Bringing dogs from the US to Taiwan, Part 1: The decision, process and paperwork

In 2018, we decided to temporarily relocate to Taiwan from the US, and made the choice to bring Lion along with us. This was a difficult decision, because of four major challenges: 

  1. Long planning time: There is 6-8 months of planning and “waiting time” before Lion could land in Taiwan. We delayed our relocation to accommodate this timeline.
  2. Risk/stress in cargo: Non-service dogs need to fly in cargo (not allowed in cabin for international flights). Lion has never liked the crate, and was not used to moving vehicles (we walk everywhere in NYC).
  3. Risk/stress in quarantine: Dogs arriving from rabies regions are subject to a mandatory 1 week quarantine. Most of the US is a rabies region (including NY which is where Lion has been living), except for Hawaii and Guam.
  4. High cost: All in, getting Lion to Taiwan cost us $1,141 including his “plane ticket”, which is definitely not cheap! If you can afford to do so, hiring a pet relocation company could make this process significantly easier on your end – but it would also cost more.

We ultimately made the decision to bring him to Taiwan because 1) Lion doesn’t acclimate to new people easily (we would have to board him with someone in the US if he didn’t come along), 2) We planned to be in Taiwan for 1 year (significant amount of time), 3) He is young and healthy, and can handle the long flight in cargo and quarantine period, and 4) We couldn’t imagine being away from him for potentially 1 year (that’s 7 human years!).

I found the preparation and travel process a bit daunting, only because there wasn’t one “official” guide readily available that explained the entire process and experience. I had to piece the information together from many different sources, in two different languages. Since we are certainly not the last ones to make this trip, we thought we’d share what we learned throughout the process, to help those who are looking to bring their pup along their journey to Taiwan!

This three part series is broken down into the following posts, that focus on different parts of the experience:

  • Process and paperwork: All the planning ahead that needs to be done, before your dog can land in Taiwan. Note that for Taiwan specifically, you will need to start collecting paperwork and conducting tests at least 6 months ahead of arrival, but likely longer depending on your dog’s immunity to rabies, vaccination and microchip situation. So I highly recommend you start reviewing this section 8 months ahead of your planned journey!
  • US departure & Taiwan arrival: What to expect when bringing your dog to their airport for the flight to Taiwan. What to expect when arriving in Taiwan, what you get to do and not do.
  • Quarantine & pick up at quarantine facility: How to manage the mandatory week long separation from your pup, and how to schedule a visit. How to successfully pick up your pup from quarantine!

PROCESS AND PAPERWORK

The entire planning process took us about 7 months, but I recommend starting 8 months before your intended travel date to give yourself some buffer and time to learn. Below I painfully detail all the major steps, along with copies of our paperwork whenever I thought would be helpful. The paperwork in this part cost $691, excluding his “plane ticket” which turned out to be $275 on EVA air. I highly recommend getting a dedicated folder for all this documentation, making multiple copies of all the documents, because it is a LOT and you don’t want any of it to get lost!

