Assistance dogs

​​​The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources manages the biosecurity risk associated with bringing dogs – including assistance dogs – to Australia.

Importers applying for a permit to import an assistance dog must provide evidence that meets the department’s assistance dog eligibility criteria. Consistent with the Australian Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the department requires applicants to provide evidence that their dog is trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability, and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place.

The assistance dog import process detailed below is only applicable for assistance dogs that meet the department’s eligibility criteria. The laws around assistance animals vary between countries and applicants should not assume their dog will comply with the department’s eligibility criteria, even if the dog is recognised as an assistance dog in the country of export.

[expand all]

Eligibility criteria

The department requires that institutions for assistance dog training are members of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) or Assistance Dogs International (ADI). Alternatively, the dog may be accredited under a law (including public transport legislation or regulations) of an Australian State or Territory that provides for the accreditation of animals trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability.

Importers submitting an application to import an assistance dog must include the following supporting documentation:

  • The Assistance dog declaration form, completed by the handler, declaring that the dog has been in the continuous service of the handler for at least six months prior to export, and agreeing to the conditions of post entry quarantine isolation in Australia.
  • The Medical history form for assistance dog handlers, completed by a medical practitioner, providing evidence of the handler’s disability and ongoing dependence on the assistance dog.
  • The Assistance dog training form, completed by a representative of a recognised assistance dog training institution. The applicant must attach evidence of the dog’s certification or accreditation from that institution or relevant Australian State or Territory government entity.

These forms are available in the section How to submit an application to import an assistance dog.

Applicants wanting to import dogs from a Group 3 country must also submit a finalised rabies neutralising antibody titre test laboratory report and the Rabies vaccination and rabies neutralising antibody titre test declaration form, completed by an official government veterinarian in the country of export, confirming the dog has been rabies blood tested at least 180 days before export.

The department will e-mail you confirmation of your dog’s eligibility for import to Australia based on the documentation you supply. The dog must not be loaded on the aircraft without this confirmation.

You do not need a permit to import a dog from New Zealand but conditions apply.

If your dog is not eligible for import as an assistance dog, you can still import it under the standard conditions for dogs, which are detailed at Bringing cats and dogs (and other pets) to Australia.

How to submit an application to import an assistance dog

You can complete the application electronically or manually. If you need help please contact us on 1800 900 090 (within Australia) or +61 3 8318 6700 (outside Australia) or by email.

Or

  • Option 2: Download and complete the documents manually, and post, or scan and email them to us.

Download

Document

Pages

File size

Application to import assistance dogs – all countries PDF 2357 KB
Application to import assistance dogs – all countries DOCX 2185 KB
Assistance dog declaration PDF 2131 KB
Assistance dog declaration DOCX 2496 KB
Medical history form for assistance dog handlers PDF 2329 KB
Medical history form for assistance dog handlers DOCX 2131 KB
Assistance dog training form PDF 2529 KB
Assistance dog training form DOCX 2129 KB

If you cannot access these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Please send the completed application and supporting documents to:

Email: Animal and Biological Import Assessments
Post:
Animal and Biological Import Assessments
GPO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601
Australia

Import conditions for assistance dogs

The pre-import conditions for assistance dogs are the same as for standard (pet) dog imports. Please refer to the step-by-step guide for your country of export. There are however some important transport, arrival and post-arrival steps that differ for assistance dogs, as outlined below.

Notify the department of your intended arrival

You must notify the department’s office in the State or Territory in which the dog will arrive, at least three working days before export to Australia, and provide:

  • a copy of the valid import permit, completed veterinary health certificate and copies of laboratory reports
  • the name of the handler of the assistance dog
  • the nominated address where the dog will be held for the post entry quarantine isolation period
  • flight details including airline, flight number, port of departure, port of arrival, time and date of arrival. Please also advise whether your dog will arrive as manifest cargo or in the cabin (subject to aircraft operator approval).

