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Pet Travel to South Africa [Pet Passport Regulations 2021]

Pet travel to South Africa can be a complicated process. 

There are strict conditions that must be met in order to successfully import pets to South Africa. The requirements vary, depending on the species of your pet, and which country you are traveling from. Generally, pets will need a microchip, rabies vaccination, blood tests, vet health certificate and import license. On top of that, you will need to organise a health inspection upon arrival, and may need to organise your pet to stay in South Africa’s Pet Quarantine, depending on where you are traveling from.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of traveling with pets to South Africa, and breakdown the strict and complicated entry requirements, depending on where you are traveling from.


What is a South Africa Pet Passport?

South Africa does not have an official ‘Pet Passport’, however it is a term used to describe the documents that are required for pet travel to South Africa. Customs officials will need to see these documents in order to clear your pet in customs. Essentially, a pet passport demonstrates that your pet is fit and healthy to travel. For a South Africa pet passport you will likely need microchip documents, vaccination records, parasite treatment records, veterinary health certificate and import license. Your Pet Passport for South Africa will vary depending on the species of your pet and where you are traveling from.


What is the process of importing pets to South Africa?

The process of Pet Travel to South Africa is as follows:

  1. Research – the process will depend on the species of your pet, and where you are traveling from. Therefore, ensure you are aware of the specific requirements for taking your pet to South Africa. It’s also important to check that your pet is allowed to travel to South Africa, as they have very strict rules, prohibiting many pets visiting. We will discuss the requirements for different pet species below.
  2. Visit the vet – most pets will require a microchip, vaccinations, health certificate and dogs may require blood tests. However, the requirements vary depending on your pet’s species and home country. We will go into more detail in the requirements section below.
  3. Apply for import permit – when traveling from most countries, you will need to apply for an import permit or import license before bringing pets to South Africa. To check whether you require an import permit, check the import permit section below. 
  4. Organise quarantine (if necessary) – if your pet requires a stay in South Africa pet quarantine, you must reserve them a spot. You will need to get in contact with the Quarantine Officer at your port of entry to organise this. 
  5. Organise flights – ensure you book your pet to fly in the cargo section of the plane. You must also check that your pet flies into an approved port of entry. More information on the flying section below. 
  6. Apply for export permit – most countries require an export permit to export pets. For example, if you are traveling from the UK, you must apply for a DEFRA export certificate.
  7. Organise blood tests (dogs only) – these will need to be done within 30 days of your flight. For more information, check the blood test section below. 
  8. Obtain vet certificate – this must be obtained within 10 days of entry to South Africa. More information available in the health certificate section below. 

What are the requirements for pet travel to South Africa?

The requirements for pet travel to South Africa depend on your pet’s age and species, and where you are traveling from. The requirements can include any of the following:

  1. Pet microchipping
  2. Rabies vaccination
  3. Additional vaccinations
  4. Internal and external parasite treatments
  5. Rabies blood test (Rabies Titer Test)
  6. Dog license
  7. Import permit and health certificate

We will discuss these in detail below.

PET MICROCHIPPING

All pet dogs and cats traveling to South Africa must be microchipped with a 15 digit, non-encrypted ISO 11784/11785 pet microchip. Small mammals, birds, reptiles and horses do not require microchips.

A microchip is an electronic chip around the size of a grain of rice that is implanted under your pet’s skin. It holds a unique number detectable by a microchip scanner.

If your pet hasn’t yet been microchipped, this should be the first step you take. This is because your pet’s microchip must be implanted before its rabies vaccination is administered, otherwise the vaccination will not count. If your pet has already been microchipped then he or she is ready for their vaccination. We will discuss the rabies vaccination in detail in the next section.

Your pet’s microchip number must be present on all documentation required for pet travel to South Africa. 

RABIES VACCINATION

For pet travel to South Africa, dogs and cats require a rabies vaccination unless traveling from Australia, New Zealand, the UK or Northern Ireland. 

For pets traveling from any other country, for pet travel to South Africa, dogs and cats must have a valid rabies vaccination supported by official vaccination records. All current vaccinations and boosters must be recorded. Furthermore, your dog or cat’s microchip number must also be recorded on all documentation.

The vaccination must be administered at least 30 days but no more than 12 months before entry to South Africa. 

South Africa does not accept 2 year or 3 year vaccinations. 

