For many pet owners, leaving a cat or dog behind is akin to abandoning a family member. When separation is not an option, take comfort in the fact that it is possible to bring your pet to China, provided you’re ready to put in the hours of research and preparation. Many expats hire a pet relocation service to simplify the paperwork and alleviate language barriers, while others opt to save money and retain a higher degree of control by arranging everything themselves. No matter your approach, arm yourself with lots of patience and information – you’ll need both.
Before the Move
First off, you’ll need a Z visa (work visa) to bring your pet into the country. There’s a limit of one pet per passport. Here’s what you’ll need:
Official proof of a recent rabies vaccination. The shot must be administered at least 30 days, but no more than 12 months before entry. These guidelines are subject to change at any time, so double-check with your veterinarian or relocation company as soon as you know you’re moving.
An official certificate from your country of origin to export your pet. Every country has different regulations; ask your vet or a relocation company to find out which government agency oversees this process.
A health certificate or letter written by your veterinarian in the country of origin attesting to the health of your pet.
Pet owners, rejoice: As of January 1, 2012, the mandatory quarantine period for pets arriving in Beijing has been reduced to seven days (previously, it was 30 days). Animals are quarantined at a facility located near the airport and run by the Entry/Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. Pets are fed, watered, offered basic care, and treated humanely. However, owners aren’t allowed to see their pets while they’re in quarantine. In the past, when the quarantine period was 30 days, home quarantine was occasionally offered to diplomatic passport holders; however, the rules are now strictly enforced even for older pets and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Kennel cough (bordetella) is extremely common in China. The International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS), a Beijing-based animal hospital, recommends vaccinating your pet at least two weeks before leaving. Bordetella is an infectious disease that can be passed along in kennels and boarding facilities, as well as during transit with other animals.
A Clean Bill of Health
After quarantine, owners should bring their pets to a legally-registered animal hospital for a routine checkup. Beijing has more than 120 animal hospitals, but not all of them are approved by the Agricultural Bureau. Only registered hospitals are allowed to provide safe and legal vaccines imported from Europe and North America. Outside the hospital, look for a large gold plaque with red characters and a valid number. The plaque should read: 动物狂犬病免疫注射定点单位 (dòngwù kuángquǎnbìng miǎnyì zhùshè dìngdiǎn dǎnwèi). In addition, only Chinese veterinarians are licensed to practice and administer shots; foreign veterinarians may consult and do health checkups, but cannot physically give any vaccinations. We recommend ICVS and Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital.
To relocate within China or leave the country with your pet, you’ll need a booklet called the Beijing Animal Health and Immunity
Certificate. This red booklet is issued by registered animal hospitals and keeps track of vaccinations. In China, dogs and cats are required by law to receive annual rabies vaccinations; three-year rabies vaccinations schedules from other countries are not recognized here. Animal health experts also recommend an annual canine distemper (DHPPi) vaccine for dogs and a feline distemper (FVRCP) shot for cats, which are administered every one to three years.
Registering Your Dog
By law, all dogs must be registered in Beijing; other animals are exempt from this regulation. Registered dogs are provided with a dog license – an ID card that contains information about both the dog and the owner. If you’re caught without this ID while walking your dog, you could face a fine of RMB 2,000. Here’s what you need to know about the process:
Only one dog can be registered per household address. If you own a second dog, it must be registered at a second address.
All dogs living within the Fifth Ring Road must measure no more than 35cm from floor to shoulder.
Your local public security bureau (PSB) is responsible for overseeing
dog registrations. In Chinese, these are known as pàichūsuǒ (派出所). The registration process often varies according to district, so consult your local PSB for details.
The first time you register your dog, you must bring the dog, two passport-sized photos of your dog (front head shot), your ID (including your passport and residence permit), your lease agreement or property title document, written permission from your neighborhood watch committee or jūwěihuì (居委会), and money for the registration fee.
If you live in one of Beijing’s eight major districts (Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chongwen, Xuanwu, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai, and Shijingshan), the registration costs RMB 1,000 the first time around and RMB 500 for each annual renewal after that.
Newly-adopted or imported dogs can be registered any time after January 1. The registration will be valid from the date of registration until April 30, 2013. For dogs that are already registered, pet owners have a one-month registration renewal window from May 1 to 31.
