Who does this notice affect?
Stakeholders associated with the import of live dogs (including assistance dogs), cats and canine semen to Australian territory, including importers, pet transport agents, and official and government-approved veterinarians.
Why is the department making these changes?
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the department) has conducted a policy review of the rabies virus risk in imported dogs, cats and canine semen from approved countries. The Review of rabies virus risk in imported dogs, cats and canine semen from approved countries – final report is available on the department’s website at Dogs and cats from approved countries - DAFF (agriculture.gov.au).
Since the 2013 Importation of dogs and cats and their semen from approved countries: final policy review (2013 review) was published, there have been significant changes to the volume of imports and increasing commercialisation of trade. This has increased the rabies biosecurity risk for the importation of dogs and cats. Many countries, including Australia, have reported increases in detected and suspected fraudulent certification and other documents associated with companion animal imports. Consequently, a review of the policy was required.
Rabies virus is the most significant disease agent of biosecurity concern associated with the importation of dogs and cats. Rabies virus, which is exotic to Australia, can be transmitted from infected animals to humans and is almost always fatal. The World Health Organisation estimates that rabies causes tens of thousands of human deaths each year, up to 99% of which are due to transmission by infected dogs.
What has changed?
The Final Report recommends changes to the requirements for the import of cats and dogs from approved countries to effectively manage the biosecurity risks associated with the rabies virus. The changes include strengthening animal identification, residency and post-entry quarantine measures, and recognising an adequate rabies neutralising titre test (RNATT) laboratory report for no longer than 12 months.
Import conditions based on the final policy review require:
- All dogs and cats must be implanted with an International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) compatible microchip prior to commencing pre-export preparation.
- Dog and cats must not have resided in unapproved countries during the 180 days prior to export to Australia.
- Dogs and cats from New Zealand must be continuously resident in New Zealand for 180 days immediately prior to export, or since direct importation from Australia or since birth, and must not have been in quarantine or under quarantine restrictions in the 180 days immediately prior to export.
- The following conditions are specific to dogs and cats from Group 2 approved countries:
- Identity verification, including scanning of the microchip, by the exporting country’s competent authority as part of the import permit application process.
- There is no change to the current mandatory minimum 10 days post entry quarantine period if animals have been prepared in compliance with the pre-export measures.
- The following conditions are specific to dogs and cats Group 3 approved countries:
- Rabies vaccination must continue to be current at the time of export to Australia.
- An adequate rabies neutralising titre test (RNATT) laboratory report will be valid for 12 months only.
- Minimum 10 days post-entry quarantine in an Australian government facility for dogs and cats that have had an identity verification, including scanning of the microchip, by the exporting country’s competent authority as part of the import permit application process. The verification must occur before a blood sample is collected for RNAT testing, and at least 180 days before export to Australia.
Minimum 10 days post-entry quarantine in an Australian government facility for dogs and cats returning to Australia that have an identity verification before leaving Australia, through provision of formal evidence such as an Australian export permit as part of the import permit application process.
Minimum 30 days post-entry quarantine in an Australian government facility for dogs and cats that have not had an identity verification before a blood sample was collected for RNAT testing, and at least 180 days before export to Australia. These dogs and cats must still have a valid RNATT on a blood sample received by the testing laboratory at least 180 days before export to Australia.
- The department may undertake additional post-entry verification activities to verify compliance with the pre-export measures and other import conditions.
When are these changes happening?
We are implementing the new measures from 1 March 2023.
We will directly contact all permit applicants and holders of unused permits to advise how the changes will affect your individual circumstances.
Frequently asked questions
Can I still import my dog or cat from a non-approved country?
Yes, all cats and dog 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.
Based on the recommendations of the risk review, we will no longer permit import of dogs and cats that have not undergone all preparations in an approved country. We will no longer recognise RNATT laboratory reports on blood samples collected in non-approved countries, regardless of which laboratory performed the testing.
Can my animal do the minimum 10-day PEQ period if their microchip is scanned by a government approved veterinarian?
No. We require a government official/competent authority official to undertake verification of the animal’s identity and provide a verification declaration directly to us through government-to-government correspondence. Animals that have not undergone formal government identification may however be eligible for import with a minimum 30-day PEQ period.
I already have an import permit. Why can’t my animal be imported under the original conditions?
When a delegate of the Director of Biosecurity grants an import permit, the delegate imposes conditions that are considered acceptable to manage the biosecurity risks in accordance with the policies and information available at that time. The risks identified in the Final Rabies Review now require stronger conditions be imposed on import permits to ensure the biosecurity risks associated with rabies virus are managed.