Puppies and kittens that are not yet 3 months old, are exempt from rabies vaccinations. However, their mothers should of been vaccinated against rabies between 30 days and 1 year prior to their birth. Once these puppies and kittens are in South Africa, they must be vaccinated against rabies when they turn 3 months old. 

Even if a rabies vaccination isn’t required for you, we do, encourage you to vaccinate your pet against rabies as South Africa isn’t rabies-free.

ADDITIONAL VACCINATIONS

For pet travel to South Africa, your pet doesn’t require any other vaccinations. 

We do, however, recommend that you have your dog or cat vaccinated against all necessary annual vaccinations given in your home country. These vary between countries, but often include the following:

  • bordetella
  • distemper
  • hepatitis
  • kennel cough
  • leptospirosis
  • parainfluenza
  • parvovirus

BLOOD TESTS

In order to qualify for pet travel to South Africa, dogs may need to pass the following blood tests:

  • Babesia gibsoni
  • Brucella canis
  • Dirofilaria immitis
  • Leishmania
  • Trypanosoma evansi

This is only the case if there are cases of these diseases in your home country. If your country is free from any of the diseases, you will instead need to show proof of this from the veterinary authorities in your home country.

If your dog is found positive for any of the above diseases, they won’t be allowed into South Africa. 

DOGS THAT REQUIRE QUARANTINE

If your dog is required to stay in quarantine, they will be retested for the 5 diseases listed above during their stay.

Any dogs found positive for Brucella Canis will be sent back to their home country.

If your dog is found positive for Dirofilaria Immitis, or Trypanosoma Evansi, you have the choice of treating your dog while in quarantine, or sending your dog back to your home country. Your dog will only be released from quarantine when their test result is negative. 

Cats and other pet species do not require any blood tests. 

For information on quarantine, check the quarantine section below. 

VETERINARIAN IMPORT PERMIT & HEALTH CERTIFICATE

For pet travel to South Africa, dogs and cats need an import permit and a veterinarian health certificate, unless traveling from Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho or Swaziland. Pet travel to South Africa from these countries require proof of current rabies vaccination and a health certficate.

An import permit and health certificate show that your pet is qualified for pet travel to South Africa. 

Import permits for South Africa are usually issued within 3 to 5 working days. Your import license for South Africa is valid for 6 months from the issue date.

Upon arrival in South Africa, customs officials will need to see the original import permit, with a veterinary health certificate completed by an Official government veterinarian in the country of export.

You must obtain your pet’s veterinarian health certificate within 10 days of pet travel to South Africa. 

Furthermore, your health certificate will also need to be endorsed by the country’s authority responsible for the import and export of animals. For example, if you are traveling from the US, you will need your documents endorsed by the USDA. Alternatively, if you are traveling from Canada, you will need to have your documents endorsed by CFIA.

Dogs and cats traveling from Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland will need to pass a health check within 7 days of the flight. 


How to apply for an South Africa Import Permit?

In order to apply for a South Africa Pet Import Permit, the process is as follows:

  1. Complete the relavent application form:
    1. Application to import animals or animal products into the RSA (subjected to quarantine).    
    2. Application to import animals or animal products into the RSA (subjected to further control).   
    3. Application to import animals or animal products into the RSA (not subjected to quarantine).
  2. Make payment for the veterinary import permit.
  3. Send the completed form and proof of payment to The Director: Animal Health.
    1. You must state whether you will collect the permit, or whether you want it sent to you via post.
  4. If your pet must be quarantined, you must contact the state veterinarian at your port of entry.
    1. Johannesburg: Tel: 011 973 2827 or fax: 011 973 2828.
    2. Cape Town: Tel: 021 551 2050 or fax: 021 551 1378.
    3. Durban: Tel: 031 368 8503 or fax: 031 337 7469
  5. They will arrange your reservation and complete a section of the quarantine application form. Once completed, they should fax this back to the permit office.
  6. You must complete an indemnity declaration. You can obtain the form from the Permit Office of the Directorate: Animal Health. Once completed, you must attach it to your application form. 
  7. A veterinary import permit and a veterinary health certificate template will be issued and sent directly to you, once the Permit Office receive your application forms and proof of payment. 

Only once your pet’s vaccinations are all completed can you apply for an import permit. All copies of the vaccination cards are needed to be presented to the South Africa government for inspection before they can issue your import permit.


What pet species and breeds can be imported to South Africa?

​​Sadly, not all pets will be allowed into South Africa. This is because the pest or disease risks associated with importation may be considered too great and pose as a threat to South Africa’s wildlife.