Type: Dog (3 years old)
Country of origin: US
Owners: Erica, Lance, Kylie, and Silas Newland
Date of relocation: December 2011
Relocation company: The Newlands arranged everything themselves. However, they used a pet relocation service called Pet in Shanghai to pick up Daisy from quarantine in Shanghai and deliver her to their house in Beijing.
Cost: Approximately RMB 5,100 (USD 800). It cost RMB 2,000 for the quarantine in Shanghai, USD 125 for carry-on fees, USD 200 for the pet relocation service, and USD 100 for an airline-approved carrier.
Airline: United Airlines
One month before the family left San Francisco, they called the US Department of Agriculture to notify them of their move and found a USDA-certified veterinarian.
Ten days before their departure, their dog Daisy received a health check from the vet, who also ensured that her vaccination documents were in order. The paperwork was submitted to the USDA for approval; once certified, Daisy was ready to travel.
On the eve of the departure, Daisy got her “last” meal before embarking.
On the morning of travel, Erica got to the airport two extra hours early so that Daisy could have a long walk before the trip. Luckily, she was able to take Daisy aboard the plane as a carry-on because she was so small.
The Quarantine Process
The Newlands decided to put Daisy through the quarantine process in Shanghai, because the quarantine period at the time was seven days, as opposed to Beijing’s 30 days. (Note: The policy in Beijing has changed to seven days.) Erica flew to China with Daisy first, then the rest of the family followed three weeks later.
Though Erica was reluctant to drop Daisy off at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Sabrina Feng from Pet in Shanghai called her several times during the week to reassure her that Daisy was doing fine in quarantine. In fact, Erica thinks that Daisy might have even gained a bit of weight.
Hardest part: For Erica, the worst part was researching the pet
relocation process by herself online, finding someone to help from afar, and becoming comfortable with the idea that something wouldn’t happen to Daisy.
Easiest part: The process of flying and delivering Daisy to the quarantine office at Shanghai Pudong International Airport was much easier than Erica expected. The personnel spoke English and had English paperwork available. The entire process took no more than 20 or 30 minutes.
Make sure your dog gets a long walk and many opportunities to “do its business” right before the flight.
Don’t assume that you have to use a pet relocation service. You can do a lot of the work yourself and just need someone who speaks Chinese to help pick up the pet from the quarantine office. If you have a driver or know someone who speaks the language, they can help you navigate the process. If Erica had to do the move all over again, she would still take care of it herself.
The key to a successful pet relocation process is using your network to find others who have gone through pet relocation on their own. Ask friends, co-workers, and people on the Internet to find success stories and suggestions.
Type: Dog (5 years old)
Country or origin: US
Owners: Callie Randolph Schwinkendorf and Jeff Schwinkendorf
Date of relocation: December 2011
Relocation companies: PetRelocation.com in the US and Newage Pet Tour (NAPT) in Shanghai
Cost: Approximately RMB 24,000 (USD 3,800). It cost USD 3,000 for the pet relocation agencies, USD 370 for the flights, USD for an airline-approved carrier, USD 219 in vet visits (including microchipping), and USD 75 for the USDA certification.
Airlines: Alaskan Airlines (Atlanta to Seattle) and Air Canada (Seattle to Shanghai)
Callie and Jeff contacted PetRelocation.com as soon as Jeff got a job offer for Beijing – about a year and a half before the move.
They got an initial quote and some information, but the real communication started three months before the move.
Although Sadie was up to date on her shots, she had to receive a rabies booster because the three-year rabies vaccine isn’t recognized in China – only the annual shot is accepted. Sadie also had to get microchipped and Callie had the vet give her another kennel cough vaccination because it’s so common here.
Within ten days of the departure date, Sadie got a required health checkup. Callie then took the vet’s stamped certificate to the USDA office for approval.
Two or three weeks before the move, Callie increased Sadie’s exercise
to ensure that she met weight requirements for the plane. On the morning of the flight, she took her on a 5.6km run to get her good and tired. Callie then gave her a bit of water and a doggy treat with a low dose of anxiety medicine for the flight.
The Quarantine Process
The quarantine period was key for Callie and Jeff – they didn’t want Sadie in quarantine for any longer than absolutely necessary. They went through PetRelocation.com and Newage Pet Tour precisely because they assured them that their dog would spend no more than 24 hours in quarantine in China.
