Rabies risk review changes to import conditions
The department will honour the former 24-month RNATT validity period for all applications submitted and with ‘Accepted’ status in BICON on, or prior to 28 February 2023.
Of these applications, all applications for returning Australian pets that have a valid RNATT (less than 24 months old) conducted at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Provided the RNATT from ACDP remains valid, an RNATT declaration will not be required, and the mandatory residency period of 180 days in an approved country may be waived.
All non-approved country import permit applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
We released a draft review of the rabies risk in imported dogs and cats. It was open for public consultation from 20 October 2022 to 21 November 2022.
Stakeholders were notified of the draft policy and the opportunity to comment.
Over 1800 permit holders and applicants were emailed directly in addition to website subscribers. Notices were issued via public forums such as the International Pet and Animal Transport Association.
We released the final version of the policy on 12 January 2023 after reviewing submissions and making changes to the draft. You can read our response to the public submissions at Stakeholder response summary.
If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.
Cats and dog originating from non-approved countries may be eligible for import to Australia. They must meet certain conditions. Conditions include continuous residence in an approved Group 1, 2 or 3 country for at least 180 consecutive days immediately before export. You must meet all other import conditions for the approved country.
We’re engaging with overseas competent authorities to put in place the required changes to import conditions. This includes verifying the identiy of animals exported to Australia.
We understand that you are keen to learn how this process will work. We recommend that you check our website regularly for updates.
Group 3 countries
Cats and dogs from Group 3 approved countries need to undergo a minimum 30-day quarantine isolation period.
Cats and dogs from Group 3 approved countries may be eligible for a 10-day quarantine isolation period:
- if evidence of Australian origin is provided with the permit application (i.e. an Australian export certificate)
- if, for cats and dogs not of Australian origin, the competent authority undertakes verification of the animal’s identity before RNAT testing.
Cats and dogs from Group 3 countries that have not undergone a competent authority identity verification are eligible for import subject to a minimum 30-day quarantine isolation period.
Group 2 countries
Cats and dogs from Group 2 countries must undergo an identity verification by the competent authority to be eligible for import to Australia.
We know that current permit holders are keen to understand how the publication of the new policy and implementation date will affect their dog or cat's import permit.
We’ve directly contacted holders of active import permits. They’ll need to follow the instructions outlined in the correspondence they receive.
We will contact you directly regarding additional information that you may be required to provide to complete your application. Please do not contact us regarding your application until you have received instructions to do so. You may receive several options, so it is important that you read the correspondence carefully.
Applications for non-approved via Group 2/3 country conditions
Applicants seeking non-approved via Group 2/3 country conditions will be advised that the non-approved country pathway is no longer available, and they will need to meet the conditions applicable to the intended approved country of export.
Applications for Group 2 country conditions
You will need to provide one of the following:
- identity declaration from an Official Government Veterinarian evidence of microchip number on Australian export documents
- a minimum 180-day residency period applies to all cats and dogs that have not been residentin the Group 2 country since birth or import from Australia.
Applications for Group 3 country conditions
Applicants need to provide either:
- an identity declaration from Official Government Veterinarian
- evidence of microchip number on Australian export documents.
New RNATT laboratory report and RNATT declaration
Note: Failure to provide items 1 or 2 may result in 30 days minimum post-entry quarantine being imposed
NOTE: Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre tests (RNATTs) will be considered valid for 12 months from the sample collection date.
An import permit with Group 2 conditions will be valid for 12 months from the date of granting.
An import permit with Group 3 conditions will be valid until the expiry of the Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre (RNAT) test. This is12 months from the date the blood sample was collected.
We now recognise valid Rabies Neutralising Antibody Tire (RNAT) tests for 12 months (365 days) from the date of blood collection.
Repeat RNAT testing will be required if the RNATT will expire before the pet’s export. If the repeat test is not taken within 12 months of the blood sampling date of the original test, the 180-day waiting period will restart.
If your dog or cat did not have formal verification of their identity by a government official from the country of export before RNAT testing, a minimum 30-day post entry quarantine period will apply.
For your animal to be eligible for the minimum 10-day post-entry quarantine period, you will need to have a new RNATT done. This should be done after an identity check by an official in the country of export.
The 180-day waiting period would begin from the date the test sample for the new RNAT (undertaken after competent authority identity verification) arrives at the testing laboratory. We can then consider if the pet is eligible for the minimum 10-day quarantine period.
No. For current permit holders, as of 12 January 2023, we will honour acceptable RNAT tests identified on the permit as valid for 24 months.
Current applicants, and new applicants must provide a RNAT test where the test sample was collected within 12 months of application.
Yes. We recognise that many pets may be vaccinated for rabies before starting the preparation process for export to Australia.
