and guide the driver back to our house.
We were loaded up and on our way by 6.15 am.
I asked the driver to stop just before the airport for a final bathroom break for the girls.
We arrived at the airport before 7.30am
Because we were so early it was a long wait, almost 9am before we were guided to the gate for check in but I’d rather that than being late.
Khun Jareewat showed up and took charge (Hero of the day!)
For ease and convenience, I didn’t put the kids in their crates until the last moment (not advisable unless you have good control as there are a lot of strange noises at the airport) and then the airline staff helped me seal them up.
The kids were weighed and I paid for them as excess baggage.
(For animals on MA it’s 1.5% of the most expensive ticket of the day x total kilos)
You remember (of course you do) that all the kid’s paperwork had already been submitted so they were wheeled away (Frankie was crying and gnawing the side of the crate) and I was whisked though the cabin crew line at immigration and went straight to the gate for boarding.
After months of preparations we were finally on our way!