  1. Make sure your dog is Microchipped
    • All dogs must have a ISO 11784/11785 compliant pet microchip that has 15 digits and is non-encrypted. Ask your vet or groomer to scan your dog’s microchip to make sure that it works and that it meets those requirements.
    • If your dog’s microchip is another format, it might still be okay – just bring your own microchip scanner to Taiwan.
    • The microchip must be implanted before the last rabies vaccine is administered or that rabies vaccine will not “count.”
  2. Make sure your dog has received a rabies vaccine in the last year and obtain a Vaccination Certificate
    • Dogs must receive their most recent rabies vaccine or booster within 1 year of arrival to Taiwan, even if they weren’t technically “overdue,” and they must have been at least 90 days old at vaccination.
    • Prepare a Vaccination Certificate with your vet, which must include the following information in English: Pet Details (breed, DOB, color/markings, sex, age), microchip, date of inoculation and validity period, lot/serial number, manufacturer and product name,‘inactive’ or ‘killed virus’ used. I actually recommend using the Vaccination Certificate form created by BAPHIQ (organization responsible for animals entering Taiwan), which has all the necessary fields in a clear format. BAPHIQ’s Vaccination Certificate can be found here.
    • Make sure your dog’s microchip number is listed here, and their breed listed on this form is consistent with all other forms!
    • Cost: Our vet charged us about $75 for the consultation and preparation of the vaccination certificate.
Vaccination Certificate
  1. Get Rabies Antibody Titer Test for Export (“FAVN”)
    • This important step is the reason why you need to start planning at least 6 months ahead of your dog’s arrival in Taiwan!  
    • Also known as FAVN (Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization), the Rabies Antibody Titer Test is commonly required by many rabies-free regions in order for dogs to qualify for a reduced quarantine period prior to entry from a rabies region – and Taiwan is one of those countries. This test measures your dog’s immune system’s response to the rabies vaccine, and must be conducted by a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) or Taiwan’s BAPHIQ approved laboratory. In the USA, Kansas State University Diagnostic Laboratory in a popular laboratory that meets all the requirements
    • To “pass” this test, dogs must get their blood drawn by a vet, sent to the lab for the neutralizing antibody titer test, and receive a result showing titer of at least 0.5 IU/ml rabies antibodies in the blood, 6 – 12 months prior to arrival in Taiwan. Any titer tests conducted on blood serum drawn outside of the 6 – 12 month period are invalid for Taiwan import purposes. Your vet should be able to coordinate the entire process with Kansas State University and give you the final titer test result document.
      • If your dog “fails” this test (i.e., less than 0.5 IU/mL), then your dog will have to receive a rabies booster shot AND then undergo the titer test again – until they get a successful >0.5 IU/mL result. The earliest your dog can arrive in Taiwan, is 6 months from the blood draw date of the last “successful” titer test. Lion actually “failed” his first titer, and had to get a rabies booster before getting a second titer test.
      • It typically takes 3-4 weeks for you to get the lab results back, so if you are in a rush or if you think there’s a chance your dog might “fail” the first test – you may want to consider paying the STAT “rush” fee to get your lab results back in 2 weeks.
    • If your dog was born and raised or spent the last 6 months in a rabies-free region, they will likely not need a rabies titer test.
    • Cost: We paid $345 total for the titer test (July 2018), which included both the lab fee and the vet fee – and the vet fee varies quite a bit. As of June 2019, Kansas State University website listed FAVN lab fees at: $90 FAVN test + $25 courier fee + optional $165 STAT (i.e., “rush”) fee if you need it in less than 3 weeks. Don’t forget to add your vet fee to estimate total cost, since they will be responsible for drawing blood, and all the administrative aspects of this test! This was the single most expensive procedure in preparation for the trip.
FAVN Report Form showing “passing” titer of 3.46 IU/mL
  1. Book plane tickets & reserve cargo space
    • Once your dog has “passed” the FAVN titer test (>0.5 IU/mL), you can start booking your flight to Taiwan! The earliest your dog can land in Taiwan is 180 days after the “serum draw date” on the FAVN report form, and the latest your dog can land in Taiwan is 364 days after that serum draw date.
    • Animals may only arrive into Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, and your flight should arrive Monday – Friday, between 4AM – 11AM, and not on a major holiday. Arrival day/hours is important because the quarantine counter at the airport is only staffed during regular business days/hours, and there is only one transportation shuttle to the quarantine center at 1PM everyday. If you miss it, your dog must wait inside the crate until the next shuttle. If you’re planning to arrive on a holiday, call to make sure that they will be staffed to accommodate your arrival.
    • Once you have found a good flight, but before you book the ticket:
      • Confirm there is quarantine space at your preferred quarantine facility for your arrival dates online here.
      • Call the airline and ask the following questions: 1) Is there space for your dog in cargo? (most airlines only carry up to 2 pets per flight), 2) When is the earliest you can reserve a cargo spot for your dog? (the earliest you can book that spot is typically 30 days before the flight), and 3) Can the airline transport your dog (breed & size) and travel crate at that time of the year? (airlines have different crate size, breed, and seasonal travel restrictions)
