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[How to]: Take Your Pet Out of China

All-new and UPDATED for 2024, with more policies
Last updated: 2015-11-09
From the directly and minutely useful to information on living your best self in the world. How To is our regular column on how to accomplish things in the city.

This article originally appeared in 2015. It was updated in February 2020, and re-written with current information in April 2024.

Time's up! You've had your year or decade or lifetime in China and now it's time to go somewhere else. But along the way, you've picked up a little friend and you want Squirt or Pepper or Wooks to go with you to your next stop. (Assuming Squirt, Pepper or Wooks are cats or dogs. Rabbits, hamsters and chinchillas may qualify for special export permits, but these are new and it's not possible to DIY. Find a transport agent to help you out.)

So, how do you get your pet out of China? Keep in mind this is actually a two-part question: how do you get your pet OUT of China; and how do you get your pet INTO your end destination?

This article deals mainly with the first part — getting your pet out of China (Shanghai spectifically). For more details on additional import steps, you'll need to research the specific country or region you'll be traveling to for additional requirements like import permits and quarantine.

To break down the advice into easy steps and confirm the process for 2024, we spoke with Lee-Anne Armstrong, the Executive Director for Second Chance Animal Aid Shanghai, which maintains a helpful webpage with much of this information.

Get a Rabies Shot and Microchip

Take your dog or cat to get a rabies vaccination and a microchip. This can be done at any veterinary clinic that prints a Shanghai Immunization Certificate (a plastic card) for dogs and cats, in addition to providing the clinic vaccination book record.


All the branches of the official Customs Bureau partner clinic for pre-flight health check, (the Shenpu Pet Hospital) will print a Dog Immunization Certificate card needed for a license but do not need to print a Cat Immunization Certificate card. The Shenpu's own vaccination book alone is accepted for a pre-flight cat health check.

For Dogs: If your dog does not have their license yet, this is an important step. Shanghai Customs requires dogs have a valid Shanghai license to issue an Animal Health Certificate for China export. (read about how to register your dog in Shanghai here).

Once you've done this visit, the rabies shot is valid for one year, and the following steps can be taken anytime within that year.

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Step 2: Waiting period

There is a minimum 30-day waiting period for all pets for all countries after the first step of rabies vaccination and microchip.

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Step 3 For Many Countries: Rabies Titre Test

For all pets headed to the EU, Singapore, South Africa, Japan, the UAE and some other jurisdictions, they will require a rabies blood test. The blood draw to send the sample to an officially recognized PRC laboratory can be done at any clinic offering this service, including the Shenpu Pet Hospital ( 1,500 PRC lab, 2,800rmb for Japan) or Shanghai PAW (1,400rmb PRC lab). Ask your vet if they can send your blood sample to an approved lab for a rabies titre test.

After the blood draw date, there is a minimum waiting period that can be very lengthy (e.g. 3 months for the EU) before pets can travel.

The titre test's validity may be extended for entry into some jurisdictions (e.g. the EU) by keeping your pet's rabies vaccination up to date. Other places (e.g. Singapore) impose a short validity period before the test expires and would need to be done again.

Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand, and Russia are some of the countries that do not require pets from mainland China to have this test. Cats to the U.S. do not need a titre test, but dogs do.

NEW SINCE LAST UPDATE: The U.S. CDC requires dogs (but not cats) from the PRC have a rabies titre blood test as part of the CDC Dog Permit application process for entering the U.S. The waiting period after the blood draw is minimum 45 days, and the U.S. CDC limits the test validity to one year.

See details on the U.S. CDC dog import permit process at

Under the U.S. CDC Permit rules, dogs must only enter the U.S. via one of 18 approved airports.

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Step 4: Book Your Flight

Pet owners should reserve their pet's transportation directly through their airline's China customer service hotline. Confirm a pet spot is available on your selected flight date(s) before finalizing a passenger flight booking.

Airline policy for how pets may fly varies, ie., small pet in the cabin with you (relatively inexpensive), checked as excess baggage in the hold (still reasonable) or as manifest cargo (thousands of dollars). Cargo and excess baggage are two very different transport options.

Your pet's height and weight determine where in the aircraft they can fly. SCAA warns owners of medium to large dogs and with multiple pets of US-based airlines' restrictive pet policies. United and Delta do not move pets as excess baggage, and American Airlines does not even allow cabin pets on China flights.

For multiple pets and / or animals that exceed cabin pet restrictions, owners should look to excess baggage options on ANA, Air Canada, Air France, Asiana, China Eastern, EVA Airlines, KLM, Korean Airlines, and Lufthansa instead.

NEW SINCE LAST UPDATE: In January 2022, the EU Animal Law was amended to require pets transiting through the EU to meet EU import requirements. This means that even for transit, pets should have a rabies titre blood test and 3 months waiting period before flying.

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Step 5: Health Check Eight Days Before the Flight

Exactly eight days before your scheduled flight, you must take your pet for a health check (budget 700-800rmb) at the Xujiahui Lu branch of Shenpu Pet Hospital, the Customs Bureau veterinary clinic partner, within office hours of 9:00AM to 4:00PM.

