Every year, countless pets are abandoned when their owners decide to relocate. The problem is amplified in areas with large populations of waidiren, such as Beijing. However, many people don’t realize that moving internationally with animals isn’t as puzzling as they think; the trickiest part is figuring out the prerequisites for entering your destination country. You should start preparing for your pet’s relocation at least six months before the planned moving date. For the latest entry requirements, consult your destination country’s embassy, department of agriculture, or quarantine bureau.
Required Procedures for the Exit Process
First things first: only dogs and cats are allowed to be taken out of China. Unfortunately, that means you’ll have to leave behind birds, reptiles, rabbits, or other animals. This is a basic consideration when thinking about what kind of pet to adopt in the first place.
As of November 2011, Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital requires that all animals be microchipped by the time they receive their exit health check. The microchip must conform to the European Union’s ISO 11785/11785 standard or other ISO-compliant standard. This is not a national, municipal, or Entry/Exit Quarantine and Inspection Bureau requirement, but one of Beijing Guangshang Animal Hospital. The rule is intended to facilitate accurate identification of pets during the exit health exam.
In Beijing, ISO-compliant and EU-approved microchips are sold by Globy Pet Relocation. However, insertion is a surgical procedure that must be overseen by a certified veterinarian; ICVS is equipped to both insert and scan microchips. The hospital can also scan microchipped pets for free to ensure that the chip works.
Rabies vaccinations must be performed at a legally-approved animal hospital in China (for more information about this, see our article about importing pets on p42). Pets requiring the RNATT must get their rabies shot at least 30 days before blood is drawn for the RNATT test.
Rabies Neutralizing Antibody Titre Testing (RNATT)
The RNATT is required for EU countries, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. Typically, countries and territories that require the RNATT specify that pets should be vaccinated against rabies at least four to seven months before departure. In the EU, the blood sample must be drawn at least three to six months before the pet’s arrival. Animals must also be microchipped before or on the day of the rabies shot.
For pets entering the EU, a blood sample must be taken from the animal one month after the rabies shot. On the following day, the separated serum is taken to an authorized laboratory in the EU for testing. For a list of authorized labs, visit the European Commission’s website. Currently, China doesn’t have any EU-approved labs. Pet relocation companies such as Globy can help transport the serum sample to the EU.
Owners must download the EU CE 998/2003 form for “non-commercial movement of pets.” The form must be filled out by a veterinarian at Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital and checked by customs at the EU destination country. Most EU countries require a 90-day wait after the blood is drawn before the pet can enter, but it’s best to confirm with the authorized laboratory.
Entry Requirements for Different Countries
Before completing the three-step exit process for China, you’ll need to research specific entry regulations for your destination country. Depending on where you’re going, the entry process can range from surprisingly simple to painfully difficult. Either way, you’ll want to allow yourself plenty of time before the departure date – at least six months, and more if you’re moving to a country or territory with strict regulations. Generally, islands like Australia, Taiwan, and New Zealand have the most stringent entry rules.
Canada and the US (Except Hawaii)
The rabies shot is required at least 30 days but no more than 12 months before entry. No microchipping, RNATT, or quarantine required if all other conditions are met. Regulations for pets entering Hawaii are different than those for the continental US. For the most up-to-date Hawaiian regulations, visit the websites of the US Department of Agriculture or Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
• RNATT and rabies vaccination required.
• Microchipping not required, but this is moot since it is mandatory for all pets getting a health exam at Beijing Guangshang Animal Hospital.
• Mandatory seven-day quarantine period for all incoming animals.
European Union and Japan
• Rabies vaccination and RNATT required at least three to six months before the animal’s arrival.
• Tattoo and/or microchip with EU ISO 11784/11785 standard required, depending on the destination country.
• No quarantine is required if the above conditions are met.
• The UK now follows EU entry requirements. In other words, no quarantine is required if the pet meets all other requirements.
• Japan requires two rabies vaccinations within six months of the pet’s arrival date.
• Microchipping and rabies vaccination required.
• No RNATT required.
• Mandatory four-month quarantine period for all pets arriving from mainland China.
• Microchipping, rabies shot, and other vaccinations required.
• RNATT required. A second rabies vaccination is required after drawing blood for the RNATT.
• Mandatory 30-day quarantine period for all pets arriving from mainland China.
Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan
• Microchipping, rabies, other vaccinations, and RNATT required.
