Bringing Pets Into China
Rest assured, you won’t have to leave your beloved Rover or Miss Honeyclaws back in your home country while the rest of the family gets to wing their way off to Shanghai. However, China is much like the rest of the world when it comes to foreign pets: expect plenty of red tape. The good thing is that as pet ownership has become more common and accepted by the authorities in China over the last decade, the situation for people bringing non-human family members over has also become considerably better, and is now transparent and mostly straightforward. Get your ducks in a row early (and, we highly recommend, get the help of a Shanghai-based pet relocation agent) and you shouldn’t have any problems. And make sure you have plenty of copies of all documentation! China, in general, is a place where lots of different departments who don’t talk to each other that well get involved, and pets are no exception.
Note, however, that rodents, ferrets, rabbits, snakes, birds and fish CAN NOT be brought in to China.
For starters, the number of pets allowed is tied to the number of Z visa holders – one per holder. This means that in practice, unless you can find a way around it, most families will only be able to bring two pets. Regulations change all the time, so check with experts if this is a problem. Also, compared to other pets, dogs must be registered locally and will cost you an additional annual fee of RMB2,000 (RMB1,000 if you live beyond the Outer Ring Road).
What You Need
This is a book of the various vaccination certificates relevant to your pet. All vaccinations should have been done within 30 days of departure. Note that three-year rabies vaccinations are not accepted in China. For cats, be aware that you specifically need certificates for Feline Panleucopania and Feline Respiratory Disease Complex. You’ll also need to have your cat vaccinated against Enteritis within a year of arriving in Shanghai.
This should be issued by your vet back home, using the international certificate, again no more than 30 days before departure. Get as many copies of this as you can, since you’ll need to provide them to airlines as well. Note that the Health Certificate can incorporate the Vaccination Certification.
Transporting Your Pet
There are two ways: as cargo, or as excess baggage. The big advantage of the latter is that you arrive on the same flight as your pet and can say goodbye to them before handing them over for quarantine. Pets must arrive at Pudong Airport, not Hongqiao.
You have no choice by regulation other than to use a relocation agent to deal with customs from start to finish, including at the airport in Shanghai. You’ll need to give the agent copies of the documentation above, as well as a copy of your passport (including visa page), and vitally make sure you include the rabies vaccination certificate. Also, give them your pet’s flight information and Airway Bill Number as soon as you book the flight. When you get to Shanghai (which must be before your pet does) note that you will have to give your passport to your agent the day before the pet arrives – you’ll get it back the day of arrival. It’s vital to make sure your name in your passport matches your name on all the pet documentation.
There’s a key detail you should be aware of. Do your best to land in the morning, as pets arriving as cargo after 3 pm will probably have to stay the night in the airport – and maybe even longer if you arrive on the weekend or a holiday. Check with your agent to see how you can best avoid this.
Again, using a relocation agency or a pet relocation agency is recommended to avoid uncertainty and to have someone to consult if anything unexpected transpires. However, transporting your pet as excess baggage can be done without an agent. After landing and going through passport control, enquire at Customs as to where to pick up your pet and then provide all the same documentation. Timing is everything. In the case of excess baggage, try to make sure you arrive well before 6:30 pm to avoid your pet spending an extra day at the airport.
Once you’ve cleared customs, the Quarantine Bureau takes over, and you’ll need to give them copies of all the same documents again. They take the pet away to the Quarantine area on a shuttle bus (thus the importance of arriving before the last shuttle bus leaves at 3 pm or 6:30 pm to save you a day). You won’t be able to visit your pet for the seven days of quarantine, but they will be well taken care of and you can call to check on them whenever you want. Assuming all is well and your pet is deemed healthy, there may be a second 23-day quarantine period, during which the authorities trust you to keep the pet confined to your home.
The process may sound a bit involved, but it should be straightforward and easy enough with the help of an agent – and generally bearable even without. Before you know it, you and your household friend will be reunited in a whole new city enjoying the aromas of the orient.
