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Relocating to China
Information for China’s Pet Owners
Whether it’s a dog, a cat or a fuzzy rabbit, many expats can’t imagine a move to China without their four-legged friend. But taking your pet to China comes with a lot of bureaucratic hurdles. We offer an overview of everything you need to know as a pet-owner in China.
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When It’s Time to Go Home
No matter if you have brought your pet with you to China or if you have adopted one during your time abroad, exit requirements should be just as well researched as entry requirements. Moreover, you will not only have to prepare for leaving China with your pet but also for entering another country (that has its very own entry requirements).
The steps to clearing the exit requirements for your pet are as follows:
- Get rabies vaccinations and secure an official vaccination immunity certificate. Visit an official animal vaccination hospital between 12 months and 30 days before your departure to receive the official animal health and immunity certificate. All cats and dogs must be vaccinated annually. If you keep a good record, you might be able to skip this step (or you might have already taken care of it.)
- Get a health examination and health certificate. Visit a government-run Inspection and Quarantine Bureau animal hospital to have to your pet examined. This should happen not more than seven days before your move. After all tests are completed, you will receive an International Companion Animal Health Inspection Certificate (Health Certificate). You will need this health certificate to secure an Animal Health Certificate for Exit (Exit Permit). The health certificate is usually issued two days after the exam and is valid for seven days. You need to exchange it for an exit permit before it expires. Otherwise, you will be asked to repeat the health examination.
- Get an Animal Health Certificate for Exit (Exit Permit). Present the Health Certificate at the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau together with the vaccination red book and your passport. After you have paid the fee, it will take about two business days until you receive the Exit Permit. Keep in mind that it is only valid for 14 days.After that time period, you will have to apply anew.
Please remember that, while most Chinese cities don’t require pets to be microchipped, your new country of residence just might. For instance, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the countries of the European Union are just a few of the countries that have put a microchipping requirement in place. Moreover, many countries require rabies antibody titer testing for imported pets. No matter if you are travelling to China with your pet or if you are about to leave the country, it makes sense to take a closer look at China’s customs regulations.
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China’s Regulations for Cat and Dog Owners
There are various regulations that cat and dog owners need to follow. Dog owners, for instance, have to register their dog and secure a license for it. Often, only one dog per household is allowed and, if you live in one of the central districts of Beijing or Shanghai, your dog must be less than 35 centimeters tall. These rules might vary depending on your city of residence, so we strongly urge you to contact the city administration to be on the safe side. In any case, your furry friend must be properly vaccinated against rabies. Moreover, a canine distemper (DHPPi) vaccination is recommended.
Pet owners in Beijing will receive an official health and immunity certificate (vaccination red book), issued by a legally registered PRC veterinarian working at an officially designated animal vaccination hospital. The vaccination red book serves as proof that your dog has received all the necessary vaccinations.
Cat owners do not need a special registration or license for their pet. However, cats also have to be properly vaccinated against rabies. Here too, the authorities recommend an additional vaccination against feline distemper (FVRCP). The vaccination red book is also required for cats, as proof of proper vaccination, and issued by the authorities mentioned above.
Shifting Attitudes towards Dogs
Dogs were domesticated early on in Asia. However, they weren’t viewed as pets in the Western sense. Many Chinese emperors kept and trained hunting dogs. Later, they were often used as working animals, shepherding and assisting with farm labor. Moreover, dogs, like pigs, were considered a main food source and can still be found on the menu of many restaurants today.
Pets have become more common in China by now and especially older people have discovered dogs and pets as welcome companions. Even though big, congested cities have implemented a lot of restrictions on the number and size of dogs, more and more people are following suit. In 2014, people in China spent about 1.5 million USD on pampering their pets.
Still, not everyone is excited about the many dogs that are being kept as pets in China. Not long ago, the People’s Daily described them as “filthy imports from the west”. In order to understand the attitude of many Chinese people towards dogs, you first need to understand the Chinese culture.