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Bringing a Pet to China: An Expat Guide

Bringing a Pet to China: An Expat Guide

Written by GavinUpdated Jan. 18, 2022

Bringing a pet to China is not easy! Because of the health risk, China only allows pets to enter its borders according to the following strict regulations.

Only one dog or cat per person is allowed; no other animals. If the animal type or number is outside of regulations, for example, if you bring a hamster or two cats or dogs, your pet will be deported or destroyed. If you want to bring more than one cat/dog, assign a fellow traveler to accompany each of them.

If not accompanied, pets require an Import Permit to travel as cargo.

[Our information is largely translated from the official website of The General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China (www.customs.gov.cn), including

We’ve covered the three things to prepare, where to enter China, what happens on arrival, quarantine (hopefully avoidable), and even bringing pets out of China.

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Prep. 1) Vaccination: Rabies Mandatory

Bringing a Pet to ChinaVaccination

Each pet must have a rabies accinationcertificate showing the vaccination dates of two doses (the second dose must be between 30 days to 1 year before arrival), with manufacturer, period of efficacy, and batch for each. Unvaccinated working dogs may be vaccinated in China. See Quarantine below.

Other recommended vaccinations are canine distemper, parvovirus, and coronavirus for dogs; feline distemper, peritonitis, and feline leucopenia for cats; as well as kennel cough at least 2 weeks prior to import if quarantine is likely. 

Prep. 2) RFID Chips

To avoid a 30-day quarantine, and to validate all other certification, making this an essential requirement, your pet must have a microchip implant. Basically, if China can’t tell by RFID that your documents are for your pet, he/she will be deported/destroyed.

Animals entering China must be implanted with a microchip conforming to ISO11784 and ISO11785 for the radio frequency identification (RFID) of animals, i.e. with a 15-digit code. Other chips must have their own scanner. If you have a non-standard chip, you’d better be sure it can be scanned by a scanner provided by yourself!

You may want to get your pet chipped at the same time as the third preparation…

Prep. 3) Pre-Entry Health Certificate

health checkhealth check

The pre-travel animal health examination is very important. If not done satisfactorily the cat or dog will be sent back to the country of origin or destroyed. If your cat/dog doesn’t pass the health check,don’t bring him/her until he/she does.

The health examination certificate must include: date of examination (must be within 14 days of arrival in China), type of animal, taxonomy, gender, fur color, birth date or age, RFID chip location, chip code, and date implanted, and health examination results (U.S. examples: certificate for dogs, certificate for cats). It must be stamped by the accepted authority for the country, e.g. USDA for the U.S. or CFIA for Canada.

Pre-Entry Rabies Test

A rabies antibody titer test certificate may be required as part of the pre-travel health check. It must include RFID chip number, rabies antibody test time, test establishment name, and antibody titer results (at least 0.5 IU/mL).

From May 1, 2019, animals from 19 countries or regions can enter China without a rabies test: New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, U.S. Hawaii, U.S. Guam, Jamaica, Iceland, UK, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Cyprus, Portugal, Sweden Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, China Hong Kong, and China Macau.

Rabies antibody titer test results are valid for one year from the date the blood was drawn, and should be after the second rabies shot. If your rabies test report is invalid, a new test must be performed at the port designated facility on-site and a new rabies test report must be obtained.

Where to Enter China

where to gowhere to go

If you think quarantine is at all likely, you should use one of the ports of entry with quarantine facilities, probably in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou (see Quarantine below), otherwise, if quarantine were needed it couldn’t be done, and your pet would be sent back or destroyed.

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If you’re certain your pet won’t need quarantine, for example if you have a quarantine-exempt guide dog with a chip and all paperwork in order and who is healthy and ideally has been through the process before, only then should you consider using a non-quarantine port of entry.

If you plan to transit to a China city in another province after your arrival city, you should check inter-province animal transport certificate requirements with the relevant area’s health and hygiene department and make sure you fulfil those too.

Before Entering China

Fill in a ‘Carrier’s Immigration Pet (Dog, Cat) Information Registration Form’ (the bilingual 携带入境宠物(犬、猫)信息登记表.doc download from the China Customs page). Choose which of the two form versions to fill in based on which country you’re coming from with your pet: designated or non-designated. These will also be available at the port, but you might as well fill it in in advance to make sure you have all the necessary info to hand.

