Should expats bring their pets to China?

The Chinese are rapidly becoming a population of pet lovers. As with all social changes this change is painful and the speed of change varies with the city or province.

I have read posts that suggest that bringing your beloved pets to China should be avoided at all costs; I disagree with this strongly and if your pet could talk then I think they would too.

Each province has their own regulations. Hence it is important that the pet owner has a thorough understanding of these local regulations before arrival and this may include where you live.

Throughout China dogs need to be registered yearly with the local police and this process is routine.

Veterinary care in China is understandably at a lower level than in the West, however in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen this is changing with western veterinary consultants helping drive this improvement, just as western doctors helped develop the human medical profession.

Also before you arrive give a thought to where you maybe going after your time in China! China is a non-registered country from an export perspective, hence the EU will require a rabies antibody titer blood sample before your return, as will many other countries; the Americas do not. Some countries, like Australia, Japan and Hong Kong, have very long quarantine periods for pets coming from China.

During our time in China, whilst dogs and cats are predominantly the pets that we have treated, iguanas, chameleons, parrots, terrapins, turtles, and all of the small furries found their way though our doors. It should be noted that the export of all these exotic species from China is prohibited e.g. birds, hence we would recommend leaving your more unusual pets at home.

Obviously China isn’t presently as pet friendly as many other expat destinations, however it is getting there and if we wanted the familiar and risk-free we would have stayed at home.

Hence whilst the countries we visit may well have rules and regulations, beliefs and perspectives that we may find frustrating or unacceptable, we think we should remember that in their society we are the oddity. If a local stares or grimaces at us as we walk our 30 kg dog down their street, I think we should swallow a big dose of humility and accept that in our world experiences vary and mature over time.

Preparing a pet for the move

You should allow plenty of time for the export process, and start by asking your local veterinarian for advice about the export procedure in your country.

Importing and exporting pets is never an easy process. Here are some of the general guidelines you need to consider.

Importing pets to China

Pet regulations may vary by province.

Only dogs and cats are classified as pets, and other animals cannot be imported.

Pet owners are generally allowed to bring in one pet per passport. It is possible that not all visa categories allows you to import a pet.

You will need the following documents to clear health & quarantine requirements:

- Official certification of rabies vaccination performed at least 1 month, but no more than 12 months prior to arrival.

- A health certificate prepared by a government endorsed veterinarian in your country of origin within 7 days of departure.

Microchip implant.

There is a legal requirement in China that pets brought into the country undergo quarantine. The quarantine period varies from city to city between one week and one months, or none at all. The quarantine period also depends on the pet’s country of origin. Pets are quarantined at a government run facility and owners will be charged for the quarantine. Owners are not allowed to visit the facility during the quarantine period.

Exporting a pet from China

First check the vaccination requirements for the country to which you are relocating. Generally, rabies vaccination dates should be over one month but less than one year old. Many countries or regions (EU, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and more) require tapeworm treatment (with praziquantel or equivalent as active ingredient) for pets coming from China.

All pets leaving China need to have the species-specific multi-vaccination i.e. for dogs this is the DHPPi and for cats the ‘3-in-1’ vaccination, and must have been rabies vaccinated at an official animal vaccination hospital in China, and have the official Vaccination Immunity Certificate.

Pet owners will need an export health examination for their pet at the designated government quarantine bureau animal hospital. Your pet will undergo a brief examination that may include blood tests, urine and stool checks. Once completed, you will be issued an “International Companion Animal Health Inspection Form”.

Then you and your pet will need to go to the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, where you will be issued the official “Animal Health Certificate” (e.g., export permit).

The export health examination is valid 7 days and the export permit is valid 7 days, hence the procedure can start up to 14 days before the export date. The export health examination does involve routine blood sampling, and pets have been known to fail this; if failure occurs re-testing 3 to 4 days later is recommended. Hence it is sensible to perform the export health examination 10 days before the travel date.

A microchip is required in China prior to arranging the export procedures. The microchip must be inserted before the rabies vaccination for identity verification. An international “ISO” microchip is also required before the rabies vaccination required for export to Europe.

European Union countries require rabies antibody titre testing for pets entering the EU. The United States does not require rabies antibody titre testing for pets entering the continental USA. However, all owners must check if the country to which their pet is relocating requires rabies antibody titre testing. At least one month after the rabies vaccination, your pet’s blood needs to be sampled, and the separated serum delivered to an official laboratory that is recognized by the country your pet is relocating to. As the serum is a “biological sample”, the international courier companies decline to send these samples. Your pet can enter EU countries 3 months after the blood sample has been collected and approved. United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway also follow the EU rules.

The rabies vaccination record must be over 6 months old prior to travel to Singapore, and a EU blood sample approval must be obtained.

Only dogs and cats are classified as pets, and other animals cannot be exported from China as pets. However we are aware of pet rabbits being accepted as “oversize luggage” without any official health certificate and export permit by some European airlines.

