Shanghai Pet Relocation

By Lee-Anne Armstrong

Importing Your Pet

What are the restrictions for importing pets to China?

China allows the import of one pet per passport for Z visa holders. Many Chinese cities have strict dog licensing laws that impose limits on the number of dogs allowed per household and ban several breeds altogether. Dog owners need to consult the relevant rules before relocating their pet. Although rules state pets like rabbits, ferrets and birds cannot be imported into Shanghai, some families have brought these animals anyway. Pet owners should note these pets cannot later be exported.

What paperwork do you need to have in order to import your pet to China?

The export paperwork will depend on the country of origin, but China requires a rabies vaccination certificate, a complete vaccination record and a health certificate (in no particular form) from your veterinarian stating your pet is in good health. The certificate should clearly identify the pet by name, age, gender, weight and breed. Your pet’s rabies vaccination must be given between 30 days and one year before arrival in Shanghai. Bring multiple copies of records with you. There is no official requirement for documents to be in Chinese, but if pet owners can arrange this, it could only help.

The seven day quarantine applies in Shanghai. There is a home quarantine option on arrival in Beijing, while there is no quarantine for pets flying directly into Guangzhou or Hong Kong. However, domestic flights in China present other issues for concerned pet owners. When arriving in Shanghai, or any other destination with quarantine, you must arrive within the quarantine station business hours or risk being turned away on entry.

How do you register your animal when you arrive in China?

Only dogs need to be licensed and licensing rules vary slightly from one city to another. In Shanghai, your local Public Security Bureau provides the forms necessary for a yearly dog license. Pet owners need to provide copies of their passport, visa, residence permit, lease, as well as photos of their dog (including headshot and profile) and the owner’s photo. Depending on the district, permission from neighbours is also needed. Proof of spay/neutering reduces licensing the fee by half.

Exporting Your Pet

What are the restrictions for exporting pets from China?

Only cats and dogs are considered pets eligible for export from China and they must be minimum four months old. Pet import rules depend on the import country’s status as a rabies-free or rabies-controlled country as well as on the exporting country’s transparency in reporting disease. Pets from China are subject to the strictest rules where a tiered process exists.

Added requirements for PRC pets include pre-departure blood tests to screen for rabies antibodies and sometimes lengthy quarantine on arrival. Quarantine periods and costs vary, from a week in Malaysia to six months in the UK. Singapore quarantine is so busy that a space should be reserved three months in advance. Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan prohibit the direct import of pets from China. To move a pet to these places, your pet must stay in an approved transit country for six months.

What medical procedures and documents must your pet have in order to be exported?

Pets need a microchip and rabies vaccination and a health check with export certificate at a minimum. Blood tests may also be needed depending on the destination. Your international-standard vet clinic (e.g. PAW) can insert the chip and arrange blood tests with an overseas lab, but the rabies vaccination must be given by the official export clinic – the Shenpu Animal Hospital at 565 Xujiahui Lu – and this rabies jab is given regardless of your pet’s vaccination history.

Is the stress on the animal worth the return trip? Or is it better to find a new family here?

SCAA-adopted animals have moved with their families to over 16 different countries around the world. All pets have settled in very well to their overseas homes - staying with a family that a pet has developed a bond with is in an animal’s best interest and an international move represents a tiny fraction of the time your pet will be in your life.

Pet owners are unnecessarily fearful of quarantine. As air travel continues to up the general risk of contagious disease, quarantine measures will only get stricter. These facilities have a duty not only to protect native/domestic species, but also to responsibly care for imported pets.

There is a serious shortage of adoptive (i.e. permanent) homes in Shanghai for needy cats and dogs and leaving a pet behind, and potentially in another temporary situation, is more stressful on animals.

UPDATE - August 10, 2011: The United Kingdom and Sweden are two places that currently impose six months of quarantine on arrival for pets from high risk countries like China. Starting 1 January 2012, they will abolish quarantine and bring their pet import rules in line with the rest of the EU - that means several predeparture steps that take a few months to finalise, but no quarantine on arrival. Now a lot more animals find a good homes in Shanghai and eventually make their way to the UK or Sweden with their family.  These quarantine periods were a psychological hurdle for a lot of pet owners and also very expensive.

Lee-Anne Armstrong is the Foster Care Director at Second Chance Animal Aid (SCAA), a non-profit, international-standard animal welfare organisation founded in 2005.

SCAA works with trusted vet partner PAW (Pets are Wonderful) veterinary clinic to keep pets healthy, with WorldCare Pet Transport to move pets safely, and with O'Malley's to host monthly Adoption Days for our foster animals searching for forever homes. Visit for more information on you can help rescued cats and dogs in Shanghai.

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