• No direct importing of animals from mainland China. Pets must stay in another “rabies-free” country for at least six months before entering these territories. For example, if you’re moving to Australia, you’ll need to board your pet in a country like Malaysia for six months before they can follow you.
• Mandatory 30-day quarantine period for all pets entering the country or territory.
The Exit Process
Step 1: Rabies Vaccination and Official Vaccination Certificate
All cats and dogs leaving China must be vaccinated for rabies at an animal hospital registered with the Agricultural Bureau. The shot must then be documented in the official Beijing Animal Health and Immunity Certificate (red booklet). These two steps must be completed at least 30 days but no more than 12 months before departure.
Step 2: Health Examination and Certificate
All pets must undergo a health checkup no more than seven days before the date of departure at Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital, the official animal hospital of the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. Once the health exam is complete, you should receive the Beijing International Companion Animal Health Inspection Certificate within two business days. Note that the health certificate is valid for only seven days after the issue date; if you don’t exchange it for an exit permit within the allotted time, your pet will have to repeat the health examination all over again.
Go to Guanshang early in the morning; appointments are not accepted, so it can get busy later in the day. If you’re not comfortable in Mandarin, bring a Chinese-speaking friend along. Even if you use the services of a pet relocation company, you’ll still have to go with the agent because the owner is required to present themselves. Be sure to bring your pet, the red vaccination booklet, your passport (limited to one pet per passport), and at least RMB 800 in cash – you’ll be charged for the checkup and any additional health tests.
Step 3: Exit Permit
The health certificate must be exchanged for an Animal Health Certificate for Exit (or exit permit). This can be done at a separate office located on the second floor of Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital. You’ll need the red vaccination booklet, the health certificate, your passport, and around RMB 100 in cash for the exit permit fee – no need to bring your pet for this part. The exit permit is usually processed within two business days and is valid for 14 days after the issue date.
May and Simba
8-Year-Old Female Old English Sheepdog and 3-Year-Old Male Labradoodle
Owners: Fiona and Trevor Ness
Relocated to: Boston, US
Date of relocation: May 2013
Relocation company: World Care Pet
Cost: Declined to give information
Airline: May and Simba flew on KLM from Beijing to Frankfurt, stayed in the city overnight, and flew the following day from Frankfurt to Boston.
Moving timeline: Fiona and Trevor started preparing in December 2012. May and Simba were both rescue dogs from China and had never been in crates. Fiona started training them by crating them, then moving the dogs around the house inside their crates. She also made sure their shots were updated.
Kiki Chen of World Care Pet dealt with everything; Fiona only needed to go to one place, where they needed to see the dogs’ owner. A member of Kiki’s staff dealt with all the paperwork and did all the talking.
On the morning of May 21, a World Care Pet representative picked up the dogs and took them to Beijing Capital International Airport. Chen sent Fiona a few emails and text message updates, and a final picture of the dogs before the flight.
The dogs had to leave Beijing six weeks before Fiona and Trevor due to airline rules that don’t allow animals to travel in the heat. The owners arranged for someone from the boarding kennel to pick up May and Simba at the airport in Boston.
Quarantine period: No quarantine is required in the US as long as the dogs have up-to-date rabies shots and pass all their health checks from the Chinese government.
Tips: Fiona recommends training your dog to be comfortable in its crate. She also wrote all of her contact details in block letters and attached them to the top of the crates, as well as a small photo of each dog for identification purposes. Fiona and Trevor put the dogs’ unwashed bedding in the crates so they had a familiar smell. Overall, Fiona was pleased they used a relocation company to take care of all the paperwork on the Chinese side.
9-Year-Old Female Beagle
Owner: Eileen Mooney
Relocated to: San Francisco, US
Date of relocation: October 22, 2013
Relocation company: None
Cost: Around RMB 2,400 in total
• Pre-departure checkup and shots at ICVS: RMB 600
• Crate and air mat: RMB 800
• Processing fee for exit permit: RMB 800
• Strapping fee at the airport: RMB 20
Airline: Air China. Emily weighs more than 7.5kg, so she had to travel in the cargo hold. Eileen could only book space for Emily after obtaining the exit permit. She had to go to Air China’s main ticketing office in Xidan to process the reservation, and the fee could only be paid at the airport after Eileen had checked in and picked up her own boarding pass. The crate had to be strapped before she checked Emily in. On Air China, no water is allowed in the crate.