The Kennel (Crate)
The first and most important consideration for your pet’s relocation is the kennel in which they will be traveling. Due to the highly stressful nature of the relocation experience, the kennel you choose must have characteristics that ensure the maximum possible safety and comfort for your pet.
Of these characteristics, the first to consider is the construction of the kennel itself. It must be a hard-shelled plastic kennel with ventilation holes on both sides and rear of the crate. Wire-framed, collapsible, fabric/soft sided and top loading kennels cannot be used to transport your pet overseas.
It is also critical that you purchase a kennel that is the appropriate size for your pet. In order to determine what size is appropriate, you need to measure your pet. To do so measure from the tip of the snout to the base of the tail and – from the standing position – the floor to the top of the head. In both instances, add four inches in order to determine the correct height and depth of the kennel you need to purchase.
When standing in the kennel, your pet should be able to stand and look out the front of the kennel without having to duck its head. It should be wide enough that your pet can turn around comfortably and lie with paws extended. If this is not the case, then purchase a larger kennel, since cramped quarters will add additional stress to an already stressful situation and cause undue hardship. If you are uncertain, err on the side of caution.
In order to ensure a smooth flight you should train your pet to use the kennel before the journey. This is true even if you have used a kennel for transportation before, as it will ensure the least amount of stress on your pet during the move.
To train your pet, remove the top half of the kennel (all appropriate kennels should be able to be split in half) and place it in a common area of your home where they can become accustomed to the look and smell of it. After they have become more comfortable with it, start to feed them in the kennel and put some of their favourite toys in it as well. Your pet will start to develop a positive association with the kennel, and after they do so you can put the top of the kennel and the door back on.
Encourage your pet to spend at least ten minutes per day in the kennel. As dogs are naturally denning animals and feel secure in areas where their sides and flank are protected, your dog will most likely develop an affinity for the kennel and start to sleep in it regularly. By kennel training your dog well in advance of your relocation, you will have created a safe and trusted environment in which they will be traveling and thus minimise the stress involved in the move.
Preparing Your Kennel for the Journey
The first step in properly preparing the kennel for the journey is bedding. Most typical types of bedding are fine, including shredded newspaper and piddle/pee pads as long as they are absorbent. You don’t want your pet lying in their own waste for their journey.
Next, you need to securely attach two water dishes to the inside of the door and two appropriately sized funnels to the outside of the door so that the dishes may be refilled without opening the door. Zip ties work best for attaching the water bowls and funnels.
After you have attached the water bowls and funnels and placed the bedding inside, you must ensure that your dog can still comfortably turn around and stand and look out the door without having to duck. Next, take more zip ties and secure all corners and sides to ensure that the kennel doesn’t accidentally come apart during transport.
Freeze the water in the bowls the night before your departure and replace the bowls as the journey begins. This will ensure that less water is spilled before your pet is safely on board the aircraft. Remember that sufficient hydration is is critical to the health of your pet during their journey. Attach two meals worth of food in a sturdy sealed clear plastic bag to the top of the kennel. This can be used to feed your dog if the flight is delayed.
Labelling Your Kennel
- Affix ‘live animal’ stickers to each side of the kennel, making sure to not place them over ventilation holes.
- Affix a name sticker to the front of the kennel, with your pet’s name on it.
- Affix a label on the top of the kennel with the following information:
- Date of departure
- Departure airport
- Connection stops
- Destination airport
- Airway Bill Number
- Contact information
- Pet’s name Pet’s breed, color and age
- When pet was last fed
- Food and water instructions
- Signature and date
- Make copies of all health documents and secure them to the top of the kennel in a sealed clear plastic pouch.
- Attach a tag to the door of the kennel including this information:
- Pet’s name
- Airway Bill Number
- Contact information
Grooming for the Trip
If you have a double-coated (fur not hair) dog, one often overlooked and very helpful way to make your pet’s journey more comfortable is to have a professional groomer remove the undercoat before their journey. This will help to keep them cool during the journey, particularly during the summer months. If you come from cooler climes, then it would be advisable to have this done regularly in Shanghai, as the summers are stifling.
