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Crossing international borders with pets: What you need to know

Jun 17, 2021

Guidelines for travelling internationally with your pet

For every cat and dog owner, the process of travelling internationally is extremely stressful. The administration process for your family is challenging, and that for your dog or cat even more so. Numerous agencies focus specifically on helping people with the immigration process for their pets, which is mainly determined by the pet’s age, the vaccinations the pet has already had and the country to which you are heading.

Don’t feel alone if you want to travel with your pet. It is estimated that about two million pets travel on commercial flights each year. About 6% of America’s pets fly annually, and 27% of all people say they would like to see more dog-friendly hotels and parks. Guess which countries are considered the most animal friendly? France, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands!

Here are some basic guidelines to make your trip with your pet easier:


Make sure your pet has a microchip. All countries do not require it, but most refuse to allow animals without a chip, even if they have had all the necessary vaccinations.


You should always have your pet’s vaccination booklet and health certificate at hand. Most countries require vaccination against rabies, but not necessarily developing countries in Africa and Asia. Rabies vaccinations are usually valid for one year. It should be applied between 30 days and 12 months before your departure. Vaccinations must be administered by a veterinarian registered with the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC). Vaccinations by a breeder, veterinary assistant or rescue institution are not accepted.

Other essential vaccinations are the 3-in-1 for cats and the 5-in-1 for dogs. It should be applied between 30 days and 12 months before your departure.

Titration tests

Titration of antibodies against rabies may also be required. This is also known as an RNAT test and can only be done one month after administering the vaccine.

Each country has, of course, its own rules and regulations regarding pets, quarantine and vaccinations. For example, you can only enter the European Union (EU) 90 days after the titration.

Here are more specific guidelines for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom:


The following guidelines apply to dogs older than eight months and cats older than three months:

  • A microchip is not required.
  • Proof of a valid rabies vaccination is required. Canada does not recognise rabies vaccinations valid for three years. The certificate must be in English or French and must be issued by a licensed veterinarian.
  • No waiting period after the administration of vaccinations is required.
  • The airline may request a health certificate from your veterinarian.


According to Australia’s right of abode groupings, South Africans fall into Group 3. This means you have to meet the following requirements:

  • Dogs and cats must have an ISO 11784/11785 15-digit microchip. If you have another microchip, you must bring your own scanner. Your microchip number must be available at all times.
  • Pets that have not been vaccinated against rabies or whose vaccination has expired should undergo titration. Australia recognises rabies vaccinations valid for one year and also those valid for three years.
  • Before your dog or cat can enter Australia, they must be treated twice for parasites. The second treatment must take place within five days of your arrival in Australia, and 14 days must lapse between the first and second treatment.
  • Pets are quarantined for ten days upon arrival in Melbourne. Since numerous vaccinations are required for the quarantine period, it would be wise to vaccinate your dog beforehand against hepatitis, the Parvovirus, para-influenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Dogs from Africa must also be vaccinated against Babesia canis.

New Zealand

The following guidelines apply when travelling with a pet from South Africa to New Zealand:

  • Your pet must have a microchip.
  • Vaccination against rabies is a requirement. It must be valid for one or two years and the expiration date must be indicated on the certificate.
  • A report of titration for rabies is also required.
  • You must have an official declaration from a veterinarian (OVD) validating the rabies vaccination, microchip and titration.
  • Other vaccinations required are the 5-in-1 for dogs and the 3-in-1 for cats.
  • Pets are quarantined for ten days upon arrival in New Zealand. There are privatized quarantine facilities in Auckland and Christchurch and you can choose to which one you want to send your pet.

United Kingdom

Pets may enter the UK five days after their owner. You must complete a Transfer of Residence (ToR) and meet the following requirements:

  • Your pet must have a microchip.
  • You must be able to prove that your pet was vaccinated against rabies between 30 days and 12 months before you arrived in the UK.
  • Titration for rabies is also required. This must be done 90 days before your pet’s arrival in the UK. If you can’t prove this, your pet will be subject to a very expensive quarantine period.
  • You must be able to prove that your pet received the 5-in-1- or 3-in-1 vaccination.

What should you do if you can’t take your pet with you? For example, American pit bull terriers and boerboels are not allowed in most countries. Then it is time to look for an alternative.

Numerous good institutions and charities are available to take care of your dog or cat. The other option is to find them a good home yourself. If you don’t want to have your pets adopted, find out if family or friends will accommodate them. It is never easy to part with your pet, but the second-best option is to find a place well in advance where they will be well cared for.

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