Our experience overall and with a pet shipper…

I am writing this post to help people who are considering moving their pets to Australia.  My wife and I spent a long time, a good amount of money, and gained some experience we want to share as there is nothing out there that provides a candid report on how it all goes.  If you like it, please link to it where possible so that it is easier for everyone to find!

First costs:  It was not a point of debate that we would be bringing our dogs with us, as they are part of our family!  That said, you should be ready to spend a lot…  We figured our cost as follows:  $2,000 in vet bills.  This includes all the testing required for import.  There are a lot of test, and you will have to go to the vet at least 4 times over a period of about 6 months (more to follow on timing).  Additionally, $10,000 paid to a pet shipping company, this included all shipping costs from Atlanta to Sydney and the mandatory 30 days they had to spend in quarantine.  All of these costs are for 2 dogs, so figure about 60% of these if just 1.  I cannot say that we got any sort of good deal for the shipping portion, but more to follow on that in a separate section.

Timing:  You need to start the very first test series at least 5 months before you are leaving, to minimize the time the dogs will be in quarantine to 30 days.  If you do not, they may be required to spend up to 6 months in quarantine… which would be difficult on dogs and their owners.  The testing requirements are very regimented and have to be done at set time periods.  Please check the following website for up to date requirements  http://www.daffa.gov.au/aqis/cat-dogs .  This will overwhelm you when you first look at it, but not to worrry… it is manageable.  First piece of advice: find a vet which has recently gone through this process… they will understand the testing requirements.  The alternative or addition to a good vet is a pet shipper which will help you in this process (more to follow in Shipper section).

Using a Pet Shipper:  We had a VERY mixed review on this, having worked with a company called Pet Express out of Brisbane, CA and trading under the website www.petmove.com .  At the beginning we saw a lot of value to have someone along to walk us through everything, however as time went on we found ourselves doing the majority of the work and ultimately being very dissatisfied as a lot of things went wrong during and after the shipment (no cages provided, attempted early pickups, poor communication, etc).  I think there could be a tremendous value from a company that truly helped in the process and provided good checklist for vetting, timing, and general list for preparing animals (ie – feeding before flights, water, what can be in cage, etc.).  However I would strongly discourage dealing with the company we did, as they even went so far as to threaten not to send our pets because they could not get our credit card to work… which they said happened all the time because they often got flagged as a fraud charge.  By the way, this was after they had already taken control of our pets and shipped them from Atlanta to San Francisco.  If they were not going to ship, then why would they send them part way and remove them from us?   The whole situation distressed us greatly! In addition they never provided us a broken out bill which we had been requesting, and here is the part where I quit griping and share some valuable information… 

If you choose to use a shipper:  1.  Confirm everything they will do for you.  2.  Get a full contract and breakout of billing details.  We found that the shipper we used added ~$2000 of additional charge in a line they called Airline Shipping.  This is compared to the prices I got direct from airlines.  According to this company, this is “normal” for the industry but it smacks of deception.  If the company is truly earning their fee they will not be deceiptful and will show you the amount they want to earn.  3.  My suggestion – get multiple quotes and request everyone breakout what they will earn specifically on the deal, as many things (especially flights costs) can change and you don’t want to get a nasty surprise once they realize you are locked in.  (or in our case with doggy hostages).  Companies will all be paying almost exactly the same thing for the actual airfares and final vetting, so compare them on their fees and don’t let them play with numbers as the contracts can allow them to charge you extra.  4.  Ask the company for some sample documentation, so that you can evaluate what their product looks like, and ask them for their 4 most recent customers you can call on.  If they blush at the request be careful… they may not do many shipments or they may have had recent poor experiences they don’t want you hearing about.   You are looking for all 4 to have been done in the last month, and some honest feedback.  5.  At shipping time, insist on a final amount due a week out and that it consitutes 100% payment so that you don’t get stuck if they make a mistake which drives up costs (or just get this language removed from contract). 

What to expect once they get here:  Assuming you have gotten everything done correctly and minimized time to 30 days in quarantine…  You can visit!  The facilities are pretty well managed and the people are very friendly.  You can arrange special visits twice a week for 30 minutes, and they have normal hours as well. 

Hopefully this helps everyone…  we would suggest that you can do it on your own… but it will be a bit intimidating.  If you choose to use a shipper just do your homework and hopefully our missteps can help guide you along.

If you have a good experience with a shipper… please tell people about it!  It is difficult to know who to use, and “testimonials” are just that… what people want you to hear!  Use this as a site for independent narrative! 

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