International cruise vessels that travel within Australian waters usually choose to remain, for commercial reasons, under biosecurity control. For large cruise vessels this is usually the case even when a cruise starts and finishes in Australia and never leaves Australian waters. Australian domestic animals are usually not permitted to board vessels that are under biosecurity control because there may be biosecurity risks on board.
The department has developed conditions to enable assistance dogs to travel with their handlers on these vessels on cruises between Australian ports. This guide should be used by handlers who are seeking to travel with their assistance dog on board a cruise vessel under biosecurity control on a voyage between Australian ports.
Important: Prospective travellers considering taking an assistance dog to sea on a cruise vessel under biosecurity control should consider arranging for the animal to have a rabies vaccination and rabies neutralising antibody titre (RNAT) test before leaving Australia for any unforeseen event where the traveller, assistance dog or vessel are forced to visit a foreign country.
When an assistance dog leaves Australia and visits a foreign country, including foreign waters, it immediately loses its Australian health status. Once this happens it might not be able to return to Australia at short notice.
Step 1: General eligibility
- You, or person under your care, have a disability that is alleviated by the assistance dog. You are able to provide the department with evidence of this disability upon request.
- The assistance dog has been trained and/or certified by a member organisation of the International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International or alternatively, the dog is accredited under the law of an Australian state or territory by the appropriate government authority for that state or territory. You are able to provide evidence of this training, certification or accreditation upon request.
- The assistance dog has been in the handler’s service for at least six months.
- The assistance dog is in Australia and not under biosecurity control.
Step 2: Voyage eligibility
After identifying a voyage and cruise vessel, seek written confirmation from the cruise company (not the travel agent) that:
- the cruise vessel will be under biosecurity control for the duration of the proposed cruise between Australian ports (and New Zealand ports if the cruise itinerary includes New Zealand).
- there will be no other animals on board the cruise vessel for the duration of the proposed cruise except other assistance dogs that have boarded the vessel in Australia (or New Zealand if the cruise itinerary includes New Zealand).
- for the duration of the proposed cruise, the cruise vessel will not travel through the waters or port(s) of any foreign countries, including but not limited to New Zealand (unless the cruise itinerary includes New Zealand and the assistance dog will be prepared for export to New Zealand in accordance to Australian and New Zealand requirements before departing Australia), New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea or Indonesia.
Note: If the assistance dog will be travelling on the cruise vessel to New Zealand then it must also be prepared for export to New Zealand, and after arrival in New Zealand it must be prepared for export back to Australia.
Step 3: Initial application
Timeframe: At least 30 days before the assistance dog is due to board the cruise
- Complete Appendices 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the ‘Application to take an assistance dog on a cruise’
If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.
Note: If the assistance dog is destined for export to New Zealand on the cruise, you must nominate the Australian port city (e.g. Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne) where the official veterinary health certificate and export permit will be issued by the department.
- Send an electronic copy of the application to imports
The department will assess each application and may request evidence and supporting documents to verify the information you provide.
Step 4: Department assessment and pre-approval
If your initial application is compliant with the requirements then pre-approval will be granted for the assistance dog to be prepared for boarding the cruise vessel.
The endorsed application will be returned to you and the Australian ports where the assistance dog can disembark (with or without prior inspection) will be identified in Appendix 5.
Note: In accordance with New Zealand Government requirements, where the dog is destined for export to New Zealand, the dog will not be permitted to disembark from the vessel in Australia, once the department has issued an official veterinary health certificate for export to New Zealand.
Step 5: Preparing the assistance dog for embarkation
Timeframe: Within 5 days before the assistance dog is due to board the cruise
Upon receipt of preapproval from the department, you must work with your registered veterinarian to complete Appendix 4 of the endorsed ‘Application to take an assistance dog on a cruise’.
A list of compliant external parasite treatments for dogs can be found on the department’s website.
Oral medications (such as NexGard and Bravecto) and some topical medications (such as Bravecto Spot-on and Revolution) are not compliant external parasite treatments because they require the tick or flea to bite the dog to be effective.
The selected external parasite treatment must provide continuous external parasite protection for the expected duration of the cruise and until the scheduled date of disembarkation at the final port of arrival.
Note: If the cruise itinerary includes any New Zealand ports the assistance dog will need to be prepared for export in accordance with New Zealand’s requirements before the cruise departs Australia for New Zealand. This includes veterinary examination, treatments, and the issuance of an official veterinary health certificate to accompany the assistance dog.
Step 6: Send the completed application to the department for final approval
Timeframe: Within 5 days before the assistance dog is due to board the cruise
As soon as your veterinarian has completed Appendix 4, send the entire completed document ‘Application to take an assistance dog on a cruise’ to: imports
The assistance dog cannot embark on the cruise vessel until the department has checked the completed document and issued you with final approval.
Step 7: Final approval
If the entire application is compliant, the department will grant final approval, the application will be returned to you and the assistance dog can embark on the cruise vessel.
Note: If the cruise itinerary includes any New Zealand ports the assistance dog will need to be prepared for export in accordance with New Zealand’s requirements before the cruise departs Australia and an official veterinary health certificate and export permit are also required.
Step 8: Cruising
During the cruise, the assistance dog must only temporarily disembark from the vessel at the approved ports as stated in Appendix 5 of the approved application.
During any temporary disembarkation from the cruise vessel you must ensure that:
- the assistance dog will remain leashed and under your (or the handlers) direct control at all times;
- you are able to provide a biosecurity officer, upon request, with a copy of the final approved ‘Application to take an assistance dog on a cruise’ sent to you at Step 7: Final Approval;
- you make the assistance dog available to be inspected by a biosecurity officer and cleared for disembarkation at the approved ports (where required) identified in Appendix 5; and
- you must promptly inform the department if the assistance dog develops any illness.
If you seek veterinary treatment for the assistance dog, you must advise the attending veterinarian that the assistance dog is under biosecurity control and that a veterinary report must be submitted to the department. The registered veterinarian must contact the department by phone on 1800 900 090 or by email at imports
Should the assistance dog be required, for emergency reasons, to disembark from the vessel at a port not listed in Appendix 5, you must notify the department’s regional office in the relevant state or territory as soon as possible, and no later than 24 hours after disembarkation.
Note: In accordance with New Zealand Government requirements, where the dog is destined to travel to New Zealand, the dog must not disembark from the vessel in Australia, once the department has issued an official veterinary health certificate for export to New Zealand.
Note: Current advice from the New Zealand Government (New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (email info; Phone +64 4 894 0100) is that an assistance dog can only disembark the cruise vessel in New Zealand after biosecurity clearances have been completed in the port of Auckland – biosecurity clearance cannot be conducted at any other New Zealand port.
Step 9: Provide the department with feedback about your experience
Timeframe: After the cruise is complete
This process was developed to give handlers of assistance dogs more options by allowing them to travel with their dogs on vessels under biosecurity control if they so choose. As this is a new process, the department would be grateful for any feedback from the handlers of assistance dogs that have used this process to take their animals on cruise vessels under biosecurity control.
All feedback should be provided to imports