    • 30 days before the flight (or the earliest possible), call the airline to book your dog’s spot in cargo.
    • Cost: Different airlines charge pets as checked luggage differently, but we paid about $275 for each leg of the trip for Lion (~40 lb dog) on EVA air.
  2. Apply for an Import Permit & Reserve Quarantine Space
    • At this point, you have already confirmed that there is quarantine space at your preferred quarantine facility for your arrival dates in the prior step and booked the flight.
    • At least 20 days before your arrival, apply for an import permit and book your quarantine space with Taiwan’s BAPHIQ online here. I would actually recommend you do this as soon as possible, once you have the Vaccination Certificate, the FAVN Report Form and the flight booked since processing can take a few days and there really is no reason to wait.
Online application for Import Permit
  • When BAPHIQ sends you an email with your import permit, and other documents, look through all the documents to ensure details are correct – and respond to that email with your flight number, arrival date and time (along with any corrections necessary).
First page of the Import Permit
  1. Obtain a Veterinary Certificate for Export from your USDA accredited vet
    • Well before your trip, make sure your vet is USDA accredited. If they are not, ask them to recommend one who is – or you can contact your state’s NVAP coordinator for help locating one.
    • Within 10 days of US departure, go to your USDA accredited vet to obtain a Veterinary Certificate. Bring your dog, your dog’s complete health records (if the vet doesn’t already have it), and a printed Veterinary Certificate Form so that your USDA accredited vet can conduct a physical and complete the form for you. Make sure the vet signs the form in ink, and I always ask for extra copies just in case. Make sure you have the latest version of the Veterinary Certificate Form, which can be found on APHIS’ website here.
    • Note that a mutt must have a “primary” breed assigned, “mix” is not acceptable. Have your vet select a primary breed (i.e., “golden retriever mix”) that is ideally not a commonly restricted breed, and make sure it is consistently listed across all documentation.
    • Cost: Depends on the vet, ours charged around $150 for the health checkup and filling out the Veterinary Certificate for Export
  2. Get your Veterinary Certificate for Export endorsed by the USDA
    • Well before your trip, call or email to schedule an in-person appointment with your state’s USDA office to happen as soon as possible after your vet visit to obtain your Veterinary Certificate for Export. You can find the USDA office for your state and contact information here. If in-person appointments are not possible, you may have to submit documents via mail.
    • Bring the following items when mailing/coming in for endorsement:
      • ORIGINAL Veterinary Certificate for Export – An extra one is handy in case it gets lost in the mail. This health certificate MUST be completed, signed and dated by a USDA accredited veterinarian
      • Rabies vaccination certificate
      • Rabies titer test results
      • Import permit
      • Payment for endorsement services (they accept user fee account, check, money order, credit/debit card)
      • If submitted via mail, a prepaid, pre-addressed return shipping label (FedEx, UPS, USPS). The “TO” and “FROM” name/address should be your own. Return shipping labels that contain a USDA address may be rejected.
    • Cost: We paid $121.00 for the endorsement in December 2018 at the Hawaii USDA office, here is the fee schedule
Veterinary Certificate for Export that has been endorsed by the USDA
  1. Last, but not least, Acclimation
    • No amount of training will prepare your pup for what is about to come, but it can definitely make your pet’s experience a little less frightening – so I suggest starting as soon as you know you will be making this trip!
    • As soon as possible, at the very least 2 months before your trip, purchase the travel crate that your dog will be using and make sure your dog tolerates it enough to be in there for at least as long as your flight – and ideally without your presence in the room. Airlines each have a different crate requirements, so make sure you read their requirements thoroughly. We used this travel kennel in 30″ height that was acceptable for both United Airlines and EVA Air.
    • Make sure your dog knows how to use whatever water dispenser you choose (we used something like this), and have everything they need to be comfortable in the crate. A few suggested items in the crate are: comfortable dog bed liner, anxiety vest, well worn and unwashed piece of clothing that smells like you. Make sure you check your airline for items that are allowed in the crate, United did not allow anything in there except for bedding while EVA allowed an anxiety vest and a piece of clothing.
  2. Pro tip: You can send all the documentation to Taiwan’s BAPHIQ and ask them to look over for you, to make sure you got everything right!

Continue to Part 2: US departure and Taiwan arrival >

Now tell us… Have you traveled internationally with your dog? How was your experience?

Please note that the information here is accurate for healthy pet dogs traveling as your checked luggage in cargo, on the same flight as you, from the US (excluding Hawaii and Guam) to Taiwan as of January 2019. There may be changes at any point, and we cannot guarantee that this stays updated. We highly recommend you double check all the linked resources to make sure you are following the latest protocols. 

Kelly

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