The process of importing a dog to Australia is one of the most complex in the world, involving multiple tests as well as a stay in quarantine. Due to this, the cost of bringing a dog to Australia is quite expensive. But what are the costs involved and what is the likely total?
I share the costs that I paid to bring my dog to Australia. Note that I brought my dog to Australia in December 2018, so some costs may have slightly increased, although standard government charges were last checked in December 2020.
Vet Visits and Tests
One of the most variable costs of bringing a dog to Australia is the cost of the various vet visits and tests required to complete the paperwork required to bring your dog to Australia. This is due to two reasons: different pets will require different preparation steps and the cost of vet visits vary from country to country.
The very first test that most dogs require is a rabies titre test. This needs to be completed between 180 days and 24 months before importing your dog to Australia. Afterwards an official government veterinarian must complete an RNAT test declaration. Beforehand, your dog will also require a microchip and valid rabies vaccination, if they do not already have this, which will cost extra.
We didn’t need to complete this step as part of the process of returning to Australia with our dog, as we had this completed before leaving Australia, and it was still valid. As it was completed in Australia this also meant we could skip the RNAT test declaration.
For a list of the other tests required for your dog, see the detailed guides on the Department of Agriculture website. At a minimum, dogs require tests for Ehrlichia canis and Leishmania infantum, as well as Leptospira interrogans if they are not vaccinated against Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola and Brucella canis if they are not desexed.
There are also a number of treatments required for against external and internal parasites. Dogs that have visited mainland Africa need a treatment against Babesia canis. And then there’s the final pre-export clinical examination and completion of veterinary health certificate.
Our dog required all of the above tests and treatments, except the test for Brucella canis as he is desexed and the treatment for Babesia canis. These were all completed in the USA, one of the most expensive countries for veterinary bills.
The tests are likely cheaper in many other countries. For instance, someone exporting their pet from Canada reported they paid $833 AUD for their 3 vet visits, far lower than our cost.
Cost of rabies titre test incl. vet consultation (Australia): $367 AUD
Cost of remaining tests and 3 vet consultations (USA): $1537 AUD
Buying an Import Permit
Once you have a rabies titre test and declaration completed for your dog, the next cost of bringing your dog to Australia is the cost of an import permit. This needs to be done at least 42 days in advance, on the Australian Biosecurity Import Conditions website, and is valid for up to 12 months.
There is a discounted rate for multiple animals in the same consignment.
Cost of import permit (one dog): $480 AUD
Once you have received the import permit, it’s best to book your dog’s quarantine stay as soon as possible, before making any further preparations. All pet dogs and cats entering Australia require a 10-day quarantine stay at the Mickleham post-entry quarantine facility in Melbourne. This is booked at the Post Entry Biosecurity System website.
When making a quarantine booking, there is an application fee charged. Once you confirm the quarantine booking, at least 7 days before your pet’s arrival but generally before finalising your pet’s flight, you need to pay the quarantine set fees, based on a standard 10-day stay.
You will also be charged at least one additional fee before your dog is released from quarantine, listed as “recovery of airline handling charge”. This is an airport charge paid by the quarantine staff on your behalf when your dog is collected from the airport.
Before your dog is released, you will also be invoiced any additional quarantine costs, for example if your dog requires a longer stay in quarantine (which is thankfully not common) or out-of-hours collection fees. The full list of current charges are listed here.
Quarantine initial booking fee: $29 AUD
Quarantine set fees: $1581 AUD
Recovery of airline handling charge: $120-250 AUD (I paid $97 AUD)
The other largest cost of bringing a dog to Australia is the actual cost of the flight. As dogs have to fly as cargo when flying to Australia, the flight costs are far more expensive than the typical fees for dogs flying in the cabin or as excess luggage in other countries.
The two main factors in the flight cost are the size of your dog and the flight duration. Just like when posting a package, the measurement of your dog’s crate is used by most airlines to determine an equivalent chargeable weight.
When flying my dog, Schnitzel, back to Australia, we booked him directly with Qantas to fly from Los Angeles to Melbourne on a non-stop 15-hour flight. He’s only a small 5kg, so his crate was quite small, and his flight cost far less than for a large dog.
With the current complications with travel in 2020, as well as human flights being more expensive, flights for pets are also more expensive.
Flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne for a small dog (PP40 crate): $1314 AUD
There may be some additional costs that apply, depending on your circumstances.
For starters, if you haven’t previously flown with your dog in the hold, you will likely need to purchase a suitable crate. For information on the IATA guidelines and how to calculate the minimum size crate for your dog, see this IATA page. I detail more about selecting a crate on my posts about bringing a dog to Australia.
There is also likely to be a charge for an official government veterinarian to endorse your dog’s veterinary health certificate and additional paperwork. In the USA, this is done by the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services.
Finally, as the only post-entry quarantine facility in Australia is located in Melbourne, if you don’t live in Melbourne there is the cost to transport your dog to their final destination in Australia. In my case, we choose to have our dog picked up and flown to Sydney by a pet transport company, Jetpets.
Crate (similar to PP40) and water bowl: $82 AUD
Health certificate endorsement (USDA APHIS VS): $204 AUD
Delivery from quarantine to Sydney Airport (small dog): $235 AUD
What If Your Use a Pet Transport Company?
Many airlines require you to book via a pet transport company. Not to mention using a pet transport company is far easier than handling the complex process to bring a pet to Australia yourself. (Read my post on the reasons why you might want to use a pet transport company.)
The downside to using a pet transport company is the additional cost involved. However, often the overhead isn’t as high as people realise (although it varies).
Even without using a pet transport company it is very expensive to bring a dog to Australia, with more costs involved than many people realise, and pet transport companies often just list one daunting large number, rather than breaking down the component costs.
Total Cost to Bringing My Dog to Australia
The total cost to bring your dog to Australia varies, depending on where you are currently located, the size of your dog, what specific tests are required, and whether you use a pet transport company.
As an example of a lower end cost, where my dog flew directly from Los Angeles to Melbourne, is a small dog, and we did not use a pet transport company except for the final flight to Sydney, here were my total costs:
Rabies titre test (before leaving Australia): $367
Remaining tests and 3 x vet consultations (USA): $1537
Import permit: $480*
Quarantine initial booking fee: $29*
Quarantine set fees: $1581*
Recovery of airline handling charge: $97
Flight from LA to Melbourne (small dog): $1314
Crate (similar to PP40) and water bowl: $82
Health certificate endorsement (USDA APHIS VS): $204
Delivery from quarantine to Sydney Airport (small dog): $235
Total cost: $5926 AUD (approx. $4400 USD)
Note that the three charges that I’ve marked with an asterisk above are set Australian government charges, that apply regardless of dog size or location, totalling $2090. The other charges will vary.
Hopefully, the details I’ve provided can give you an indication of what are the likely costs to bring your own dog to Australia.
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