My friend Nick has brought a couple of items to my attention which are very pertinent to those considering moving to Australia with their dog or cat, or returning from travelling abroad with them.
The questions that spring to mind immediately are:
I’ll be following up on these questions as I can with AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service), although my experience in recent years is that they have been reluctant to discuss any matters of policy or ambiguity in the wording of policies.
The second note is mostly better news. A recently published Biosecurity Review suggests that the current minimum quarantine period may be lowered from 30 days to 10 days, partly because it shifts treatment of external parasites to 21 days before departure rather than 1 day*. (* See Table 1 on page xvi of the review).
This letter (2pp PDF) invites comments up to 24 September 2012. The full draft review (237pp PDF) has a few items that I’ve sent in comments about. Note when referring to its table of contents that the document page numbers do not match up to file page numbers.
I’ve asked AQIS to clarify section 7.2.1 Importation of dogs from a Group 1 country (ditto 7.3.1 for cats) which states that a government approved veterinarian must certify that the animal “has been continuously resident in an approved Group 1 countr(ies) for a minimum of six months immediately before export”.
When I was returning to Australia with Bondi in 2007 it was necessary to stay in the UK for a full six months prior to departure (which the UK Home Office wasn’t happy about) to meet these requirements. It’s rather ridiculous because since 2005 the removal of border checks and the creation of the European Pet Passport has enabled animals (and humans) to travel through dozens of countries without any documentation of the fact. It would be impossible for a vet in continental Europe to make such a certification. What we have is a “Group 1 Zone” rather than single country, yet this is not recognised by AQIS. I wrote to them at that time but they refused to consider this circumstance.
I note today from their FAQ page a softening of this stance:
This is not reflected in the proposed new policy, there being just an ambiguous phrase “approved Group 1 countr(ies)” without any follow-up explanation.
I am also concerned about this from the practical stand-point of being able to achieve the best transport options back to Australia given the upcoming changes to quarantine facilities. If you cannot choose a more appropriate airport within Europe (e.g. London) then this may complicate and substantially increase the cost of transport and handling arrangements.
The policy review document acknowledges “an increasing demand from pet owners, both those migrating to Australia with companion animals and those wishing to travel internationally with their companion animals, for a more streamlined and user-friendly biosecurity system for the importation of dogs and cats.” [my underline] Let’s make sure that the user-friendly part isn’t forgotten.