James Zhuang from NAPT picked up Sadie when the plane landed in Shanghai and met Callie at baggage claim with the kennel. They went to customs together, where the officials took pictures of Sadie in her kennel and Sadie with Callie, and made copies of Callie’s passport. Then, James and his colleagues took Sadie to a private boarding facility.
Callie taped food to Sadie’s kennel; she was assured that her dog would be fed, watered, and walked. She spent a little over 24 hours with NAPT and was seen by the vet for approval to go to Beijing.
The following day, NAPT put Sadie on a plane to Beijing and local colleagues delivered her to Callie and Jeff’s front door. Altogether, Callie was separated from her for about 40 hours in total. When Sadie arrived, she was excited, but exhausted; Callie could tell that she’d been stressed out, but didn’t feel that she was mistreated. Sadie was also surprisingly clean. Within 24 hours, she was back to normal.
Hardest part: There was a very long list of items that had to be checked off before the trip, including a certificate from the USDA, vet certificate, special check-ups, vaccinations, and flight arrangements for Sadie. Every airline has a different policy, so it was very frustrating trying to make sure that Sadie met the requirements for all of the flights. You can’t just book the cheapest flight; you have to call the airline and talk about paperwork, certificates, the dog’s weight and measurements, crate dimensions, and more. It took Callie about two weeks just to book the flights.
Easiest part: Emotionally, none of it was easy. However, the “easiest” part was opening the door and seeing Sadie safe and sound in Beijing.
Plan ahead. Use an agency, but ask lots of questions – you’re paying a lot of money. In the end, you know your pet best.
Callie tried to save as much money as possible by booking her own flights and only using planes that would allow Sadie to travel as excess baggage. This was usually cheaper than cargo and gave Callie some peace of mind knowing that her dog was “with her” the whole way.
Avoid China Eastern or Air China. Callie called both of these airlines and had a bad feeling about the experience. She spoke to three different representatives at China Eastern and got three different answers about whether or not Sadie could fly. One employee told her that it would be fine “as long as she brought her own rope” to tie down Sadie’s kennel in the cargo hold.
Start kennel training at least three months before the departure. This is something Callie wished she had done earlier.
Because they had an early flight, Sadie got dinner the evening before. A pee accident is to be expected on such a long flight, but Callie wanted to make sure that Sadie wouldn’t be stuck standing in her own feces. She was successful.
Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital 北京观赏动物医院
Daily 8.30am-10.30pm, 24hr emergency services are provided after 5pm daily, including holidays. 7 Beisanhuan Zhonglu, Xicheng District (6237 1359, 6204 9631/9742 Chinese only, email@example.com) www.chinapet.com.cn/en.asp
Doctors Beck and Stone Pet Healthcare Center 思威（北京）国际动物医院
1) Shunyi Euro Plaza: 9am-7pm daily (by appointment only). LB05, Euro Plaza, 99 Yuxiang Lu, Tianzhu, Shunyi District (8046 2886, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.doctorsbeckandstone.com 顺义区天竺镇裕祥路99号欧陆广场LB05; 2) Upper East Side: Mon-Sun 9am-7pm (consultation by appointment). 7-5, Bldg 7, Area 9, Fangyuan Nanli, Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (8457 8233, email@example.com) www.doctorsbeckandstone.com
International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS) 北京新天地国际动物医院
Mon-Sat 8am-8pm; Sun 10am-7pm (by appointment). 13-16 Rongke Ganlan Chengshang Jie, Futongxi Dajie, Wangjing, Chaoyang District. (8456 1939/40/41, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.ICVSASIA.com 朝阳区望京阜通西大街融科橄榄城商街13-16号
Newage Pet Tour (NAPT) 钮艾宠物运输
Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm. Rm 402, Bldg 1, 1589 Zhangyang Lu, Pudong District, Shanghai (21 5852 1886 hotline, 21 1891 5707 James Zhuang, email@example.com) www.newagepettour.com 上海浦东新区张杨路1589号1号楼402
Pet in Shanghai (PETIS)
(137 6146 7251 Sabrina Feng, firstname.lastname@example.org)
(+1 877 PET MOVE, +1 512 362 6100, email@example.com) www.petrelocation.com