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77-2016 – Advice for aircraft operators about assistance dogs

16 August 2016

Who does this notice affect?

All aircraft operators that may carry passengers, accompanied by assistance dogs, into Australia.


To advise aircraft operators of the department’s import requirements for assistance dogs.


All assistance dogs destined for Australia (except from New Zealand) must be accompanied by a valid assistance dog import permit.

Prior to departure from the country of export (except from New Zealand), the department will provide the person in charge of the dog with written confirmation of the receipt of the import permit, official health certification and any required laboratory test results.

An assistance dog import permit specifically allows the dog to accompany the handler in the cabin of the aircraft.

Instructions for aircraft operators:

  1. The aircraft operator must not allow an assistance dog to be checked in to accompany a handler in the cabin for a flight to Australia (except from New Zealand) without sighting:
    1. a valid assistance dog import permit; and
    2. written advice from the department confirming receipt of the import permit, official health certification and any required laboratory test results.
  2. Note – Dogs and cats from New Zealand do not require import permits. Assistance dogs from New Zealand are managed the same way as companion dogs from New Zealand.

  3. Consistent with section 193 of the Biosecurity Act 2015 and existing departmental requirements the aircraft operator must, before landing, report that there is an animal in the cabin of the aircraft.
  4. The aircraft operator must ensure that all other animals destined for Australia travel as manifest cargo and in compliance with International Air Transport Association (IATA) and import permit requirements.


A recent case has highlighted the need to remind aircraft operators of Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements and the conditions that must be met to allow dogs to travel in the cabin of the aircraft when entering Australian territory.

From time to time, dogs nominated as being assistance dogs arrive in Australia by air in the cabin of the aircraft without the necessary evidence to support the claim that the dogs are bona fide assistance dogs. Further, these dogs sometimes arrive in Australia without the required import permit and not in compliance with import conditions.

Whilst the department recognises the amount of training that these dogs may have undertaken, and that they may alleviate the handler’s disabilities, as the dogs have not complied with Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements they are not released from biosecurity control and the person in charge of the dogs is directed to have them exported or euthanased. This outcome is tragic for all concerned and we need assistance from aircraft operators to ensure we can avoid it.

Further information

Further information about the import of assistance dogs may be found at the following website: Assistance dogs

Aircraft operators who require further clarification may email the department: Imports