HOW TO TAKE YOUR PET OUT OF CHINA?
STEP 1: SET YOUR DEPARTURE DATE
Be sure to choose a day with mild weather. It is recommended to travel during dates with less extreme temperatures to avoid heat stress or more serious health complications in your pet. This happens more often than you might think and airlines are aware of it. Some airlines have pet embargoes that prevent pets from traveling as cargo during the hot summer months. However, you will be okay weather-wise if your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin.
Definitely plan your trip early so you have enough time to complete the requirements, which may take several months in some cases, and also try to depart when weather conditions are right for pets traveling in the cargo hold of the plane.
STEP 2: PICK AN AIRLINE
Every airline is different: some are expensive, some are cheap, some have strange rules, some have breed limitations, and some don’t even offer pet travel. We recommend that you call up the airline you want to travel with before you book a flight to find out if they can accommodate your pet. You could book the flight first, then call to reserve a spot for your pet, but if it turns out that your flight cannot take the pet (for whatever reason) then you will be stuck with having to purchase another ticket.
One of the most important things to get right is the dimensions of your kennel or shipping crate. It needs to be big enough to fit your pet, and it needs to be small enough to meet the aircraft's size requirements. Generally speaking, to fit your pet, the carrier needs to have enough room for the pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down with natural comfort, and it needs to be well ventilated and leak-proof. You will be able to use large carriers if you are checking your pet as baggage to be placed in the cargo hold, but there are still size limitations, and they are different for each airline (so please ask the airline in advance to avoid last minute problems).
For in-cabin travel, the carrier will need to be small enough to fit underneath the seat before you and again the size requirements will sometimes depend on the aircraft. Weight limits for pets differ widely among airlines. For example: Korean Air’s weight limit including the kennel is 5kg, for Lufthansa it is 8kg. Delta has no weight limit as long as the kennel fits under their seats, unless you want to put two cats or dogs in one kennel, then it is 9kg.
All airlines also have a limit on the number of pets one person can travel with and on the number of pets allowed in-cabin (for the latest it is usually around 4-6 pets per flight). So call in early to check if a spot is available for your pet before you purchase a ticket.
The cost for a one-way flight for a pet, both in cabin or cargo, is around 100 to 200 USD depending on the airline, in addition to your ticket.
STEP 3: RABIES VACCINATION AND MICROCHIPPING
Your pet needs to be vaccinated at least 30 days* before your departure date, and it needs to happen at the government certified Shenpu Pet Hospital. They will also implant a microchip that will be used by your destination country to identify and match your pet with the rabies records. Please be aware that sometimes scanners in your destination country might not be able to read the microchip in your pet, consequently, take pictures or videos when your pet gets the microchip implanted (you can use the pictures or videos as a proof that the pet has a microchip).
There are a few Shenpu subsidiaries where you can get the rabies shot, but it is better to do it at the main location at 565 Xujiahui road. They will give you an official booklet that is internationally recognized and will prove your pet got the rabies vaccine. This is something you may have trouble getting at the smaller locations, and no other veterinarian clinic (other than Shenpu Pet Hospital) is certified to do this.
* At least 120 days before departure if the pet is traveling to the European Union.
STEP 4: BLOOD TEST
Unless you are going to the Americas, you are probably going to need to get a rabies blood test done. It is extremely important to “triple” check the requirements of your destination country because each country has its own pet import requirements, even within a same region such as the European Union. These requirements can generally be found on the destination country’s government website and in the country’s embassy website (usually a phone number is listed and we encourage you to call).
In this procedure a blood sample is taken and sent to a designated testing laboratory that will check it to make sure the rabies antibodies have reached the appropriate levels in your pet’s blood. The process can take 6-8 weeks to complete and for some countries (such as the ones in the EU) the pet cannot leave China for 90 days since the date the blood sample was taken.
Bear in mind that the exportation rules and requirements for every country can be quite different. To name a few: Australia requires that the pet has to spend six months at an approved country before entering Australia (and China is not one of them), the UK and Finland require dogs to be treated against tapeworms, and Japan requires a six month probation period after the rabies vaccine. Hereafter, please check in advance all the requirements and prepare accordingly.
STEP 5: HEALTH EXAM
Before you leave China, you will need to go to Shenpu Pet Hospital one more time and have your pet go through a final health exam (a simple physical examination). This needs to happen exactly 7 days before your departure (not before or after). Shenpu is open 24/7 so the time you go is not important, but make sure you go there on the right date. Bring your passport, flight ticket, and the vaccine record that day.
If your pet passes the health exam, it will take another 4-5 days for the paperwork to process before you can go to the Customs building to pick up your Health Certificate that says your animal is fit for departure. The Customs building is located on the Bund at Haiguan Da Lou, No. 13 Zhong Shan Dong Yi road. The staff of Shenpu Pet Hospital will indicate you exactly what day you have to go to the Customs building to pick up the certificate.
STEP 6: PREPARE FOR THE FLIGHT
Just like with humans, not all animals feel comfortable in a plane. Hereafter, you have to take time to help minimizing your pet’s stress in flight. First, get your pet used to his carrier in advance by making the carrier part of the furniture (not something that your pet only uses once a year). Leave the carrier out by the dog’s bed or the cat’s scratching post, so your pet will explore it and be comfortable with it every day.
Take your pet for car rides in the carrier. Maybe the ride ends at the park, or with treats, or just back at home. Try to show your pet that trips in the carrier end well!
If your pet is traveling with you in the cabin please remember the following:
Prepare. Don't leave food or water in the carrier. Your pet will end up flying in a puddle of spilled water. Just pack some food and puppy pads in your carry-on bag in case of an unexpected delay. Otherwise, pets travel best on an empty stomach, to avoid accidents and vomiting. If your pet is prone to motion sickness, ask the vet for a safe medication your dog or cat can take before the flight.
Calm. Give nervous kitties and canines the smell of home. Toss one of your T-shirts or their usual bedding into the carrier. You can also spray the bedding inside the carrier with Feliway or Adaptil, man-made feline and canine scents, to try to soothe anxious pets.
Engage. If your pet will stay still, you might be able to hold him on your lap after the plane has taken off or just reach in the carrier to pet him. If your flight is very long, then you can take the pet carrier (with your pet inside) to the cabin’s bathroom every 2 or 3 hours, and inside the bathroom you can take your pet out of the carrier for a break of a few minutes.
STEP 7: GO THROUGH CUSTOMS
If you are taking your pet with you in-cabin, you will also have to take it through security. It is pretty standard procedure. Take your pet out of your carrier and run the carrier through the x-ray. If you are concerned that your pet might run away being outside the pet carrier, then tell the officials so that they can take you to an enclosed area where you can take your pet out of the carrier without worrying that the pet would run away.
At some point the airport officials will want to see your papers or maybe not, but please have everything prepared just in case. Keep all the original documents with you and all photocopies of the documents in a pocket of the pet carrier (with your pet).
HIRE A PET RELOCATION AGENCY
If all the above sounds like a hassle, you could always pay someone else to do all the procedure for you, but bear in mind that Pet Relocation agencies are not cheap. They will help you fill out all the forms, plan your travel, and make sure your pet gets all the necessary shots and health checks. They also offer door-to-door service. The trick is making sure you go with an agency which knows what they are doing, as not all Pet Relocation agencies have expertise in China or pet exportation experience to the country where you are going.