For your pet to be eligible for the minimum 10-day quarantine period, the competent authority identity verification must occur before the blood sample is collected for the RNAT test.
We understand pet owners may be worried about being away from their cat or dog for 30 days.
Our world-class Post Entry Quarantine facility is designed to accommodate pets in comfort and safety. This includes:
- climate control
- premium pet food
- welfare orientated husbandry and care
- exercise yards
- comfortable bedding.
We strive for the best care outcomes for each animal, while ensuring biosecurity is managed. We are trained to care for animals and understand that pets are important family members.
While we don’t allow owners to visit their pets, we remain connected with owners during the post-entry quarantine period.
Find out more about our Post Entry Quarantine facility.
Eligibility for import
Domestic/non domestic hybrids cannot be imported to Australia in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Hybrid cats include, but are not limited to:
- Savannah cat, domestic cat (Felis catus) crossed with serval cat (Felis serval)
- Safari cat, domestic cat crossed with Geoffroy cat (Oncifelis geoffroyi)
- Chausie, domestic cat crossed with Jungle cat (Felis chaus)
- Bengal cat, domestic cat crossed with Asian leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis).
Please contact the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
When submitting an application to import to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, you must state the breed of your cat and sign a declaration stating that it is not an ineligible breed.
The following pure breeds cannot be imported into Australia under the legislation of the Department of Home Affairs :
- dogo Argentino
- fila Brasileiro
- Japanese Tosa
- American pit bull terrier or pit bull terrier
- Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario
Note: The import of mixed breed dogs, including mixes involving the breeds above, is not restricted.
Please contact the Department of Home Affairs on +61 2 6264 1111 or 131 881 (within Australia) for more information.
Domestic/non domestic hybrids (e.g. dog-wolf crosses) are also prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Czechoslovakian wolfdog or Czechoslovakian Vlcak
- Saarloos wolfdog or Saarloos wolfhound
- Lupo Italiano or Italian wolfdog
- Kunming wolfdog or Kunming dog.
Please contact the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water at email@example.com for more information.
When submitting an application to import to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, you must state the breed of your dog and sign a declaration stating that it is not an ineligible breed.
No. An import permit will not be refused based on an animal’s age. Please seek advice from your veterinarian if you’re concerned about the animal’s age and how they may handle the journey and quarantine in Australia. Your veterinarian can advise if you need to change the animal’s care to prepare them for travel.
Older cats and dogs may be more likely to dehydrate on long flights. Dehydration can have severe adverse effects such as renal failure.
You can provide food and water in the transport crate for the journey to Australia. Discuss the best way to do this with the airline and your veterinarian. Depending on the containers you use, you may need to train your animal to use them before departure (e.g. dripping water dispensers). Any food arriving with your animal will be destroyed in Australia.
If you’re concerned about how your animal will handle the trip, arrange for them to arrive in Australia early in the week. This will help staff settle them into their accommodation and, if required, arrange early veterinary attention.
Provide the quarantine facility with any special information they may need to care for your animal. More information can be found at https://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity-trade/cats-dogs/quarantine-f…
See Cats and dogs travelling to Australia with special care requirements. Generally the cats and dogs that encounter difficulties in travel or quarantine are those experiencing advanced age, with ongoing medical conditions.
Category of exporting country
An approved country is any country, administrative region or territory from which Australia allows the import of cats and dogs and their semen. Approved countries are divided into three groups, each with different import conditions. The glossary of terms lists the countries in each group.
Approved countries have adequate animal health services and a satisfactory animal health status. This provides a high level of assurance in the treatment, management and health status of cats and dogs being imported to Australia.
Preparations depend on the recognised rabies status of the country of export.
- Group 1 & 2 countries are recognised by the Australian Government as rabies-free.
- Group 3 countries are not recognised as rabies-free.
All cats and dogs originating from non-approved countries may be eligible for import to Australia after being continuously resident in an approved Group 1, 2 or 3 country for at least 180 days immediately before export, and meeting all other import conditions for the approved country of export in full.
You must apply for an Australian import permit for your animal and the animal must meet all Australian import conditions from the approved exporting country.
Yes, it may be possible for your pet to start preparations in one approved country (such as the rabies vaccination, competent authority ID verification and RNAT test) but export your pet from another approved country.
It is a requirement that your pet is continuously resident in an approved country (countries) for 180 days immediately prior to export to Australia. You will need to check if the official government veterinarian of the approved country of export is prepared to attest that your pet has not resided in a non-approved country for the 180 day period prior to export to Australia, and that they will accept any preparations completed in another approved country for the purpose of endorsing the final veterinary health certificate.
Applying for an import permit
It can take up to 123 business days. The department processes each application as soon as possible from the date of submission.