Rabbits and ferrets are not permitted to travel to South Africa. However, rodents, birds, invertebrates, tropical fish, amphibia and reptiles are permitted as long as you follow guidelines. These animals will not require rabies vaccinations or microchips, however they may need alternative vaccinations.

In all cases, you will need a veterinary health certificate. 


How long does Pet Travel to South Africa take?

The process of traveling with a pet to South Africa can take between 1-12 months to complete. This depends on the species of your pet, and where you are traveling from.

If you are traveling from Australia, New Zealand, the UK or Northern Ireland, the time scale should be shorter as your pet doesn’t require a rabies vaccination. Alternatively, if you are traveling from any other country, your pet must be vaccinated between 30 days and 12 months prior to entry to South Africa. 

The most timely steps of pet travel to South Africa, are getting your pet’s blood test results back (dogs only), and then applying for an import permit (all pets).

Getting your pet’s microchip, vaccinations and parasite treatments will just take a quick appointment to the vet. The appointment should take no more than half an hour.

As mentioned above, your dog’s blood tests will be one of the most timely steps. This is because all dogs must be found free of Brucella canis, Trypanosoma evansi, Babesia gibsoni, Dirofilaria immitis and Leishmania. If any of the tests are found positive, your dog will either be sent home, or sent to quarantine until a negative result is found. 

Furthermore, the process of getting an import permit can be lengthy. The majority of permit applications are processed and decided within 3-5 days. However, in more complex cases, the process takes longer. 

Lastly, if you are traveling from a country that requires quarantine, your pet will need to stay at least 14 days. For more information on quarantine check the next section. 


Will my pet need to stay in South Africa pet quarantine?

Dogs entering South Africa will be subject to a minimum of 14 days of quarantine unless entering from the following countries:

United States, Canada, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Bulgaria, Comoros, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungry, Iceland , Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Reunion, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.

Don’t worry, quarantine isn’t as scary as it sounds. Pets will have great caretakers and special food/medication accommodations if your pet needs it.

During your dog’s stay in South Africa pet quarantine, they will be tested for the following diseases:

  • Babesia gibsoni
  • Brucella canis
  • Dirofilaria immitis
  • Leishmania
  • Trypanosoma evansi

Any dogs found positive for Brucella Canis will be sent back to their home country.

If your dog is found positive for Dirofilaria Immitis, or Trypanosoma Evansi, you have the choice of treating your dog while in quarantine, or sending your dog back to your home country. Your dog will only be released from quarantine when their test result is negative. 


How much will Pet Travel to South Africa cost?

Pet travel to South Africa can be a rather expensive process which varies depending on your pet’s species and where you are traveling from. The total cost broken down into the following fees:

  • Vet fees – microchipping, vaccinations and treatments varies on your vet practice fees and home country.
  • Airline fees for shipping a pet – varies widely depending on size and species of your pet, and airline.
  • Import license 
  • Quarantine fees 
  • Government endorsements – varies depending on home country.

Flying into South Africa with a pet

Whether you are flying with your pet or it will be flying without you, it is important to choose an airline that serves the entire route from beginning to end. Before selecting an airline you will need to check their pet policies to ensure that they will allow your pet to fly. Will the airline allow your dog or cat to fly in the cabin with you? What are the restrictions? Will your pet need to travel in the cargo hold? Another option for airline pet travel is by private charter. Although this is more expensive than commercial airlines, pets will fly in the cabin with their owners in luxury, regardless of their size.

BEFORE YOU FLY

There is no restriction on the number of domesticated pets you can import – luckily there is no restriction on the number of pets you import, as long as that number is permitted at your specific residency.

Book your flight into specific port of entry – If your dog requires a stay in quarantine upon arrival, you must enter via Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airports. Dogs and cats who do not require quarantine, may also enter South Africa via Durban International Airport.

Reservations for quarantine must be made – you must contact the Quarantine Officer at the port of entry prior to your arrival. The Quarantine Officer will arrange the reservation for accommodation at the Quarantine Station and will complete the applicable part of the application form.

Ensure you have the correct carrier – pets are required to travel in an appropriate, IATA-compliant, cage according to its size and weight if travelling as freight. The requirements will differ depending on your airline, and whether your pet will travel in the cabin or the cargo. Generally, only dogs and cats weighing less than 5 kg can travel in the cabin in an agreed bag (depending on your airline). Carriers and crates must be leak proof.

