Taking pets to Australia

By | January 19, 2017

The aim of this post is to give an overview of what is involved in taking pets to Australia from Thailand. I hope to generate some discussion and also share some success stories.

It is also well worth a read if you are an Aussie expat considering adopting a dog overseas.

Taking pets to Australia is a lengthy, complicated and expensive process but it is doable. If you’ve ever managed to get together the money for a motorbike or car (and we’re not talking a Benz here;) and you obtained a work permit or set up a business in Thailand you can do this!

Taking pets to Europe is frankly a walk in the park by comparison. It’s just a bit of time and planning. If you’ve ever managed to get together the money for an iPhone and you’ve planned a holiday before you can certainly manage that. More on taking pets to Europe as well as other countries in posts coming soon.


I am not a pet travel agent, or vet or even an expert or anything at all
I am just a pet parent trying to help other pet parents and I’ve done and continue to do a lot of research on this subject.
This post is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for information from the Australian Department of Agriculture or your vet. I highly recommend you engage the services of an agent to assist you with this process.
Information about the procedures and protocol to follow when taking pets to Australia from the moment you decide to leave Thailand with your pet right through to post-entry quarantine in Australia can be found here
Always remember that whether we like it or not it’s these guys that make the rules so whatever anyone else says always refer back to this website and see if the information you’re getting matches what is on this site

This process can seem overwhelming and I’m trying to break it down but at the same time I can’t omit information or I run the risk of misleading people. Just know that I’m here to help and answer questions as best I can and point you in the direction of further help.

I talk about dogs throughout this post but the process is almost identical for cats, they just seem to be subject to fewer tests. Good news for parents of kitty-cats!

So here we go, let’s assume you’re in Thailand, you’ve been here for some time and you’ve adopted a lovely dog who you now can’t imagine life without.
However, the time has come to return to Australia, for whatever reason.
Maybe you expected this to happen and maybe you didn’t. Maybe you expected to be in Thailand a lot longer when you got your dog (Let’s call him Benji) but it just hasn’t worked out or maybe your family suddenly need you at home. Things always change.
Life is what happens when you’re making other plans, right?
So, what to do?

What to do; the super short version

  • Microchip Benji
  • Vaccinate Benji against rabies
  • 30 days after the vaccination have a vet collect a blood sample and send it to an approved lab (in an “approved country”) for tests to prove that Benji is vaccinated against rabies and that the vaccine was effective.
  • If the sample passes Benji is eligible to enter Australia 180 days after the date the lab received the blood sample.
  • About 140 days after the blood tests reached the lab you can send Benji to an “approved country” for 4-6 weeks for further tests and preparations and, assuming all is well, from there put him on a plane bound for Australia. You can do this yourself or send him on his “holiday” through an agent. 
  • Benji must do a minimum of 10 days quarantine on arrival in Australia
  • Once Benji has done his time you can pick him up from quarantine and live happily ever after

So now let’s talk a few details….

Preparations need to begin about 8 months before the move, 6-7 months at a minimum if Benji is already microchipped and vaccinated.

It’s going to be easier if you’re not in a rush but if you urgently need to leave Thailand there is always the option of boarding Benji and we’ll get into that later.

Fun fact #1 Australia won’t accept dogs imported directly from Thailand.

This is why you keep hearing people say “it’s impossible to send dogs from Thailand to Australia” because it kind of is. But it just means you will need to send Benji to an “approved country” for a minimum of 4-6 weeks and put him on a plane for Oz from there. This is not some fancy loophole or a way to cheat the system, it is all laid out by the Australian Department of Agriculture here.

I think of this as the “buffer country” where all of the testing that needs to be done to satisfy the Australian government that your beloved Benji doesn’t pose some horrible threat to biosecurity will be done. These countries are either rabies free or rabies is well controlled and the Australian Government is satisfied that animal health is well managed in these countries.

(Please note: There are a few pure breeds not allowed into Australia and you can find that list here)

If Benji is not already microchipped and vaccinated against rabies you must do this first.

The microchip needs to come before or on the same day as the vaccine. Make sure you get your dates and signatures and stickers in Benji’s vaccination book. Microchip numbers and vaccine serial numbers are important.

In some cases the vet will recommend Benji has a rabies booster before the test, even if it’s not due, at least 30 days before the blood sample is collected to help Benji pass the test and this may also be required by the “approved country” you send Benji to for export to Australia.