If your application is incomplete, processing will be delayed until the department receives all required information.
In relation to permit assessment, due to there being many prospective importers in a variety of difficult circumstances, we assess applications in the order of receipt, in accordance with our service charter and the Biosecurity Act 2015. This is the only practical and reasonable method to achieve a fairness to all. We receive several of these types of request each week and are not qualified to consider one request more important than another.
If we expedited applications based on individual client circumstances, it may unfairly disadvantage others. This also means, however, that other client’s applications won’t be expedited ahead of yours.
Your animal must be implanted with a microchip that can be read by an ISO compatible microchip reader. A microchip number should be 10 or 15 digits in length.
Microchip numbers starting with 999 are not acceptable because they are not unique. AVID microchips that are 9 digits long are not acceptable because they are not ISO compatible.
Microchips are the only approved identification method. Your cat or dog should be scanned at each visit to the veterinarian and must be scanned before any pre-export blood sampling.
If the microchip cannot be read or found in Australia, or the microchip number is inconsistent on any import paperwork, your cat or dog may be exported from Australia.
You may send a microchip scanner with the animal to ensure that its microchip can be scanned and verified upon arrival in Australia.
Both microchip numbers must be included on the import permit application, laboratory reports and the final import permit. Both microchips should be scanned at each veterinary visit to ensure they match all import documentation.
The veterinarian should use multiple microchip scanners to try to read the microchip in the animal. An x-ray may be conducted to locate the microchip in case it has moved from the implant site.
If the microchip still cannot be read, a new ISO compatible microchip must be implanted and the pre-export process, including all testing, treatments and examinations, must begin again.
Your cat or dog must arrive in Australia with a microchip that can be scanned and linked to the import permit and any accompanying laboratory reports. If the microchip cannot be scanned in Australia, or the microchip number is inconsistent on any import paperwork, your cat or dog may be exported from Australia.
No, but the department encourages importers to use a pet transport agent as it may be simpler and more effective than undertaking the process yourself. You can find a pet transport agent/pet shipper by entering the terms “import dog to Australia” or “import cat to Australia” into a search engine, or visiting the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) website.
The department is impartial and cannot recommend one agent over another.
The department recommends that you only send copies when you apply for an import permit.
Original documents must be signed and stamped by an official government veterinarian and must travel with your animal to Australia. Copies of the documents can be used, but they must bear the original signature of the official government veterinarian and stamp of the competent authority on every page.
Meeting import conditions
The department recommends commencing preparations at least 7 months before the intended date of export for category 3 countries. For category 2 countries, which do not require rabies preparations, we recommend starting the process at least 6 months before the intended date of export.
Please discuss treatments and tests with a government approved veterinarian in your country of export.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry does not approve laboratories for rabies antibody testing. The government veterinary service in the country of export approves the laboratory.
The only time the department lists laboratories approved to do rabies antibody testing is when the cat or dog starts preparations in a non-approved country. In this case, the laboratory performing the initial rabies antibody testing must be either the Australian Animal Health Laboratory or one of the OIE rabies reference laboratories listed in the non-approved country via group 2 or 3 country step by step guide for cats or dogs.
It can take up to 180 days for an animal infected with the rabies virus to show signs of the disease. During this time there is no reliable way to tell if the animal has been infected.
When the rabies virus enters an animal it moves into the nervous tissue where antibodies can’t destroy it. There is no test that can reliably detect if the virus is hiding in a live animal’s nervous tissue. The only way to tell if an animal has the rabies virus is to observe it for at least 180 days to see if it develops clinical rabies. It can take this long for rabies to show itself in an infected animal. Australia is free from rabies and considering the potential severe consequences from the introduction of rabies, we take a conservative approach to preventing the entry of this disease.
The import of cats and dogs from rabies-endemic countries is one of the highest risk pathways for rabies to enter Australia. For this reason, our import conditions require cats and dogs entering from rabies-endemic countries to be vaccinated against rabies and show proven immunity to the disease for at least 180 days before entry. A rabies antibody titre level of 0.5IU/mL or above is internationally recognised as providing effective immunity against rabies in cats and dogs.
The only circumstance where we may consider an exemption is where the cat or dog:
- has had a rabies neutralising antibody titre test (RNATT) with an acceptable result of 0.5IU/ml or more before leaving Australia
- is due to return to Australia from an approved country within 12 months from the date a blood sample was collected for that RNATT test.
We will not grant exemptions for any other circumstances. This is an essential part of our risk management and cannot be waived.
Email the Animal and Biological Imports Branch and indicate which import condition your cat or dog can’t meet and the reason why. You will need to suggest an alternative import condition and explain how the suggested alternative will provide a comparable level of risk management.
You should contact the department well in advance before submitting your import permit application.
