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One of the biggest considerations when planning your emigration from South Africa is choosing a destination based on their accessibility for your pets. Dogs and cats are part of the family, so when you’re thinking of immigrating to New Zealand with pets, you’ll want to know exactly what you’re in for and what to expect.

Can you bring pets to New Zealand when you immigrate?

Cats and dogs are welcome in New Zealand, provided they meet specific health standards, which vary depending on the country your pet is coming from. There are 3 categories of countries or territories you can import cats and dogs from:

  • Category 1: Australia (including Norfolk Island)
  • Category 2: Rabies-free
  • Category 3: Rabies-absent or well-controlled (this is where South Africa sits)

The New Zealand Government website has a comprehensive step-by-step guide, but the basic summary is that successfully importing your dog or cat means you need to:

  • Read the import health standard (IHS), guidance document and checklists for cats and dogs so you know what to expect.
  • Check that your pet is eligible for import into New Zealand, in other words, your dog or cat isn’t a prohibited breed or type.
  • Cats and dogs must be cleared for entry into New Zealand (Australian cats or dogs only) or transferred to a quarantine facility (all other countries) from either Auckland or Christchurch airports.
  • It’s recommended that you use the services of a pet exporter who can ship to New Zealand International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.
  • Book your pet(s) into an MPI-approved quarantine facility (this is compulsory for all cats and dogs except from Australia.)
  • Apply to the Ministry for Primary Industries for a permit to import – this can take up to 20 working days, so you’ll want to do before the date you need it.
  • Ensure all of the import requirements have been met.
  • Notify an official veterinarian in New Zealand if you’re importing a cat or dog from Australia, or an assistance dog (from an approved country) that has met MPI’s assistance dog eligibility criteria.
  • Declare any medication your animal is taking.

What do I need to know about permits for cats and dogs when relocating my pets to New Zealand?

If you’re bringing a cat or dog from:

  • Australia, you usually don’t need a permit — but your pet will need a post-arrival inspection.
  • an approved country, you need a permit to import.
  • another country, your pet won’t be allowed into New Zealand until it’s spent 6 months in an approved country, and you can provide a vet certificate.

Immigrating to New Zealand with pets: preparation is key

  • Everything you need to know is in the import health standard and guidance document. Download the IHS for cats and dogs.
  • You’ll find all the advice and extra information you would need about importing your cat or dog in the guidance document, which also contains a list of approved countries where your cat and dog can be imported from. Download the guidance document for cats and dogs.
  • This guide contains model veterinary certificates that will need to be completed for your cat or dog – covering all the tests, treatments, and examinations your cat or dog needs to have before coming to New Zealand.

Make a canine influenza declaration, if required

Since 2018, the IHS and model veterinary certificates for cats and dogs include the following measure for canine influenza. This means making a declaration that for at least 21 days prior to shipment:

  • the cat or dog was not kept in a place where there were cats or dogs showing clinical signs of infectious respiratory disease
  • the cat or dog showed no clinical signs of infectious respiratory disease.

Consider using a pet exporter

The Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) recommends that your pet relocation to New Zealand be handled by a professional pet exporter in your country, letting them organise everything from tests, treatments, flights, import permits, shipping crates and everything else your pet will need along the way. Some airlines even require a pet exporter to book flights for animals because this reassures them that all necessary requirements will be fulfilled so as not to delay departure. 

Book an MPI-approved quarantine facility

Unless you’re coming from Australia, you’ll be required to book your cat or dog into an MPI-approved quarantine, where they will be required to spend a minimum of 10 days. A booking confirmation letter will need to accompany your application for a permit to import.

What happens to your pet in quarantine?

The facility will look after your animals: You get to choose the privately-run quarantine facility where your dogs or cats will be quarantined and their staff will regularly monitor your pet while in their care.

How long does your animal need to stay in quarantine after arriving in New Zealand?

The minimum quarantine period for cats and dogs is 10 days. An MPI veterinarian will inspect your cat or dog within 72 hours of arriving at the facility. The final inspection only happens during normal business hours, which means that release inspections might only happen after 10 days of quarantine.

Apply for a permit to import: Once your pet has secured a place in a quarantine facility, you are then able to apply for the necessary permit to import your dog or cat. Remember: apply for this permit no less than 20 working days before you need it, to avoid delays in processing or late fees.

What happens when you arrive in New Zealand? You need the right documents to go through Customs, and you may have to pay a fee. Find out what documents you’ll need, along with the cost of moving pets to New Zealand from South Africa on the New Zealand Customs Service website.

FinGlobal: The cross-border financial services specialists

While we might not be able to help you with the exact logistics of getting your fur family across the border, we can help you with your cross-border financial portfolio.

FinGlobal specialises in providing superior financial emigration services to South Africans looking to spread their wings and settle in New Zealand. We’ll help you get your new life off to the best possible start, cashing in your retirement annuities and transferring the proceeds to you. To see how we can make a difference in your financial future, get in touch with us today.