ONCE YOU LAND

Clinical examination and document check – after arrival you will need to bring the your pet, along with the original health documents, to the Quarantine Station. The quarantine officer will verify your pet’s veterinary health certificate and vaccination records. Additionally, your pet will have a clinical examination/quarantine observation to ensure your pet is healthy and disease free. The animal/(s) will be examined clinically at the Quarantine Station for issuing Provisional Quarantine Clearance Certificate.

If your pet is detected with any signs of clinical illness during inspection, then they will be placed in quarantine.

FLIGHT OPTIONS

You must fly to South Africa as air cargo unless your pet is your certified service animal.


What airlines allow flying a pet to South Africa?

Most airlines allow pet travel to South Africa. However, depending on the airline you fly with, pet policies differ.

When flying with a pet, it’s important to check airline pet policies before booking any travel. Different airline’s have different rules for flying with pets, including which breeds are allowed, the size and weight of pets that are permitted, and the number of dogs they allow. Fees also vary between airlines.

Most airlines will allow pets to fly in the cargo section of their planes, in a climate controlled, comfortable pet zone. Although some pet owners think this will be stressful for their dogs, it can actually be a lot calmer than flying in the cabin.

Some airlines will allow pets to fly in the cabin with their owners, but usually only small dogs, and sometimes cats, that weigh under 8kg are permitted. This is because pets must fly inside an airline-approved carrier that fits under the seat in front of their owners.

For a list of airlines that allow pets to fly in the cabin with their owners, check:

For a list of airlines that allow other pets on their planes, check: 


Guidelines for Pet Carriers

If you are flying to South Africa with a pet, it is important that you use a pet carrier that is approved by your airline. Different airlines have different pet carrier policies, which often vary between aircrafts and routes. Check that your pet carrier is approved for your chosen airline, aircraft and route. 

The rules and regulations have been set out by International Air Transport Association (IATA) ensure that dogs are comfortable when travelling. Thus, inside their travel carriers, pets must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in their kennel (without touching any side or the top of the container).

iata carrier guidelines

Furthermore, the rules for pet carriers also vary depending on whether your pet will be flying in the cabin or cargo area of the plane.

If you are travelling in the cabin with your dog or cat, then you will need to ensure that the carrier fits under the seat in front of you. This is why, generally, only small dogs and cats weighing under 7-8kg are permitted in the cabin.

Additionally, if traveling with a dog, airlines often require that he or she is be obedient to your commands and can behave appropriately in public. Thus, he mustn’t bark or growl at other passengers or staff. If your dog does not behave in an appropriate manner, some airlines may transfer him to the cargo hold at an additional cost, or refuse to transport him all together. Some airlines require a consent form to ensure your pet is flight-ready.

MOST AIRLINES ONLY ACCEPT CAGES THAT COMPLY WITH THE FOLLOWING IATA REGULATIONS:

  • The cage must not have wheels
  • It must have a solid roof
  • The screws and nuts that hold the lower and upper parts of the cage must be properly installed and tightened – because yes, the cage must consist of two sections, made of solid and rigid plastic
  • The cage must also include bowls firmly attached to its lower wall containing food and water
  • It must be clean, but also and above all waterproof and covered with materials capable of absorbing liquid materials
  • It must be well ventilated, with openings in all 4 sides of the cage
  • The cage must also be properly closed, using a lock that cannot be opened from the inside
  • Finally, it must bear a label distinguishing the top from the bottom and another indicating that the cage contains a live animal

For a list of airlines that allow dogs to fly in the cabin with their owners, check 12 Airlines That Allow Flying With Dogs In-Cabin [2021 Prices & Policies].

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Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

Can I take my puppy or kitten to South Africa?

Yes, puppies and kittens are permitted to travel to South Africa. Those under the age of 3 months will not require rabies vaccinations, as long as you can prove the mother has been vaccinated between 30 days and 12 months before the birth of the puppy/kitten. Puppies and kittens under 8 weeks old cannot fly as cargo in or out of South Africa.

Can I take my pet to South Africa with an EU Pet Passport?

You can travel to South Africa with an EU Pet Passport, however there are additional conditions to be met. You will need to apply for an Import Permit and organise your pet to stay in quarantine on arrival, if required. Your pet may also need additional vaccines, treatments and blood tests. Please refer to the requirements section above.

Does South Africa have a ban on any dog or cat breeds?

Luckily, no, South Africa doesn't have an restrictions on which breeds can travel.


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