When exporting a pet as “cargo” (owner not traveling on the same plane) there is a “one pet per passport” limitation, but when exporting a pet as “excess/accompanying baggage” (owner traveling on the same plane), the owner may bring 2 pets, but it depends on the airline and whether a relocation agent is used or not. Most airlines will transport all pets in a special pressurized compartment located below deck, which is designed especially for animals, however some airlines allow cats in the cabin in a soft cage.

Domestic travel with pets

Pets are not allowed on trains in China.

Doctors Beck & Stone offer domestic pet transportation using our pet ambulances. You can travel with your pet, and you can bring luggage as well, if you prefer pet relocation by car rather than airplane.

For owners moving pets by airplane, you will need to contact the airline to check the requirements.

Pets must have been rabies vaccinated at least 10 days but no more than 12 months before date of departure by airplane, and pet owners must have the vaccination book.

No more than 1-2 days before the airplane departure date, bring the vaccination book, your pet, and the air crate to the designated Animal Husbandry Bureau Service Center for a simple physical examination and sterilization of the air crate. The certificate is valid for 3-days.

Carry-on pet carriers

If your pet and carrier weighs under 5 kgs you may be able to bring them into the cabin on some airlines; in this instance a soft carrier can be used.

With so many different airlines with differing requirements it is impossible to say that an airline approved pet carrier will be approved by all airlines. So the best thing to do is double check with your airline for specific details on what they will accept as an airline approved pet carrier on your flight.

Check-in pet carrier

Pet airline crates are approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Check the airline web site to see how to measure your pet and find the correct crate size.

If your pet is not traveling with a companion then you will need to use a pet relocation agent to book the pet onto the plane.

Airlines will not accept pets on days when there are extreme outdoor temperatures, and some airlines have also blocked certain seasonal time periods for all animal transportation.

Keeping pets in China

Many large cities in China have published a ban on “violent” and large dogs. This is prompted by a general increase in the number of complaints about dogs in major cities in China.

The increase in complaints against dogs is a result of the large increase in dog ownership, and a lack of basic dog handling knowledge and care. The biggest number of complaints is about noise from barking dogs.

There is little evidence that large dogs of a certain breed are more of a potential nuisance than smaller dogs. Dog behavior is closely linked to how they are raised and trained.

There are probably several hundred thousands or even millions of dogs that do not meet the criteria outlined in the dog regulations. The Chinese police will rarely be proactive in enforcing ill-conceived regulations, but pet owners need to be responsible pet owners to avoid potential problems. Here are some basic guidelines of responsible pet ownership:

- Make sure your dog has plenty of walks a day and/or a safe place to be let out so he can pee and poo.

- Clean up after the dog poos and throw it in a litter bin so the environment remains clean.

- Always keep your dog on a leash for his safety and for the safety of others. This will avoid the dog being run over by cars, dog fights and people being injured.

- Neuter your dog to avoid unwanted puppies.

- Teach your dog not to bark continuously and bother others.

- Dogs are perfectly safe for a pregnant woman and her baby, as long as the dog is well behaved, so there is no medical reason to abandon your dog when you are pregnant.

- Please make sure your dog is registered and is up to date with his vaccinations. Please carry copies of these documents with the invoice (Fapiao) when you take your dog out for a walk.

- Please make sure your dog has his name tag attached to his collar with your name and telephone number and if possible have a chip implanted for his identification.

- Please attend professional dog training classes so you can manage your dog properly and care for him in the correct manner.

Dog owners can take some comfort in the fact that as of today we have not been able to find a single verifiable case of the police abducting a big dog in China, and none of our clients have informed us of any problems yet.

Feeding pets in China

High quality pet food companies have produced balanced diets that satisfy the food requirements of your pets. Whilst home cooked food can be fed to our pets, it is very difficult to accurately satisfy your pet’s health needs.

The leading premium brand pet food in China is Royal Canin, and Doctors Beck & Stone carry the full range of Royal Canin, Sheba and Cesar pet foods.

Veterinary care in China

Doctors Beck & Stone international pet hospitals are located in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, with may more cities coming into the group in the coming years. Our contact details in Shenzhen are:

Doctors Beck & Stone – Shenzhen 深圳

For Appointment, Pet pick-up and Emergency call: 400 103 8686 or email info@drbns.com
Reception: +86 755 8666 4495
Opening hours 9 am to 7 pm, Mon - Sun, consultation by appointment.

Shop 60, Emperor Bay Garden, Zhaoshang Rd East, Houhai, Nanshan District, Shenzhen

For more information please visit www.doctorsbeckandstone.com

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The Contributor

Dr. Tony Beck has studied and practiced veterinary medicine for the past 23 years, and is a member of The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Dr Beck graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 1998, and has undertaken further studies within feline medicine, ophthalmology, ultrasonography and orthopaedic surgery. He practiced veterinary medicine in London and Hong Kong, and in 2006 he was invited to Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital where he met Dr. Stone. Dr. Beck has served the community at a neuter clinic in Thailand, a bear station in Chengdu, China, a malaria screening post in Guyana, Africa, and a rhino game conservation project in Namibia, Africa.

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