Note: The information below is subject to change without notice. Please consult the authorities for the most up-to-date information. Also read SWIC member Amanda Blankenship’s article about her experience, “Importing a Pet Into China via Hong Kong.”
And for more information about caring for your pet in our community, visit Shekou Pet Lovers, a forum where local pet owners can network, discuss trustworthy veterinarian care, arrange pet care for travel, and much more.
You are allowed to bring pets to China as long as you can prove that they are vaccinated and healthy. In theory, you need to have a Z (resident) visa to bring in your pet. There should be only one pet per Z visa holder (so if you have two cats, for example, make sure that one is registered in the husband’s name and one in the wife’s). From personal experience, we know that it is possible to waive this requirement by using an agent in the case of a family with two pets and only one Z visa holder (the employee) at the time of entry.
Dogs have to be registered with the Chinese authorities after arrival (see below).
Deciding whether to bring your pet
Bringing a cat or dog to China is quite straightforward provided you get the right documentation sorted out before you come. Bringing a cat is simpler than bringing a dog, as there are fewer rules and regulations concerning cats and they do not need to be registered with the authorities. Anyone considering bringing their dog to China should be aware that, although the paperwork is manageable (albeit expensive), on arrival they will find that dogs are not as welcome in China as they are in some other places. Also remember that to get your dog out of China; you will need the correct papers. It is suggested you do not list your dog’s breed as rottweiler, pit bull or other “dangerous” breeds. This may cause problems as certain breeds are not allowed. Some cities also have a size restriction for dogs. Check with your agent to see if this applies to your area.
Make reservations to fly non-stop whenever possible or, at least, to minimize flight connections. If you pet will be in cabin with you, request a forward seat on the right side of the aircraft. Avoid weekend or holiday flights as they tend to be more crowded and your pet may not get the attention it needs.
Remember that most airlines won’t fly animals during periods of extreme temperatures—when the weather is too hot or too cold. During the summer, try to schedule a very early morning or late evening flight. During the winter, it’s best to fly midday.
Confirm with the airline that you will be bringing your pet 24 to 48 hours before departure.
Preparing your pet’s carrier…
Make sure your pet’s shipping crate meets airline requirements, is properly ventilated and of adequate size for your pet to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably.
Place an absorbent towel in the crate. You can also place an item of clothing you have worn but not washed, such as a t-shirt, in the crate. Your pet may be comforted by your scent.
Label your crate appropriately. Tape a “Live Animal” label with letters at least 1” high on top and on one side of the crate. Indicate the top with “Arrows” on at least 2 sides. Attach “Feeding Instructions” on the outside of the crate, with a small plastic zip lock bag of food, if necessary. Attach “Contact Information” on the outside of the crate, with your pet’s name, your name, addresses and phone numbers at origin and destination.
Attach two empty dishes to the crate, one for food and one for water.
Preparing your pet…
Never put a choke, pinch or training collar, a muzzle or a leash on your pet. Make a temporary paper collar for your dog with its name, your name, address and phone number on it. Safety collars which attach with elastic or Velcro are recommended for your cat. It is strongly suggested you do not tranquilize your pet.
Check with your intended airline(s) as to what rates they apply and what rules they have for the carriage of pets. It is important to use an airline-approved pet box. Ensure that you make a reservation for your pet, as space in the appropriate section of the hold is usually limited. It’s best to use a Western airline (not a Chinese one) to transport your pet to ensure that conditions in the hold are suitable. Some airlines also allow small pets to travel with you in the cabin.
Many airlines charge a fixed rate for transporting a pet in the hold as long as the owner is also on board, i.e. it is the same price no matter how far you travel, but you pay for each flight taken. Every airline has its own policies regarding pets. If you are using more than one airline, check each of their requirements.
Deciding whether or not to use an agent
You have a choice of whether to handle everything yourself or engage an agent to help. The advantage of an agent is that they will ensure that you have all the correct documents and will meet you and your animal at the airport. They will speak to the officials there for you and generally smooth the way through the quarantine and import procedures. In theory, this greatly reduces the chance that you will encounter a problem with bringing in your pet. The disadvantage, however, is the cost, which is considerably higher than handling the arrangements yourself. Some families have recently brought in pets without the use of an agent and have not encountered problems. See also ‘Requirements for owners’ and ‘Quarantine’.
Your relocation company can normally handle this.
- You can find out the costs of transporting your animal directly from your airline.
- There is a customs fee per animal of RMB1,000. (China)
- If your pet is quarantined (see below) you will have to pay the boarding costs.
- Agents charge around RMB4,000 (US$500) per pet, inclusive of the customs fee and transport for you and your pet from the airport. This is payable in advance. If you have not paid in advance then you are advised to have the money in US$ ready to hand over to avoid delays at the airport.
- For dogs, there is a registration fee which can be arranged through the pet shops in Shekou. You will need a letter from your landlord giving permission to have a pet on property, photo’s of your dog, copies of the rabies certificate. Check for the most recent regulations. This is very important as there have been culls of all dogs due to rabies outbreaks in some parts of China. Registering your dog will protect them.
Plant and quarantine office
If you choose not to use an agent, you will need to get the application form for importing your animal yourself. The address for this is:
Administration of Entry and Exit Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China, A10
ChaoYangMenWaiDaJie, Beijing 100020
Tel. 6599 4600.