On Arrival in China

On arrival, the port authority will check the RFID chip corresponds with the certification you provide. If the vaccination and health check certification are ok, your pet can stay in China. Phew! First phase over.

If not, i.e. if you could not provide sufficient certification or exceed the type/number limits, customs should inform the port Animal and Plant Quarantine Office to take temporary custody of your pet(s). Then you would be consulted regarding pet repatriation. If that cannot be arranged, then sadly animal euthanization would follow.

If acceptable, an on-site health check follows…

Port On-Site Animal Health Check

health check on arrivalhealth check on arrival

If your pet passes the health check, the dog/cat can enter China accompanied by the carrier. Animals not from the 19 “no-rabies” countries mentioned above under Vaccination, must have an additional rabies check as part of the port health check.

Please allow enough time for animal checks and procedures at airports to avoid inconvenience/problems in keeping to your travel schedule.

If your pet does not pass the port health check, quarantine will follow…

Quarantine

Animals who don’t pass the port health exam require 30-day quarantine. For example, to avoid quarantine, from May 1st, 2019, animals from the U.S., must have had two rabies shots, a chip implant, and a negative rabies titer (apart from Guam and Hawaii).

Guide dogs, hearing dogs, and search and rescue dogs with the required health examination, RFID chip, training certificate, and satisfactory port health test report can enter China without quarantine. Such dogs with no acceptable vaccination certificate can, following application by the carrier, be vaccinated for rabies at a suitable establishment.

Emotional support dogs that are not guide dogs, hearing dogs, or search and rescue dogs, do not qualify for quarantine exemption if vaccination certification is lacking.

Where Quarantine Is Available

Pets that don’t fit the qualifying criteria above must enter through and quarantine for 30 days in one of 10 designated ports:

  • Beijing Capital Airport, Beijing West Railway Station
  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shanghai Honqqiao International Airport, Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, Shanghai Railway Station (on the HK Z-train)
  • Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
  • Urumqi Diwopu International Airport, or Alashankou

Animals not meeting the above criteria entering through non-designated ports will be sent back to the country of origin or destroyed.

How Quarantine Works

For the period of quarantine, animals must not leave the quarantine area, and the owner shall be responsible for the animal’s welfare or entrust the animal to the port quarantine office. Quarantine, welfare, management, and other expenses shall be paid by the owner to the animal and plant quarantine agency. For more details, please visit the The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China website.

If your pet exhibits abnormal health symptoms the quarantine staff will notify the carrier, and will, with the carrier’s permission, treat the animal. If the animal can’t be treated in the quarantine area, it will be moved and undergo treatment under customs staff supervision.

If you don’t claim your pet within the stipulated time, he/she will be considered unclaimed and will be processed with quarantine treatment by the port Animal and Plant Quarantine Office.

Once in China: Register Your Dog

Dogs must be registered with the police local to your place of residence within one month of arrival. Contact your local police office for how to do it.

You will need to register where you live first. See Renting an Apartment in China: An Expat Guide.

Bringing Pets Out of China

Carriers bringing pets out of China should prepare the following three things and show them at their port of departure at least a week before departure:

  • 1. Valid rabies vaccination certificate (for vaccination from 30 days to 1 year before departure)
  • 2. Carrier’s travel document (passport or HK/Macau/Taiwan travel permit)
  • 3. In advance, find out the destination country’s animal health inspection requirements and prepare the required documentation in a timely manner.

After the animal carrier has submitted the required documents at the port of exit, the port will carry out an on-site animal inspection and provide an ‘Animal Hygiene Certificate’, which the carrier must use to allow the animal to exit China.

According to the international practice of quarantine, the departure country vet should carry out quarantine procedures in accordance with entry country requirements (try to find these out and inform the port animal inspection team).

China Highlights Is Here to Help

Are you having trouble with China travel? You may want to seek help from a company who have been serving foreigners/expats traveling in China for over two decades. Contact us.

Want to discover more of China’s highlights? See our tours designed for expats.

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