We will contact holders of permits with Group 3 and non-approved via approved country conditions directly regarding variation of import conditions on their permit.
I’ve already done my RNATT/I did my RNATT recently. Do I have to do another one?
We will now recognise valid RNATTs for a period of up to 12 months (365 days) from the date of blood collection. Repeat RNAT testing will be required if the RNATT will expire prior to the pet’s export. If the repeat test is not taken within 365 days 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 prior to RNAT testing, then a minimum 30-day PEQ period will apply. Therefore, if you wish your animal to be eligible for the minimum 10-day PEQ period, you will need to have a new RNATT done following an identity check by an official in the country of export.
I’ve applied for an import permit but my application has not been finalised. Will my animal be affected by the changes?
Yes, the new policy may impact permit applications, even if your application was submitted to the department before the policy was finalised.
We will contact you directly regarding additional information that you may be required to provide to complete your application. We may present you with several options, so it is important that you read the correspondence carefully.
My animal originates from Australia. Will my animal be affected by the changes?
Animals originating from Australia may be eligible for the minimum 10-day PEQ period if you can provide evidence of identification of the animal prior to export from Australia, when you apply for your import permit. Suitable evidence is the export health certificate used to export the animal from Australia, where the animal’s microchip number has been scanned and recorded.
If you are importing your animal from an approved Group 3 country, you must also provide evidence of rabies vaccination and rabies neutralising antibody titre testing prior to departure from Australia for us to consider waiving the 180-day mandatory overseas waiting period which would normally apply.
I’ve lost my Australian export certification. Can the department verify my animal’s export documents if I don’t have them anymore?
Yes, we can verify certification that has been retained in line with departmental record-keeping protocols and timeframes.
How long does it take for a decision to be made on my application?
The Biosecurity Act 2015 prescribes that a decision must be made on an import permit application within 123 days of receipt, however we may pause the decision-making period if we require further information to complete the application or biosecurity risk assessment.
You can find further information about the permit application process, including fees and timeframes in Import Industry Advice Notice 24-2021: Permits to import cats and dogs to Australia - DAFF (agriculture.gov.au).
How long will import permits be valid for?
An import permit with Group 2 conditions will be valid for up to 12 months from the date of granting.
An import permit with Group 3 conditions will be valid until the expiry of the RNAT test, being 12 months from the date the blood sample was collected.
Are any other import conditions changing?
No. All other import conditions relating to treatments, testing, vaccination, and veterinary examinations, will remain unchanged.
How much will 30 days in PEQ cost/what’s the difference in the cost?
The minimum cost for one cat or dog to undergo a minimum 10-day quarantine isolation is approximately $2000. An additional stay of 20 days x the daily accommodation rate of $29 adds $580, so a minimum 30-day quarantine isolation may be approximately $2600.
There may be additional fees if the animal needs extra parasite treatments, veterinary care, an extended stay in quarantine or other services. You can find more information at Fees - DAFF (agriculture.gov.au).
We are not responsible for fees charged by airlines, veterinarians for treatments and preparations, or any fees charged by pet agents that are not department-imposed fees, which often make up the bulk of costs.
We operate our biosecurity services under a cost-recovery system, meaning it is a user-pays system, so that the cost of importing a pet is not borne by Australian taxpayers.
How will the department manage my animal’s welfare in PEQ?
Several thousand animals successfully undergo international travel and post-entry quarantine each year without incident, including those with manageable, pre-existing medical or behavioural conditions. Our PEQ facility is state-of-the-art and is designed to accommodate animals to the highest standard of animal welfare, as would be expected within Australia. We are dedicated and trained to care for animals and take great pride in our work as we understand that pets are important family members.
You can find out more about our facility at Quarantine in Australia - DAFF (agriculture.gov.au).
Why does the department only have one PEQ facility?
It is a condition of import that cats and dogs fly into Melbourne where Australia’s PEQ facility is located nearby at Mickleham. The Australian Government committed $379.9 million over seven years to build the government-owned and operated facility that integrated all post-entry quarantine functions in a single site.
The single site approach has allowed greater efficiencies in operations, consolidated staff expertise into a single national centre of excellence and has lowered costs to government. The single site has also allowed for greater levels of systems backup and redundancy to be built into the facility. This means the new buildings and supporting infrastructure are world’s best practice and able to flexibly adapt to meet changing quarantine requirements over the next 35 years. The single quarantine facility also ensures that the thousands of animals that arrive in Australia each year are as comfortable as possible and that any biosecurity risks to Australia are appropriately managed.
Please contact the department by phone 1800 900 090 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.