Pet travel from Australia to the USA
First photo of our arrival in the USA. Carolyn holds Sparky our newly exported dog from Australia. Sparky has been a member of our family since 2008 and we insisted on having him with us on our adventure to travel by RV in the USA.
How did we organise our Sparky to be exported to the USA?
Exporting your pet can be costly and complicated. You can engage a door to door service who will fully coordinate your pet’s preparation, export, and transportation. We lived in Tamborine Mountain in South East Queensland and being semi-rural, the fully coordinated option was expensive and involved more time for our pet in isolation. At the very least, Sparky would have been collected the day before and transported to Sydney. After observations and an overnight stay, he would have left on the next flight to Los Angeles to arrive in the USA around the same time as us.
We made the pet travel from Australia to the USA as comfortable as possible for our pet dog
We wanted a much simplified journey for our Sparky. Ideally we wanted to take him to the airport on the same morning of our departure, travel on the same flight, then collect him as soon as possible at the other end of the flight. One flight and minimal time and transfers. Thirteen hours traveling in a cage plus a few hours processing either side appealed to us and minimised the journey for our pet.
We also wanted to save costs as much as possible and we found pet export agents who welcomed our involvement. These agents coordinated paperwork, vet visits, approvals, and scheduling. We booked the air travel with our airline, bought a compliant dog carrier, which we found way below new price on the secondhand market, and followed the agent’s instructions for the mandatory vaccinations and vet appointments. This made the process as happy as possible for Sparky.
The airlines have an international agreement for animal and pet cargo. Pet carriers certified for international pet freight follow strict guidelines. Most pet freight containers from stores are joined with plastic fasteners. We replaced these with metal fasteners, one of the airlines’ requirements. Plastic zip ties are also required as secondary fasteners along with a compliant water container, internationally recognised transport stickers, and an absorbent mat.
Taking your own pet to board the flight is more complicated than checking in yourself with your pet and your baggage. We were required to visit the special Qantas freight dock and check our pet dog as live animal export freight. The Qantas staff and the international pet transport agent met us at the required three hours before departure. We especially rented a car just to drop our pup into the freight department because it is a few miles from the airport terminal. We had to rent a car in Los Angeles to collect our pet too. This involved first collecting documents in the Qantas freight office a few miles from the arrivals terminal in LAX, then driving to the customs office for processing the paperwork. After confirmation from customs, we were then able to return to Qantas freight office for a final check and release. So lucky we had the rental car.
After landing, clearing immigration, collecting baggage, customs takes the usual hour or so. We collected the rental car and drove straight to the freight department, then diverting back to customs for clearance with the Qantas release forms and returning back to actually collect our precious cargo all took around three hours after landing.
Our poor boy was now 16 hours from the time he was tagged in his pet carrier to the time we were able to release him on to USA soil. There was only a slight pool of piddle in the carrier and he let the rest go on the nearest tree. Sparky was finally free the roam the USA and meet new friends!
Taking your pet dog from Australia to the USA
We recommend the following steps:
- Make enquiries well in advance – we recommend six months to save costs.
- Enquire with various international pet freight agents. Some have great websites with videos and insights into pet preparation.
- Decide which preparation method suits you. Either choose an agent who handles every detail for minimal time and best convenience, or choose one who will let you do some organising. If you choose to do your own organising assisted by the pet freight agent, this takes more time, but you will save some money and reduces stress on your pet.
Some pet freight tips we learned:
- Plan well in advance – saves costs.
- Do some research for yourself. This helps with your interactions with the international pet freight agents. There are quite a few steps in the process and sometimes people miss important steps. If you are aware of the protocols, you can help make sure each step is fully compliant. Remember, it’s your pet, and you want to make sure all paperwork is in place and your pet arrives on time with minimal delay. Some airlines and other websites show obsolete information and your freight agent can help you with up to date information.
- Airlines can help you with bookings and general advice, but the pet freight agents are usually the most helpful.
- Ensure you engage immunisations and vet check-ups with vets who are legally qualified to handle international pet export to your chosen country. Special compliance immunisations vary depending on your future plans. If you want to bring you dog back home to Australia in the future, you will need special boosters to minimise the time in quarantine on their return to Australia.
- At the time of our trip, there was no quarantine requirement for arrival from Australia to the USA provided all immunisations and paperwork are compliant. Returning to Australia from the USA: Provided all required boosters and immunisations are still compliant on returning, the current time is 10 days in Sydney’s quarantine station.
- Keep all paperwork, vet records, and records of immunisations. This is useful for checking into hotels, pet resorts, and vets while your are traveling abroad.
- Approved pet carrier: Soon after we bought the pet carrier, we began taking Sparky for car rides with him inside the pet carrier. We think this was a kind way to introduce him to traveling inside the carrier. He loved it because we made the carrier part of the fun by taking him to dog parks and other fun outings. He quickly learned about the water bowl inside the carrier and the movement, and rattling noises made by the wire door.
- Way before you plan to travel, make sure your pet is not on the ‘no fly list’. Certain breeds are banned from air transport due to breathing and behaviour concerns.
- Sedatives: Many people suggested home remedies and special sedatives for our pet. The pet forwarding agents recommended that sedatives can be a detriment to pets in long flights, so we trusted the expert’s opinion and we really think our Sparky slept most of the way. I think we needed a sedative to stop worrying about our pet in the cargo hold.
- How dogs are transported in cargo: Normal baggage compartments in planes are not heated or pressurised. In modern planes, there is a special live animal compartment which is heated and pressurised. The compartment is said to be left dark to encourage animals to sleep. We were told that no one attends to the animals mid-flight, but they are checked for drinking water before departure and on arrival.