• Australian pet quarantine rules that leave Bella in Mexico

    July 20, 2023


    The strict Australian pet quarantine rules has forced rescued Aussie sailor Tim Shaddock to leave his beloved dog Bella behind in Mexico, after the pair spent three months lost at sea together.

    So, what are the rules and regulations surrounding bringing pets into Australia?

    It can be a long, complicated, costly, and emotional process; we’ve broken it down to provide a snapshot of the steps needed, and why coming from some countries is near-impossible.

    Bella with the Mexican crew after being rescued

    Why bringing Mexican dog Bella into Australia is no easy feat

    Despite the bond they developed on their three-month journey lost at sea journey, Tim Shaddock had to leave Bella in Mexico to travel back to Australia.

    While it might sound harsh, and unfair to Bella, Australia’s strict quarantine have prevented Bella from traveling with him.

    That’s because Australia has some of the strictest rules when it comes to traveling into the country with a pet.

    The process of bringing a pet into Australia also involves considerable costs, including fees for tests, permits, quarantine, and transportation.

    It can be very long, complex, and stressful due to our strict biosecurity rules.

    The complexity and emotional toll of the process, coupled with the financial burden, make bringing a pet into Australia a demanding task.

    Pet owners are required to navigate a complex series of steps, including microchipping, vaccinations, blood tests, obtaining an import permit, making a quarantine reservation, arranging transportation, and more.

    Each step must be completed in a specific order and within certain timeframes, which can be difficult to manage and cause anxiety for pet owners.

    On arrival, pets are subjected to a mandatory quarantine period, which can be distressing for both the pet and the owner.

    If they’ve travelled from a non-approved country, they would’ve already had to complete a lengthy quarantine period in an approved country first.

    The Department of Agriculture sets the rules and says cats and dogs can only come into Australia under strict import conditions.

    “These safeguard our agriculture, environment, native and domestic animals, and our people,” the Dep of Agriculture says online.

    “(they are) are based on rigorous scientific analyses to manage biosecurity risks.”

    Bringing pets in from approved countries

    While bringing a pet in from an ‘approved’ country is much easier than the alternative, there’s still many hoops owners must go through.

    We’ve outlined an overview of the processes and rules involved.

    Check the country of origin category

    This is the very first step needed in the process, because approved countries still fall into different categories.

    They are category 1, category 2, and category 3; each category then has its own set of rules.

    Then there’s the non-approved countries (like Mexico), but we detail more on that further on.

     Snapshot of the categories

    Category 1 New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands

    Category 2 Approved rabies-free countries

    Category 3 Approved countries where rabies is absent or well-controlled.

    Non-approved countries: All other countries


    Tim and Bella


    Your pet must be microchipped before he or she can be imported to Australia.


    Depending on the country category, your pet may need to be vaccinated against rabies and other diseases.

    For category 2 and 3 countries, a rabies vaccination and a blood test are required.

    Blood Tests 

    A blood sample must also be taken for a rabies neutralising antibody titre test (RNATT).

    The waiting period after a successful RNATT test then varies depending on the country category.

    Permit Application

    Apply for an import permit from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australia.

    Quarantine Reservation

    Make a reservation for your pet at an Australian Government quarantine facility

    Pre-export Veterinary Health Checks

    Your pet must undergo a series of health checks by an official government veterinarian in your home country.


    Arrange for your pet to be transported to Australia by an approved route and in an approved container.

    Quarantine in Australia

    Upon arrival in Australia, your pet will be transported directly to a quarantine facility where they will stay for a minimum of 10 days.


    After the quarantine period, your pet can be released and join you and your family at home.


    Mexican crew with Bella
    The crew involved in the rescue has fallen in love with Bella

    Travelling from an unapproved country

    If you thought the above process looked complicated enough, spare a thought for those travelling from a ‘non-approved country’.

    Tim Shaddock’s loyal Mexican dog Bella unfortunately falls into the non-approved category, making it even more difficult to bring her.

    If you’re planning to travel from a non-approved country, like Mexico, there’s a much more stringent process to go through.

    Rabies titre test

    Your pet will need to get their rabies vaccine and titre test in their country of origin.

    This test must be administered by a registered vet and the blood must be tested in a lab recognized by DAFF with passing results.

    The rabies titre test, also known as rabies neutralising antibody titre test (RNATT), is a type of blood test done on pets to check if they are protected against the rabies virus.

    The rabies titre test involves:

    Vaccination: First, your pet gets a rabies vaccination. This is like giving your pet a shield against the rabies virus.

    Waiting Period: After the vaccination, you need to wait for a certain period. This allows your pet’s body to respond to the vaccine and build up its defenses.

    Blood Sample: After the waiting period, a vet takes a blood sample from your pet. This sample is then sent to a lab.

    Lab Testing: The blood will then be sent to an approved lab in the country of origin where a sample will be mixed with the rabies virus.  Essentially, they want to see if your pet’s blood can fight off the virus.

    If it can, that means the vaccine has worked and your pet is protected against rabies.

    Results: The lab measures how well your pet’s blood fought off the virus. This measurement is the ‘titre’. If the titre is above a certain level, your pet has passed the test as it means they have enough protection against rabies.

    After the all-clear

    This is where the process gets even harder and most likely more emotional for all involved.

    After passing the test, your pet must travel to an approved country, where a second blood sample will be collected.

    That second RNAT test must also record a particular reading of the antibody.

    Immediately after the blood sample is taken for the second RNAT test, an approved inactivated rabies vaccine must be given to the animal in the approved country.

    After that second blood test, the pet has to stay in the approved country for at least 60 days prior to export to Australia.

    If you’re wanting to bring a pet into Australia and wondering what category your country falls into, contact the Australian Government Department of Agriculture or a pet relocation service, like Aero Pets.


    So, there you have it.

    It’s clear that bringing a pet into Australia is no easy feat, but it’s an essential process to protect Australia’s unique ecosystem from diseases like rabies.

    Sadly it means many families are forced to leave their beloved pets behind, just like Tim and Bella.

    Have you traveled to Australia with a pet? If so, we’d love to hear your experience of the journey and processes involved!

    Previously published as https://animalfriendlylife.com.au/news/rescued-aussie-sailor-leaves-mexican-dog-bella-behind/



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