Department contact information

Australian Capital Territory
Email: ACT Rego Office

New South Wales
Email: CER Animal Imports

Victoria
Email: SE Animal Imports and VIC Controller

Queensland
Email: QLD Live Animal Imports

South Australia
Email: SA Live Animal Imports

Western Australia
Email: WA Live Animal Imports

Northern Territory
Email: NT Live Animal Imports and NT Airport Controller

General inquiry: 1800 900 090 or + 61 3 8318 6700 (from outside Australia)

Travel to Australia

The following travel requirements apply to assistance dogs:

  • The dog and handler must travel to Australia on the same flight.
  • The dog may travel with its handler in the cabin (subject to the aircraft operator approval – you should liaise directly with the relevant airline to determine what is required for such approval to be granted) or as manifested cargo. If the dog travels as manifested cargo, it must be contained in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved crate for dogs.
  • The dog can enter Australia at any international airport and must be presented to the department for clearance at the first port of arrival.
  • Once the department has cleared the dog, you may take it on any Australian domestic flight (subject to the aircraft operator approval).
  • Allow at least two (2) hours for the department to clear your dog.
  • During transport to Australia dogs may transit (touch down but stay on the same plane) in all countries.
  • If you change planes in another country en route to Australia, you may need prior approval from the government of that country.

On arrival in Australia

In recognition of the critical, ongoing and dependent relationship between eligible assistance dogs and handlers, the department will:

  • provide a veterinarian to meet clients with assistance dogs in person at the airport (the veterinarian will assess the import documents and examine the dog)
  • oversee the dog’s minimum 10 day post entry quarantine isolation at the nominated address
  • waive standard departmental fees.

If all documents are in order, a biosecurity officer will:

  • stamp the documents
  • issue a “direction” for the dog to be moved to your nominated residence for quarantine isolation
  • give the handler a copy of the stamped documents and written “direction”.

If the documents are not in order or the dog shows signs of disease or parasite infestation, the biosecurity officer may direct the dog to be:

  • treated
  • isolated at the government post entry quarantine facility
  • returned to the country of export.

Post entry quarantine isolation

The assistance dog must complete a minimum 10 day period in post entry quarantine isolation, as detailed in the assistance dog declaration. A biosecurity officer may visit the nominated address at any time during this period.

You must take the dog to a veterinarian on the proposed end date of this period. The veterinarian must examine the dog and complete the Assistance dog veterinary report form provided in the dog’s import permit.

You must then submit the completed form to the department so the dog can be considered for release from biosecurity control.

Questions and answers

Can I import my emotional support dog to Australia?

In the department’s experience few, if any, emotional support dogs qualify as assistance dogs under Australia’s import conditions.

If the dog does not meet the eligibility criteria to be granted a permit for import as an assistance dog, he/she may only be imported to Australia under the standard import conditions for dogs, which involves travelling as manifest cargo on an international flight directly to Melbourne, for a minimum 10 day isolation period in the government’s post-entry quarantine facility at Mickleham.

Can my Australian assistance dog travel overseas and then return to Australia?

If you intend to travel from Australia to another country with your assistance dog you must comply with Australia’s export requirements and any importing country requirements. Further information can be found at the webpage Companion animals.

Even if your assistance dog was born in Australia, it may be exposed to exotic diseases when travelling overseas. Your dog must meet all the department’s import conditions for the relevant country of export in order to return to Australia – this may include preparations before the dog leaves Australia. Further information is on the webpage cats and dogs returning to Australia.

We recommend that you contact the department on 1800 900 090 (within Australia) or +61 3 8318 6700 (outside Australia) or by email for advice specific to your circumstances.

Can I still import my dog if it doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria for assistance dogs?

Yes - your dog may be imported under the standard import conditions for dogs, which are detailed at Bringing cats and dogs (and other pets) to Australia.

Please do not attempt to use the assistance dog import process for your animal unless it meets the department’s assistance dog eligibility criteria.

The department has identified several cases of prospective importers attempting to claim their companion dog as a bona fide assistance dog. Some prospective importers appear to have been the victims of fraudulent websites that offer assistance dog certification/accreditation services; in other cases, prospective importers have knowingly submitted false documentation in an effort to obtain an assistance dog import permit.

Any website that offers to certify/accredit your pet dog as an assistance dog without a comprehensive training program is likely to be a scam. The department won’t accept documentation that such websites provide and your application for an import permit may be significantly delayed or refused. The department will make inquiries to verify the authenticity of documents provided by applicants. If the department suspects documents are not genuine, an investigation will be initiated, which could result in charges being laid.

It is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code Act 1995 to knowingly give false or misleading information to a Commonwealth officer exercising powers under Commonwealth law. This offence carries a potential penalty of 12 months imprisonment.

Can I take my assistance dog on an Australian or international cruise ship?

In certain circumstances an assistance dog may be able to travel on an Australian or international cruise ship.

Please review Travelling on a cruise vessel – step by step guide for assistance dogs

​​​

​​​