One of the downsides of travelling to Australia with your dog (or living in Australia and travelling internationally with a dog), is quarantine. Unless you’re travelling from Norfolk Island or New Zealand (a pretty short list!) your dog is required to stay in quarantine when it enters Australia. I was pretty anxious about my dog’s stay, and I can understand that most other pet owners will also be anxious. So I’ve put together everything I can find out about your dog’s stay in post entry quarantine in Australia to ease your concerns.
Quarantine Rules for Dogs Entering Australia
I’ve previously written about the process for returning to Australia with my dog, which involved lots of preparation steps. Despite all this preparation, cats and dogs entering Australia also need to stay in quarantine. The standard stay in quarantine for dogs and cats is 10 days. This is the minimum period; there is a chance a longer stay may be required. (The rules are only slightly different for assistance dogs, with the option for an isolated stay at a nominated address.)
So, why is a quarantine stay required, despite your dog already having a rabies titre test, multiple other blood tests and both internal and external parasite treatments (and checks)? The official statement is that the post-entry quarantine “allows biosecurity and veterinary officers sufficient times to assess that … animals are healthy and are not carrying diseases or parasites”. In particular, they will ensure “there are no exotic ticks on cats and dogs as ticks can also carry diseases.” Australia is very strict on biosecurity, as it is free of many animal diseases and the authorities want to keep it that way.
If your dog is discovered to have an issue that increases the biosecurity risk, they will need to stay in quarantine for longer. For example, if a tick is found on your dog, it is stated that they will need to stay for at least 21-30 days, until blood testing can be repeated (at your own cost, of course).
The Post Entry Quarantine Facility in Mickleham
There is currently a single post entry quarantine facility in Australia for the majority of animals, including dogs and cats arriving in Australia. It is located on the northern outskirts of Melbourne in the suburb of Mickleham.
Due to its location in Melbourne, your dog should fly into Melbourne International Airport, from where it will be immediately transported to the quarantine facility by Department of Agriculture and Water Resources staff. Additionally, your dog should arrive during certain hours on weekdays only, to facilitate this.
The Mickleham post entry quarantine facility is a large, recently built facility set on 144 hectares. It caters for a wide range of plants and animals including dogs, cats, horses, alpacas, pigeons and bees. It only started accepting dogs and cats in November 2015, with a second stage that increased its capacity opening in late 2017. During its first three months of operation 525 dogs and 220 cats passed through the facility.
But what are the facilities like for your dog? There aren’t many details on the official website, but I managed to track down some details and photos on this government website and this newspaper story. So, the dog compound is huge – comparable in size to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. There are 400 climate-controlled kennels for dogs, each featuring an attached outdoor exercise area and underfloor heating.
Dogs are allocated to an individual kennel (they can’t share a kennel due to the need to carefully monitor them), but if you are importing multiple dogs they will try to house them in adjacent kennels.
The dog compound also includes additional exercise yards and naturally veterinary examination rooms. There is also a suite of isolation pens, for when a biosecurity risk has been detected.
For more details, see this official page.
Can You Visit Your Dog in Quarantine?
When the standard quarantine stay for dogs in Australia was longer, it was possible to visit your pet during their stay in quarantine. However, since the reduction of the standard quarantine stay to 10 days, visits are no longer permitted. This is because of the busy schedule in place to manage the administrative and biosecurity requirements to prepare your pet for release in just 10 days.
If your pet does require a longer stay in quarantine, there is the possibility that you may be able to visit your pet, following discussions with the manager.
Life for Dogs in Post Entry Quarantine
During your dog’s stay in quarantine, all of their needs are looked after by the staff of the facility, including feeding, bedding and exercise.
It’s not possible to send food with your dog for their stay in quarantine. Any food sent in their crate from overseas will be destroyed on arrival due to the biosecurity risk. As a standard, all dogs are fed a “high quality, nutritionally balanced commercial dry food”, provided by the quarantine facility, once per day.
It’s possible to request a special diet for your dog when booking their stay in quarantine. This request must be accompanied by a veterinary statement. For example, I requested my small dog to be fed twice per day, instead of once per day, as is common practice for small dogs.
If approval is given for your dog to be fed a special diet, then you need to source it in Australia and have it sent to the quarantine facility.