Bring your vet clinic's dog or cats' vaccination book and plastic Immunization Card or your cat's Shenpu vaccination book, your dog license, your rabies titre test result (if required), your dog's U.S. CDC Import Permit, your passport, and your flight details. The Shenpu has also been asking for residence registration, so have that handy just in case.

After paying for the health check and submitting your documents, you will receive a receipt to pick up your export certificate from the Customs Bureau, generally 2-3 days before your flight.

The receipt has all the relevant information for picking up your certificate.

For Dogs: Shanghai has a one-dog-per-household registration rule. As a dog license is required by Shanghai Customs for export, owners traveling with more than one dog may get an export permit with a consent letter from the dog's registered owner. There is a simple form letter for this purpose to be presented at the pre-flight health check.

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Step 6: Pick Up Your Animal Health Export Certificate Before the Flight

Go to the Huangpu Customs Bureau on the date listed on the receipt from Shenpu Pet Hospital to pick up your export certificate. Bring your passport. The Animal Health Certificate pick up location is currently atLan Sheng Mansion on Liu Lin road at Middle Huai Hai road (兰生大厦,click here for details). Opening hours are weekdays in two blocks of time; 9:00 – 11:00 AM and 2PM – 4PM.

Owners can give written permission, along with a copy of their passport, for someone else (who should also bring ID) to pick up their pet's certificate. The certificate is valid for 14 days from the date of issue.

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I've heard that it's one pet per passenger/passport when leaving China. Is this true?

Lee-Anne Armstrong: There is no universal "1 pet per passport" rule. The number of pets an individual passenger can add to their flight ticket depends on their airline, destination import rules, and the pet's mode of transport (in the cabin, checked as excess baggage, or as manifest cargo). In the cabin, a passenger may generally only bring one small pet, and the total number of pets allowed in the cabin is limited. Very few airlines allow pets in the business and first class cabins.

NOTE: Owners of multiple pets should be especially careful about researching and seeking feedback on airline options before booking their own ticket.

How much will it cost?

Lee-Anne Armstrong: Airline fees for pets range widely depending on the type of transport. For in the cabin, fees are generally in the 100-175usd range. For crates checked as excess baggage (not an option on U.S. carriers) costs can vary depending on size of crate and are around 300-600usd. Manifest cargo is a special category of pet transport where a pet agent is needed for Customs clearance. Cargo is very expensive — thousands of dollars. Cargo may be required for pets entering by air (e.g. the U.K., UAE) and all unaccompanied pets fly as Cargo. See here for Delta information,here for Korean Air's pet policyand here for KLM.

I've heard airlines have blackout dates for pets because it's too hot or too cold for them. True?

Lee-Anne Armstrong: Chinese airlines have hot weather bans for their excess baggage transport. They do not offer an in-cabin pet option. Air Canada has similar hot and cold weather restrictions for excess baggage transport, while in-cabin moves remain available.

What restrictions are there on the pets?

Each airline publishes its own pet travel policies. Cabin pet carriers, which must fit under the seat in front of you, vary in maximum size by airline and aircraft. Pets in cabin bags usually count as your one carry-on item.. Delta does not accept pets on flights with an average flight time of greater than 12 hours. Lee-Anne Armstrong: It can be a problem for people in China who only call their airline's overseas hotline or do not expand easily-missed restrictions sections on the airline's website.. It's best to enquire about pet transport bookings with your airline's China office directly.

Are there restrictions on certain breeds?

Yes. Among other restrictions, ‘strong' dog breeds may be banned or require special crates and brachycephalic (i.e. flat-faced) breeds are often prohibited from flying or may be permitted only in cabin or only in cooler weather. Breeds to pay attention to include:

Dogs: Affenpinscher, American Pit Bull Terrier, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bulldog, Cane Corso, Chihuahua, Chow Chow, Dogo Argentino, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Toy Spaniel (King Charles Spaniel), Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Newfoundland, Pekinese, Pug, Rotweiller, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Shar Pei, Shi Tzu, Tibetan Mastiff and Tibetan Spaniel.

Cats: British Shorthair, Burmese, Exotic Shorthair, Himalayan, Persian, Scottish Fold

Do I have to do this on my own?

You don't have to but you certainly can handle all these steps on your own. If you have a budget for the convenience of a profressional agent, or if your destination or airline requires pets travel as manifest cargo or owners plan to fly separately from their pet then IPATA, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association, has a useful online list of member companies to search.

Where can I get more information?

See SCAA's detailed information about in-cabin transport, excess baggage transport and cargo transport here, as well as special requirements for the U.K.

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Pet Relocation Agents

For pet transport, there's a wide variety of people out there calling themselves agents.

Second Chance Animal Aid suggests owners start a search for pet relocation agents first through personal recommendations if friends have used an agent and are happy with their service, getting pets home safely and comfortably.

A good starting point is the International Pet and Animal Transport Association (IPATA). IPATA is a non-profit trade association whose members are dedicated to providing the highest professional pet moving services.

Some IPATA-member pet transport agents, whose business focus is purely on domestic and international pet moves,SCAA is familiar with the following agents from adopters' positive experience:


With so many changes announced so frequently over the past 2-3 years, pet owners should use travel advice and experiences as a good starting reference, and double check policies are current.

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