Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Exporting your pet from China

Ming with puppy Fei Fei
Updated post (Aug 18, 2015)
Second Update (Sept 12, 2015)

While it isn't quite official, we will most likely be moving back to the US this fall. My hope is to return sometime in September, with our pooch in tow. Though I am an animal lover, I never expected to get a dog while in China. Ming, my husband, randomly went into a pet shop near our daughter's school and fell in love. He fell madly, deeply, truly for a teeny, tiny poodle. After seeing her, he came home and convinced me to go have a look at her. She was adorable and exactly the kind of dog I imagined owning, but the timing just wasn't right. The next month we were heading off to Europe on vacation for three weeks, hardly an ideal time to get a dog. I promised him we could keep looking and get an idea of what kind of dog we wanted; after our trip we would commit.

The next weekend we took a stroll through an outdoor market outside Chengde's Summer Mountain Resort. A local pet store had brought some of its animals there. We decided to take a peek. As we approached, we immediately spotted the teeny, tiny poodle. . . in the arms of another man! He was admiring her while his girlfriend looked on and the pet shop owner sang the dog's praises. Ming strutted up quickly and snatched the puppy from the stranger's arms.

"This is my dog!" he declared. Then he turned to me and said with utter conviction, "Rosie, go run to the ATM. We're buying this dog!" And so we got our dog, Fei Fei.

That was over six years ago. My husband still adores the dog, at times referring to her as his "dog daughter." He is so distressed at the thought of her dying that he has convinced himself that she will one day be a world record holder and live to be 100. There was no question she'd be coming to the US with us. And so we are beginning the process.

Teddy and Fei Fei

This is what you need to find out first:

1. The requirements of the country you are flying to.
It's extremely important you look into this well in advance as some countries require tests done months in ahead of departure. For example, pets traveling from China to the EU are required to have a rabies antibody titre test. This is best to have done 6 months or before you leave, though express options may be available. On the other hand, some countries have fairly lax requirements. The US only requires a rabies vaccination, though this must be done at least one month (but less than a year) before departure from China. 

2. The policy of the airline you are flying.
I will most likely fly from Beijing to Chicago, so I called the carriers I have flown with in the past on that route. Here is what I found out:
 -American Airlines: Will not accept pets (as cargo or carry-on) for flights (plus typical check-in time and disembarkment) longer than 12 hours. In other words, they will not accept any pets on flights from China to the US, Canada, most of Europe, etc.
 -Hainan Airlines: Will only accept pets as cargo. The price is based on a head-scratching formula that takes in account variables such as your dog's length, width, and height.
-Delta Airlines: Cats and small dogs (less than 10 lbs/5 kilos) can be carried on (US$200 each way). Larger pets can be checked as cargo. I'm not sure of the price of checking a pet as cargo.
-United Airlines: Cats and small dogs can be carried on (US$125 each way). Larger pets can be checked in their special PetSafe program. Prices vary depending on weight of dog (small dogs priced at about US$700 each way).

Here is what you need to do second:

3. Fill the requirements of the country you are flying to.
Your going to need to find a vet and not just any old vet will do. From what I've read, only certain vets are certified to administer tests and vaccines for pets that will be exported. I looked into a few vets in Beijing and found the International Center for Veterinary Services as well as Doctors Beck and Stone. I think I'm going to make an appointment with the latter as they were very prompt and profession in answering my emails.

4. Purchase the proper carrier/kennel if you don't own one already.
Iris crate sold on Taobao
I plan to carry-on so I bought a soft carrier. I purchased the Sherpa Delta Airlines Deluxe Carrier on Amazon.com (the US site, not the Chinese one). The price of the carrier plus shipping was about US$50 (delivers in 2-3 with standard international shipping). I didn't find any soft carriers I liked on Taobao, but I did find some crates that fit IATA standards, had I needed to check our dog as cargo. It is a Japanese brand, Iris (爱丽思 in Chinese characters), and prices are fairly reasonable. I think such crates can also be found in some Chinese pet shops and veterinarian offices. For more information about IATA, check their website. Some detailed instructions on choosing the right crate for your international jet-setting dog, have a look at PetTravel.com .