There is an official quarantine period of 45 days. If the owner signs an agreement to keep the pet indoors for this period, then official quarantine is usually not demanded. We have not heard of any pet being kept for the quarantine, but if it does happen, you will have to pay for the costs of boarding your pet. We are not sure what the conditions are like for pets, and you will obviously want to avoid your animal being taken into quarantine if at all possible. We are told that the use of an agent greatly minimizes the risk that the pet will be quarantined. However, it appears that this rarely occurs whether you use an agent or not.
You will need the following documentation for your pet:
- Vaccination certificate(s) certifying that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies and other common illnesses (e.g. cat flu, feline encephalitis) within one year prior to the date of entry. The rabies certificate should be separate from any vaccination book you may have, and will be retained by the Chinese officials. You may also need to show the pet does not have Monkey Pox or been exposed to it.
- Health certificate issued by the vet in the country from which you are traveling. If you are coming from the USA you must take the health certificate issued by your vet and send it to your state’s department of Agriculture. They then certify that the vet is qualified by the state to issue the health certificate. The certificate should be issued no sooner than two weeks in advance of your pet’s arrival in China. It should include name of pet, type of pet (dog/cat and breed), age, weight (and height for dogs), gender, plus a general declaration that the pet is vaccinated and in good health.
- Photo clearly showing the animal’s size (photograph beside a ruler).
- A letter from the management of the residence in which you intend to live, stating that the pet may live there.
- A letter from your company stating that the employee is employed there
- A copy of your passport (one passport per pet).
On arrival you should take your pet, fee, and certificates to the Plant and Quarantine office at the airport (if you are using an agent, they will meet you and take you to the office). The officials will keep the health and rabies certificates (but not the vaccination book), so make sure you have copies.
If you arrive first into Hong Kong you will have to go to the cargo terminal to complete the paperwork. Hong Kong has its own unique import requirements. If you do not leave for China immediately you will have to satisfy Hong Kong requirements as well as the Chinese requirements. The ferry service between Hong Kong Airport and Shekou (Shenzhen) does not take pets so you will need to arrange transportation overland through the truck/car border crossing. After you have completed the paperwork at the cargo department you will be physically escorted to the China border by a Hong Kong customs official. You will then have to present your documents to the authorities at the Chinese border. They will inspect the documents and the pet. Because all of this can be very difficult if you are not fluent in Chinese it is suggested you use an agent.
Arriving into Guangzhou is easier because you are only clearing one countries set of custom regulations. Upon arrival present your pet’s documentation to the customs officials who will inspect them and the pet. The following link explains in detail the requirements for Guangzhou:
The official information as listed by Guangdong Foreign Affair’s office is below:
“It is allowed to carry in only one pet (cat or dog only) per person. When entering with a pet into China, the carrier should declare to the Inspection and Quarantine Authority at the port of entry and present the following documents:
(1) The Health Certificate issued by the Veterinary Quarantine Authority of the country / region of export.
(2) The Certificate of Immunity from Rabies issued by the relevant government department of the country / region of export. In accordance with the Chinese law, the vaccination against rabies is valid for one year since the injection and the last vaccination must be done within 30 days before the pet is carried into China.
(3) The consular or service identity document or the diplomatic or service passport of the carrier of the pet.
(4) The completed Quarantine Inspection Form.
The Inspection and Quarantine Authority at the port of entry will conduct quarantine inspection of the carry-in pet at the port and have it quarantined for thirty days in isolation in the quarantine institute designated by the authority. If the pet can pass the quarantine inspection after the isolation, the Inspection and Quarantine Authority at the port of entry will issue the quarantine certificate to permit the entry of the pet. If the carrier of the pet is unable to present the Health Certificate and the Certificate of Immunity from Rabies issued by the Veterinary Quarantine Authority of the country / region of export, or the number of pets brought in exceeds the permitted limit, or the pet fails to pass the quarantine inspection, the Inspection and Quarantine Authority will temporarily hold the pet in custody before its repatriation or extermination within the specified time limit. In this case, the carrier will be issued a Receipt of Carried on Articles Held for Quarantine Inspection / Disposition. For the pet to be repatriated, the carrier should complete all the formalities within the specified time limit. Otherwise, the pet will be regarded as the unclaimed. If the carrier decides, in writing, to give up the pet, the Inspection and Quarantine Authority will dispose of the pet in accordance with the relevant regulations.”
These are the “official rules” in practice; pets are rarely (if ever) quarantined.
Registration of Dogs
It is a requirement to register your dog with the local police of your place of residence within a month of arrival. In practice, most people are still in temporary accommodation beyond the first month, so registration inevitably gets delayed. As long as you keep your dog within the compound, it is unlikely to attract police attention. It appears that not all dogs are registered, but the police are becoming less tolerant of expats claiming ignorance. If you want to take your dog with you when you leave China, then you must get it registered.
You need to take your dog, import certificate, two photos of the dog, and a letter from your employer requesting registration of the dog and stating that the owner is an employee of the company, your official ID card, and the fee to the above address.
Other pet issues
Boarding facilities are limited and most people leave their pets at home and have their maid or a friend take care of them when on holiday. A few vets provide kenneling (see below).
There are many vets in Shenzhen with several in old Shekou, Coastal Rose Garden 2 and on Houhai Blvd., Nanshan. Bring your supply of heartworm medicine and other medications from home. China has quality control issues.
Pedigree and Whiskas products are widely available in most supermarkets. Specialist foods (e.g. Hills Science Diet, Eukanuba, and IAMS) are also available at vets’ clinics but can be pricey so you might want to consider bringing them in your freight. There are also some local brands.