If Benji is already micro chipped and vaccinated against Rabies you need to go to a vet who can collect a blood sample from Benji to be sent to an approved laboratory in an “approved country”.

At this approved lab they will test the sample for antibodies to Rabies (Rabies titer test) Benji needs to have a certain level of antibodies to pass the test. It takes about 3 weeks for the results to come back.

(Please note that Australia has a very short list of approved labs for this purpose and your vet needs to be aware of this and send the sample to the right one; currently some vets are using a laboratory in England. The link to the list of approved labs is can be found on this website. Again you will notice I’m always referring you back to the Australian Department of Agriculture’s website. I’m not taking any chances when it comes to providing up to date information)

At this stage it might also be an idea to test for Erlichia Canis (caused by ticks) because this test will be required later (within 45 days before he goes to Australia, testing must be done in the “approved country”) 

If Benji has acute E.Canis your vet should be treating it.

However, if Benji tests positive for antibodies without showing clinical signs of illness (indicating past exposure) talk to your vet about putting him on antibiotics/doxyclycline anyway and make sure you’re preventing further exposure to ticks and bites. It’s best to deal with this early on rather than face expensive delays, tests and treatment in quarantine.

Benji will be eligible to enter Australia 180 days after the lab receives and acknowledges receipt of the blood sample for the Rabies Titer Test, that is assuming he passes that test and a whole heap of other tests later on (including the E.Canis test)

During this waiting period you will also need to apply for an import permit for Australia but you must get the result for the Rabies Titer Test from the lab first.

This is where it gets slightly complicated and once you get to this stage you will most likely need an experienced pet relocation agent to help with some things (to save you tearing out your hair) and book flights for you as most airlines require that. Again, we’ll look at different agents vs doing it yourself in later posts and I’m talking to people now who have been through this.

Benji needs to spend a minimum of 4-6 weeks in an “approved” country and be prepared for export to Australia from there.

This could be a Western European country, the US, Singapore or Malaysia but unfortunately Singapore (the most conveniently located country) has it’s own quarantine so Benji would have to do 30 days quarantine there and then stay another 2 weeks for preparations (treatments, vaccinations, tests) The agents in Singapore start preparations while Benji is in the quarantine facility.

We will talk more about how to choose an “approved country” etc. in depth later as well as the various tests and treatments Benji will need while he is in the “approved country”.

Alright, assuming Benji passes tests in the “approved country” it’s on to Melbourne, Australia.

He must go to Melbourne as that’s where the one and only Post-Entry Quarantine facility for animals is located.

Benji must be flown in as “cargo” not as “excess baggage” to Australia. The biggest difference between “excess baggage” and “cargo” is the price!

Lucky folks flying to Europe or The United States can fly with their dog as extra luggage or find a flight volunteer to help them, we can’t do that flying fur kids into Australia unfortunately.

In Melbourne Benji will be picked up by Australian Quarantine Inspection Services (AQIS) and taken to Mickleham Quarantine Facility for a mandatory 10 day quarantine. The minimum time is 10 days and he will be held longer at your expense if AQIS find a tick on him or anything else of concern.

There is no advantage to flying on the same flight as Benji as once he’s sent for boarding you can’t see him again until “release day” on the other side.

If all is ok you or your nominated agent can pick up Benji on release day. If you don’t live in Melbourne your agent can send him to you.

Now, this has been the dream come true, best case scenario. There is a lot of room for error and for things to be drawn out and become even more expensive which I will also be discussing in future posts.

Attention to detail throughout this process is crucial to success.

Correct documentation is crucial and can make all the difference. I have personally known of animals whose trips were delayed by months due to numbers being recorded incorrectly on documents so make sure you get it right from the beginning. You don’t get to call the lab and change numbers or dates if you realize you made a mistake, it’s just back to the beginning.

I know it feels a bit like sending Benji to the moon would be easier than sending him to Australia but at the end of the day just like with anything else in life it really comes down to one thing.

The will to do it.

I will be adding to this information in the coming days, weeks and months as my research continues and any information or experience you have that you are willing to share will be gratefully received by us and by everyone now waiting on me to post this information…and there are quite a few!

Please login to the site below to comment and ask your questions. We’d also love to hear some success stories so if you have one please share!

With love and best wishes to you and your fur kids!

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