In addition, have your dog’s nails clipped and filed so that they don’t get snagged on the kennel’s doors or other openings. Unless you are familiar with clipping a dog’s nails, do not attempt to do this yourself as you can injure your dog and cause bleeding.
It is also advisable to get your dog a sturdy collar with two identification tags if it doesn’t have one already. One tag should have your pet’s name, address and phone number on it, and the other should have your address in Shanghai as well as your mobile number.
Choosing a pet-friendly airline is one of the easiest ways to ensure the quality of your pet’s journey. The airlines listed below have climate-controlled waiting areas for your pet following check-in, as well as pressurised climate-controlled cargo holds. They ensure that layovers are spent in ‘pet hotels’ or climate-controlled areas and have dedicated staff that monitor the condition of your pets during the journey. They will often also have a shuttle to transport pets after arrival in order to ensure they aren’t exposed to the elements on the tarmac.
Some pet-friendly airlines are:
- Continental Airlines
- British Airways
After your pet arrives in Shanghai, immediately offer some water, and check for signs of dehydration by doing a visual examination. If your dog has sunken eyes, dry mouth or seems exhausted, they may be dehydrated. Gently pull the skin on their back to see if it returns to its original position. If they are dehydrated, the skin will stay pulled up. Gently press on their gums to see if the blood returns quickly. If it takes longer than two seconds it is likely your pet is suffering from dehydration. It is advisable to schedule a visit to the vet as soon as you arrive for a general health check-up.
If your pet is more than 8 years old, you should ask your vet to preform a geriatric exam. These exams cover all vital organs and often require a full blood profile, which can take up to two weeks. It is essential that your pet’s kidneys and liver are functioning well, as they need to be fully hydrated prior to their journey since many will not drink during the trip. It is also advisable to purchase a kennel for your pet that is one size larger than we recommend for younger pets. More space and better ventilation will ensure that they do not get dehydrated during their trip.
Breeds Snub-nosed dog breeds often require extra care when relocating overseas, due to hereditary respiratory problems which can lead to heat stroke and breathing problems. As with elderly dogs, vets recommend using a kennel that is one size bigger than standard. In addition, drilling extra ventilation holes in the top and lower portion of the rear of the kennel will provide for more air flow in the interior of the kennel, keeping your pet more comfortable.
Kennel training these types of dogs is even more crucial, as stress can aggravate respiratory conditions. However, during the kennel training, remove food at night as it can be a choking hazard.
Some popular snub-nosed breeds are:
- Brussels Griffin
- Bull Terrier
- Dutch Pug
- English Bulldog
- English Toy Spaniel
- French Bulldog
- Japanese Chin
- Japanese Pug
Pet Relocation Checklist
As Soon As You Confirm
1. Purchase kennel – Measure your pet and purchase a kennel according to our guidelines. Err on the side of caution with regard to size and quality. Bigger and better is best.
2. Start kennel training – You can’t start too early when it comes to kennel training. The more time your pet has to grow accustomed to their kennel, the better.
3. Research pet-friendly airlines – Due to the stress relocation will cause your pet, your research should inform the choice you make for your tickets as well. Decide whether your pet will travel in-cabin (small pets), as excess luggage (you must accompany them) or as cargo (consignee must be assigned to receive the pet in Shanghai).
Two Months Out
4. Visit the vet – Complete all vaccinations, have a general health check, get microchips implanted (if necessary) and obtain all necessary paperwork.
5. Confirm travel arrangements – Depending on how you are sending your pet, these arrangements may be taken care of by your relocation company. If they are not, confirm your arrangements early.
The Day Before Departure
6. Label and prepare the kennel – Affix all labels, tags and documents to your pet’s kennel. Prepare bedding and place inside the kennel. Take an old t-shirt that you or a family member has worn and place in the kennel. Fill water bowls and freeze.
7. Attach food and water – Secure water bowls, funnels and food to the kennel according to our recommendations.
8. Double check all documentation and labeling.
9. Confirm flight is on time.
10. Give your pet some exercise.