5. Go through the procedures required by the Chinese government.  
There is some variation depending on what city you are exiting from. For those leaving from Beijing, you'll be dealing with Guan Shang Animal Hospital. You'll need to visit their office about 7-10 days before departure. They require all pets they see to be micro-chipped. Doctors Beck and Stone offer micro-chipping for 535 RMB plus vet consulting fee (ranging from 50-300 RMB, depending on experience level of vet). You'll also need to provide them with the red vaccination booklet (we actually were given a sheet of paper) you should have received from the vet who provided your pet's previous vaccinations (such as rabies).

At Guan Shang, they will perform an exam on your pet and may run some tests. Of course, this doesn't come free. The fee depends on the tests are run. We ended up paying 675 RMB (a little over US$100). The results take one to two days, and if Fido/Fluffy is set to jet, he'll be awarded a "International Companion Animal Health Inspection Form." You then must take that form (valid for 7 days) upstairs to the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. You show them the form as well as the vaccination booklet/papers and your passport, give them some cash (100 RMB, but don't quote me on that), and wait another day or two to pick up the "Animal Health Certificate" (i.e. export permit, valid for 14 days). If you live outside of Beijing and don't want to wait around for the paperwork, Guan Shang will actually do the legwork for you. After the exam results were out, they picked up the export permit for us and sent it to our home by express mail (total cost: 450 RMB, time frame: arrived 2 days from date of exam).

Guan Shang's contact information is as follows:
  • Address in English: 1/F, 7 North Third Ring Road (300 meters West of An Hua Qiao, on the north side of the street), Chaoyang District
  • Address in Chinese: 朝阳区北三环中路7 号一层(安华桥往西三百米路北)
  • Hours: Daily 8.30am-10.30pm
  • Phone: 400-700-1542、62051944、62366641、62049631、62371359
6. Book your ticket. 
You definitely need to call the airline to let them know you are traveling with a pet. Try to do it early as there is only a certain number of pets allowed on-board and policies in cargo can vary. I'll be flying Delta and they allow 4 pets in-cabin (economy seating only). They made a note that I will be traveling with a pet and I will pay for her when I check-in a the airport. Some airlines have very strict requirements about the size of your carrier. Be sure to ask, multiple times (and write down the date, time, and name of whoever you speak to in case there is a problem down the road--as happened to me!). If flying your pet cargo, be aware that some airlines won't allow pets to be checked if the temperature is too high or too low.

I've tried to put together some links from blogs of people who have traveled with there pets. A recent one from Chocolate Chick in China describes the trials and tribulations of traveling between cities in China with a pet. My Hong Kong Husband wrote a post about her experiences taking a cat from the US to Ireland. The Love Blender also have a detailed post about traveling with her cat from Taiwan to the EU. I'll try to add any links I find of other reports.

If you have gone through the process yourself and have something to add, or if you have any questions, please comment!


Autumn said...

So you have to get two children and a small dog across the Pacific? My head hurts for you. At least it should supply you with good stories?

Andy got a precious Fei-Fei of his own also. :) But I haven't gotten t that story yet.

rosieinbj said...

Hi Autumn. I am in charge of the dog. Ming will take the kids later. I already did the two kids alone and it wasn't so bad. I think taking the dog will be even easier, but I'm not looking forward to having to take her to Beijing TWICE to get this stuff done. It's a hassle and expensive, but that the general theme of this move anyways! :)

Eileen Huang said...

Good luck! Dawen and I also thinking about going back to the States around October-ish, in the fall. At least that is his plan. :)

Constance - Foreign Sanctuary said...

Wow! You are moving back to the States!!

I don't have a pet, but I can imagine the paperwork and red-tape that is involved with transporting a pet from one country to the other, not to mention what has to be done to ensure the pet is allowed to enter the country.

I hope it all works out for you. BTW, your dog is adorable!!

rosieinbj said...

Thanks for the well-wishes guys!

Saira Yelsha said...

I'm trying to do the same thing, travel from China to the US with my dog. I'm going crazy trying to make sure I have the paperwork. I've got an orange book for the vaccinations. Please send me contact info for whoever can help make sure I have everything. ashley.a.arias@gmail.com