In some cases, an equivalent or alternative import condition can be applied. But there are many cases where the suggested equivalent or alternative conditions are not suitable.
An acceptable external parasite treatment is a product that kills ticks and fleas on contact. Oral products (such as NexGard and Bravecto) are not accepted because they require the tick or flea to bite the animal before they are affected by the product. Tick collars are not accepted because they can be removed from the animal and their effectiveness is reduced in some weather conditions.
- The estimated cost to import one cat or dog that undergoes the minimum 10 days quarantine is $2800.
- The estimated cost to import one cat or dog that undergoes the minimum 30 days quarantine is $3800.
There may be additional fees if the cat or dog needs extra parasite treatments, veterinary care, an extended stay in quarantine or other services including testing where there is suspicion that the cat or dog may be harbouring a disease of biosecurity concern. There are also transport costs charged by the airline that the department has no control over.
Fees are subject to change. It is the client's responsibility to check our website for information on updates or amendments to fees, policies and procedures.
Partial payment for your animal’s quarantine accommodation is due at the time of booking.
Travel to Australia
Yes. Cats and dogs must arrive directly into Melbourne International Airport where we will transfer them to the post entry quarantine facility. They cannot land in another Australian airport and travel to Melbourne on an Australian domestic flight.
No. Your cat or dog must travel to Australia as manifest cargo. Manifest cargo allows for traceability of your cat or dog.
Eligible assistance dogs may be exempt from this condition, and many airlines allow them to travel in the cabin.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations do not recommend sedating or tranquilising pets for transport as it can be dangerous to their health. Drugs act differently at the pressure of 8,000 feet above sea level, which is the approximate air pressure in an aircraft during flight.
Get an International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved crate for cats or dogs. The crate must meet IATA standards to ensure your animal’s safety. Crates that are too small, low or narrow may harm your animal.
Buy the travel crate well in advance and get your cat or dog used to it before the flight by putting his/her bedding and food in it.
Provide enough absorbent bedding to keep your cat or dog dry and comfortable during the flight. You can buy a ‘dry-bed’ type blanket such as those used in veterinary clinics, or a baby’s cot liner. The department does not recommend using newspaper instead of bedding. Crate bedding is generally soiled and will be destroyed on arrival due to biosecurity risk.
Ensure that a water container is fixed inside the crate, with an external funnel and hose. The people handling your cat or dog can then top-up the water from outside, as the crate cannot be opened after it is sealed by authorities in the country of export.
Make sure that your cat or dog knows how to drink from the water container before the flight, especially if you are using a ‘dripper’ type water bottle.
See animals on vessels for information on bringing your pet to Australia onboard an international vessel.
Please be advised that it is practically impossible to successfully import a cat to Australia via sea except from New Zealand.
Quarantine in Australia
No. Cats and dogs can only undertake post entry quarantine at the Mickleham post entry quarantine facility in Melbourne.
Different conditions may apply to eligible assistance dogs.
All cats and dogs must stay at the Mickleham post entry quarantine facility in Melbourne for at least 10 - 30 days and up to 180 days. They will have to stay longer if there are issues that increase the biosecurity risk.
Yes. Even if your cat or dog was born in Australia, it may be exposed to exotic diseases when travelling overseas. Your cat or dog must meet all the department’s import conditions for the relevant country of export in order to return to Australia. See cats and dogs returning to Australia.
No. You can only book quarantine accommodation once you have your import permit. You must provide a valid permit number when booking your animal into quarantine.
You can create a booking request by using the department’s Post Entry Biosecurity System. Alternatively, you can contact the Mickleham post entry quarantine facility via email or phone 1800 900 090 or +61 3 8318 6700 (outside Australia) as soon as you receive your import permit.
There may be a lot of clients trying to book quarantine and it may not be possible to meet all requests. An import permit does not guarantee a place at the quarantine facility for your requested date.
You have to pay part of the quarantine fee when you make your booking. Bookings will not be kept unless you pay.
Arrival in Australia
The department recommends that you register your cat or dog with a national microchip registry in Australia. It is the pet owner/importer’s responsibility to contact their local Australian council regarding animal registration, microchip registration and any other legal requirements. Your local veterinary hospital or animal shelter may be able to assist you.
The department does not have any involvement with local council and national microchip registration databases.
Updates will be posted on our website, so please refer back frequently.
If you have read the information on our website and have further questions which have not been addressed, you can contact us via email or phone 1800 900 090 (within Australia) or +61 3 8318 6700 (outside Australia).
Before relying on the material in any important matter, users should carefully evaluate its accuracy, currency, completeness and relevance for their purposes, and should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances.
Links to other websites are inserted for convenience and do not constitute endorsement by the department of material at those sites, or any associated organisation, product or service.