Moving timeline: Prior to departure, Eileen took Emily to ICVS for microchipping, deworming, and a rabies booster. All procedures were documented in the red booklet with an official stamp.
She then went to Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital to get the exit permit. An appointment isn’t necessary, but Eileen got there first thing in the morning at 8.30am, presented Emily’s red booklet, and told the receptionist that she wanted a chukou zheng. They hospital gave Emily a check-up and took a blood sample, and Eileen returned the next day to collect the permit.
On the day of the flight, Eileen took Emily for her morning walk and fed her. The flight departed Beijing at 3pm, so Emily was able to have her regular routine. They arrived in San Francisco the next day at 1pm. When Eileen got to baggage claim, Emily was already at the arrival lounge; the customs official released her as soon as Eileen presented the exit permit.
Quarantine period: No quarantine period needed.
Tips: ICVS advised Eileen to crate-train Emily before departure. Eileen did this for two weeks prior to the flight, so that Emily wasn’t intimidated by the time they left. It was helpful to keep a normal routine, because the calmer the owner, the calmer the pet.
5-Year-Old Male Mixed Breed Dog
Owner: Leslie Morgan
Relocated to: Singapore
Date of relocation: July 2013
Relocation company: Globy
Cost: USD 2,400 (approximately RMB 15,000). This covered the cost of the RNATT (which needed to be sent to Germany for testing), dog crate, testing and paperwork in Beijing, airport transfers, China Air fee for flying in cargo, and the 30-day quarantine in Singapore.
Airline: China Air. Bailey traveled on the same flight as Leslie in cargo.
Quarantine period: Regulation is 30 days’ quarantine in Singapore.
Tips: Since she was leaving Beijing in July, Leslie decided to take an evening flight because it was so hot. She was glad to have used a relocation company and found ICVS’ information sessions with Mary Peng very helpful. Leslie bought the crate a few weeks ahead of time so that Bailey could get used to it. This helped him feel like it was a safe place.
Genghis Kahn and Chaka Kahn
4-Year-Old Brother and Sister Pixie Bob Cats
Owners: Karla and Charles Kahn, and their kids JD and Callie Fields
Relocated to: Saudi Arabia
Date of relocation: September 2012
Relocation company: None
Cost: Approximately RMB 5,500 per cat
• Veterinary exams and paperwork: RMB 1,300 per cat
• Health certificate: RMB 800 per cat
• Export permit: RMB 100 per cat
• Lufthansa tickets to fly as excess baggage: RMB 1,300 per cat
• Import permits for Saudi Arabia: RMB 1,600 per cat
• Authentication of documents by the Saudi Embassy: RMB 650
Moving timeline: According to Saudi regulations, only the husband can enter the country until he earns residency. Because of China’s requirement of one pet per passport, one cat flew under Charles’ passport and the other under Karla’s even though the Kahns were going to different countries at first.
Charles, Karla, and the cats flew together from Beijing to Frankfurt. They separated from there; both cats flew with Charles to Saudi Arabia while Karla returned to the US for the summer. Genghis and Chaka traveled as excess baggage in the cargo hold and didn’t need to be medicated for the flight.
At the time, Frankfurt had a relatively new animal lounge that accepted pets for overnight transit. This service is also available to pets not flying under an EU passport. Animals are fed, watered, and walked, and there is even a veterinarian on staff. The fee was included in the cost of the plane ticket.
Quarantine period: No quarantine required.
Tips: In September, the weather’s quite hot in Saudi Arabia. Despite this, the cats were able to fly in because there’s no heat embargo. The flight landed at 3am, so the worst was avoided for their safety.
Because Islamic culture considers dogs to be “unclean,” the country doesn’t allow dogs to be imported unless they are certified as guard animals. However, owners have been able to find loopholes and even get toy poodles certified as “guard” dogs. There are no such restrictions for cats.
Getting together the paperwork for Saudi Arabia is difficult due to a lack of information, even among Saudi government agencies and pet relocation companies. The documents must be translated into Arabic and authenticated by the Saudi Embassy. Though the Kahns did everything that was required, the paperwork wasn’t even looked at when they arrived in Saudi Arabia. A pet relocation company would handle every detail of the import process, but owners can expect to pay at least USD 2,500 per pet.
Photo courtesy of Fiona Ness, Eileen Mooney, Leslie Morgan, Karla Kahn, & Egidio Maurizio (flickr)