Cats and dogs returning to Australia

Taking your cat or dog overseas? Check whether it can come back to Australia.

When your cat or dog leaves Australia it immediately loses its Australian health status. This means you might not be able to bring it back to Australia at short notice. Please consider the information below before exporting your cat or dog.

Cats and dogs can only be imported into Australia from certain countries and, depending on the country, the pre-import preparation time can be over six months. However, if you start preparations in Australia before your cat or dog goes overseas, returning them to Australia can be much simpler and quicker.

Note: If you intend to travel from Australia to another country with your cat or dog you will need to comply with Australia’s export requirements as well as any importing country requirements.  Further information can be found at Companion animals

Is your cat or dog eligible to return to Australia?

Cats and dogs may only be directly imported to Australia from approved countries. All testing and treatments must be performed by a government approved veterinarian or official government veterinarian in an approved country.

Cats and dogs in non-approved countries cannot be directly imported to Australia. They have to come to Australia through an approved group 1, 2 or 3 country.

If there is any chance your dog or cat may visit a group 3 or a non-approved country we recommend they have a rabies vaccination and rabies neutralising antibody titre (RNAT) test before leaving Australia. This will ensure they can return to Australia in the shortest possible time. Rabies vaccinations last between one and three years and you will need to check this validity with your veterinarian. An RNAT test with an acceptable result (0.5IU/ml or more) is valid for 24 months from the date the blood was drawn.

Please note that if you want the option to return your animal to Australia at short notice you will need to maintain valid rabies vaccinations and RNAT tests for the entire time your dog or cat is overseas. If you don’t do this, your animal will have to meet the mandatory 180 day waiting period overseas following an RNAT test if they have visited any group 3 or non-approved countries.

Where the blood sample is collected from your dog or cat in Australia, we recommend that the RNAT test be conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory as this will make the import permit application process administratively simpler as no RNATT declaration will be required. If your animal has already departed Australia, you will need to provide the Australian export certificate with your import permit application. 

You should ensure that your veterinarian scans and verifies your dog or cat’s microchip number before collecting any blood sample and that the microchip number is correctly recorded on both the laboratory submission form and the blood tube.

If you are likely to return your dog or cat to Australia within six months of departure, we recommend that you apply for, and hold, a valid Australian import permit before leaving Australia.

To see the import conditions relevant to your cat or dog, visit Bringing cats and dogs (and other pets) to Australia and select your intended country of export from the drop down menu in the calculator.

This information also applies to assistance dogs returning to Australia. But there are differences in the import permit application process and post-arrival arrangements. See assistance dogs for more information.

The European Union Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), also known as the Pet Passport Scheme, does not apply to cats and dogs being imported or returning to Australia.

A list of frequently asked questions is available on the website.

Last reviewed: 18 January 2021
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