It’s also not possible to send bedding with your dog for their stay in quarantine in Australia. Any bedding that is sent in their crate (plus soft toys and comfort items) will be destroyed on arrival due to the likelihood of soiling plus the biosecurity risk. (However, it’s still a good idea to provide your dog with this for the flight.) Instead, the facility states that they provide bedding for dogs and cats suitable for their breed and age.
Exercise & Grooming
When it comes to exercise, it is stated that most animals will have sufficient exercise from their individual kennel run, plus the additional exercise areas. Department of Agriculture and Water Resources staff will ensure that your pet receives sufficient exercise, and if veterinary advice recommends additional exercise is required, departmental staff will provide it.
Grooming and bathing will also be provided if required by departmental staff, but only for biosecurity or hygiene reasons. If you dog requires specialised grooming during their staff, this needs to be discussed with the facility manager.
Release from Post Entry Quarantine
If all goes to plan, your dog should be released exactly 10 days after they are admitted into quarantine. This is what occurred with my dog, plus multiple other dogs whose owners I spoke to.
You will receive a status update from the quarantine facility confirming this. In my case, the release date was getting close and I hadn’t yet heard anything (as it was a busy time of year), so I called up to check. Note that you may only receive this notification a couple of days beforehand – just because you haven’t received it yet, doesn’t mean your pets release will be delayed.
On the release day, your pet (plus their transport crate) needs to be collected by 10am and 12pm. The collection address is 135 Donnybrook Road Mickleham, entering from Polaris Road.
If you are not personally collecting your pet, you need to specify the authorised agent on the import permit. This is what you will need to do if you live interstate, and will be using a pet transport company to pick up your pet and fly them to your state, like happened in my case.
My Experience of My Dog’s Stay in Quarantine
My dog, Schnitzel, had flown all around the world and had previously had a short stay at a kennel without any issues, so I wasn’t too worried about his reaction to quarantine, but it still didn’t stop me from being anxious.
Probably the toughest part about his stay was the lack of updates. Unlike a kennel where you often receive photo updates and can ring up and easily talk to the person looking after him, there’s more bureaucratic with less updates during your pet’s stay in quarantine.
My first update about my dog was received about 4 hours after the arrival of his flight into Melbourne. It was a short automated email stating that he had “arrived in post entry quarantine (PEQ) and is undergoing initial quarantine checks, which can take up to 48 hours”. I tried to call to find out more, but there was going to be a long wait time, so I sent off an email. I didn’t receive a reply until about 2 days later, stating he had “arrived safe and well, he is eating all and toileting. Settling in nicely!”, plus his arrival weight.
Nearly a week after his arrival, the Thursday before his expected release on the Monday morning, I called up to find out further information. His state in the departmental system hadn’t changed from “undergoing initial quarantine checks”. I waited on the phone for over 20 minutes, to find out all was going fine and he should be release on the Monday, that I would be received an update soon once his final check had been complete. I was also informed he was eating, toileting, plus – he was friendly! (No surprises, he loves people, especially if they give him food.)
The next day on the Friday, I receive the official system update that my dog had “complied with the required initial quarantine checks and is due to complete post entry quarantine (PEQ) shortly”, with a link to book his release appointment. I also received an invoice to pay the recovery of the airline handling charge ($97) for his arrival, something that needed to be done before his release.
And that was it! I didn’t personally visit the post quarantine facility in Mickleham, as I was staying in Sydney. Instead, I confirmed with my pet transport company that he was booked in to be released as expected, at their selected time. They picked him up on the Monday and flew him from Melbourne to Sydney, where I was reunited with Schnitzel. He was very happy to see us and in good spirits. The only thing was he had lost a little weight, but we weren’t too concerned as he had weighed a little more than we prefer when he went into quarantine.
Contacting the Mickleham Post Entry Quarantine Facility
It’s possible to contact the Mickleham post entry quarantine facility by both email and phone.
If phoning the facility, their number is 1800 900 090 (inside Australia) or +61 3 8318 6700 (outside Australia). However, be warned that it’s normal to have a long wait on hold, around 30 minutes based on my experience and other reports. Also note that phone calls will only be answered during office hours of 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
It might be better to email the facility, unless you are requiring an immediate response (well, within the next hour!) The email address is: PEQservices@agriculture.gov.au.
If you wish to provide feedback following your pet’s stay in quarantine, it is possible to do this using the options listed on this page