Flying with pets

26 Feb 2020

The prospect of travelling with a pet if you have never done so can be daunting and costly. Below is a quick guide on where to begin and some advice that will help you to ensure the process goes smoothly for you and most importantly for your pets. There are a number of pet travel companies that specialise in both interstate and international pet transportation and you can ask your veterinarian for more information.

Go to your local veterinarian

The first step with regards to any pet transportation is to take your pet to the vet for a general health check. Your veterinarian will ensure your pet’s vaccinations, flea and worming treatments are current and up to date. You may request a certificate or letter stating your pet is fit for travel and up to date with all appropriate vaccinations.

Should I sedate my pet for travel?

A common misconception is that sedation may help ease the process of travel for your pet. There are adverse side effects of sedation that can make matters worse during travel. For example, sedation may affect blood pressure, heart and respiratory function.

Additionally, under sedation, your pet is less likely to drink water and this may cause dehydration during travel. Alternatives to sedation would be to discuss anti-anxiety medications and potentially implement their use under the guidance of your veterinarian approximately 1-2 months prior to travel. This will help your pet to feel more comfortable during the travel process. You may also want to speak to your veterinarian about the use of pheromones to help ease your pet’s anxiety.

Organise an appropriate travel carrier

All pets must travel in carriers that adhere to International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. There are suppliers of rental carriers that are approved by the IATA which your veterinarian can discuss with you. For domestic travel, plastic carriers are commonly used in Australia. Your pet will need to be able to fully stand up, turn around and lie down within the carrier. There will be a drinking bowl within the carrier.

It is advisable to purchase/rent the carrier and take it home to allow your pet to get used to it prior to travel. You can place the carrier in a normal place your pet would spend time in the house, and place toys or their own blanket inside the carrier leaving the door open.

This way your pet acclimates to the new object and hopefully learn that it is not a scary new object to be afraid of. They can be curious and learn what it is and that it is safe to be inside the carrier.

Overseas travel with my pet

Overseas travel differs to interstate in that there are often permits and paperwork that are required. This is a complex process and organising exactly what is needed is completely dependent on your destination country. This will dictate the process you will need to complete. This should be researched and planned well in advance of travel and booking flights.

It is advisable to begin looking into this at least six months prior to departure. Contact your local veterinarian to discuss Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) documentation.

Vaccinations and fit for travel documentation will be required per the aforementioned recommendation. Export/import and transit permits may be required together with AQIS documentation which your veterinarian can help you with. An IATA approved carrier for transport will be required. Quarantine documentation and any government documentation may be required respectively.

Upon returning to Australia, your pet will be required to remain in quarantine for at least 10-days. This duration can be more if your pet requires further testing or treatment. There are two quarantine sites, in Melbourne and in Sydney.

These are set up like a boarding kennel facility where they receive comprehensive around the clock care and monitoring. Under certain circumstances, and depending on where your pet is travelling to, your pet may be required to stay in quarantine prior to leaving Australia. Your veterinarian and pet travel consultant can advise you on this. You can organise for pickup and drop off to and from the quarantine facilities.

Can I travel with my pet in the cabin?

Most major airlines only allow certified service pets and assistance dogs to travel in the cabin. All other pets travel as cargo. They are securely placed in a pressurised cabin much like the passenger cabin, only for pets. It is dimly lit and animals can see what is going on around them.

Species restrictions

Check with a pet transport consultant who can advise on which airlines will accept species other than dogs and cats for air travel.

Breed restrictions

There are strict breed restrictions which may vary slightly between airlines. Brachycephalic breeds such as French bulldogs or Boston terriers are more vulnerable to respiratory distress and are therefore only permitted if at all, under very specific guidelines which protect their health and wellbeing. Check with your pet transport consultant and/or chosen airline as to their respective restrictions.

The following dog breeds are strictly prohibited from entering Australia: Dogo Argentino, Fila Brazileiro, Japanese Tosa, Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull, Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario.

Wolf and dog crosses are not eligible for import including the Czechoslovakian wolfdog, Czechoslovakian Vlcak Saarloos wolfdog, Saarloos wolfhound, Lupo Italiano, Italian wolfdog, Kunming wolfdog or Kunming dog.

Animal hybrids are generally not eligible for import. Hybrid cats include: Savannah cat, Safari cat, Chausie, or Bengals.

‘On the day’ travel checklist

  1. Do not feed your pet six hours prior to travel, this includes the morning of travel. They may have continual access to water.
  2. Take your pet for a walk or play before going to the airport. This will exert some energy and encourage your pet to relax or sleep during travel.
  3. Place a familiar toy and/or blanket in the carrier to make your pet feel at ease.
  4. A waterproof mat must be placed inside the carrier.
  5. Bring your letter/certificate from your veterinarian together with your allocated ID tag and attach according to airline transport instruction.


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