How to import your pets in 8 steps (updated September 2018)
Few things make a house feel like home more than having your furry family members there with you…or having their hair on your toothbrush and everything else you own. So of course, you’re going to bring your pets along with you when you move to or from Malaysia. They’re your family, after all, and no one gets left behind. It’ll require a little bit of work, but don’t worry, I’ll break it all down for you in 8 easy-to-follow steps. And I’ll provide lots of helpful resources, too.
You can do most of this yourself, with a little help from an import agent to manage the trickier bits, which is the most affordable way to go. Or you can hire a full-service pet relocation company to do it all for you, which offers peace of mind but it’ll cost you a lot more. I’ll cover all the options below, including contacts.
Just so you know that I’m not some robot stringing together links off the internet, these are our three cats who we brought with us from California to Malaysia. That’s Waffles (above) in the suitcase. And this is Mango (left), who is the world’s best emergency breakfast alert system. And Long Socks, who wants you to know he’s not fat – he’s “prosperous.” 🙂
When we were moving to Malaysia, I couldn’t find any online resource that outlined the entire process for importing our pets to Malaysia or exporting them from the US, so I got a few “wisdom highlights” (otherwise known as white hairs) while figuring out all the necessary steps. And then I went through it all again when I rescued this adorable dog (below) from a beach in Penang and exported/flew him to a rescue group in California (where he found a great home – that’s him with his new mom).
To save you from incurring “silver streaks of stress,” I’ve compiled all the information here for you and I’ll use examples of our certificates and permits throughout this article. The process is actually pretty easy, and it’s totally worth the effort. Some of the steps may even overlap for you to make things easier, like the health certification/vaccination needs of your export country and that of Malaysia. So let’s dig in, shall we? Here are the 8 steps for importing your pets to Malaysia – scroll down for details on each step:
- Start early
- Check to make sure that your pets meet the import requirements
- Check your airline’s pet transport requirements and book passage for them
- Obtain an import permit from the Malaysian government for each pet
- Get a veterinary certification within 7 days of your pet’s flight, and a 15-digit microchip
- Check with your home country’s Department of Veterinary Services or Department of Agriculture for export requirements
- Book the quarantine stay and visit your pets while they’re in quarantine
- Arrival procedures
And at the end of these steps, I’ll also break down the costs and list pet import agents and relocation companies.
So now for the details…
1. Start early!
Depending on your country of origin, the process can take a few months, and there can also be delays due to vaccination needs, illnesses or errors. So start the process as soon as you know you’re going to be relocating.
2. Check to make sure that your pets meet the import requirements.
There’s no limit on the number of pets you can import, but they must all be a minimum of 3 months old.
Certain vaccinations are required for pets being imported to Malaysia, and the list of mandatory vaccines changes frequently, so be sure to ask your import agent about current requirements. (See point #4 below about how to find an import agent). Note that there may be some special out-of-the-ordinary vaccinations that Malaysia requires for your pet, which may take your vet some time to find. For example, the “horse flu” vaccine for dogs is a recent Malaysian requirement that has thrown lots of people for a loop. So be sure to ask your Malaysian import agent about current vaccination requirements and get your pets vaccinated as soon as you can.
Also, if you have a dog, be sure to check that his/her breed is not banned from Malaysia – here’s the link: dog breeds banned from Malaysia.
Some of those banned breeds include Akita, Bulldogs and Pit Bulls. (What’s up with banning sweet doggies?!)
There are also “restricted” dog breeds (also listed in the above link), and if your dog happens to be one of them, you can still import your dog by first obtaining written approval from the Director of State Veterinary Services. To do so, you’ll have to write a letter (or have your import agent do so on your behalf) with the following information:
i. Importer’s name (that’s you)
ii. Importer’s telephone number
iii. Breed of dog
iv. Age of dog
vi. 15-digit Microchip ID number
vii. Country of origin (exporting country)
viii. Pedigree Certificate issued by an approved organization in the exporting country which clearly defines the dog’s microchip ID number
ix. Vaccination record of the dog
x. The residence/premise address in Malaysia where the dog will be placed after import
In the letter, it’s critical that you state that the purpose of importing your dog is because your dog is your pet. (I think this is because they don’t want people to bring in restricted-listed dogs for the purpose of breeding them).
Normally, you’d have to submit that letter to the Director of State Veterinary Services via their website, but sometimes their website is down for several months at a time. So you may need your import agent submit this letter for you in person. (See section #4 for the names/contacts of import agents).
3. Check your airline’s pet transport requirements and book passage.
Most airlines have a section of their websites dedicated to international pet travel. Be sure to check for certain key issues, such as:
- Does the airline require you to have a pet relocation agent? (Some do).
- Can your pet travel in the cabin with you, or must they fly in cargo? *
- Pet crate requirements.
- In-crate drinking/feeding kit requirements.
- Restrictions on animal breeds. (For example, some airlines won’t transport any snub-nosed dogs or cats).
- If your flight has an international transfer, will your pet require a transit permit, and if so, will the airline help you obtain that?
- Fees for transporting your pet.
- Required forms, and veterinary health records/certifications requirements.
* The most frequent question that readers ask me is: “Can my pets travel in the cabin with me from my home country to Malaysia?” Yes, some airlines allow it. Note: The Malaysian government site states that pets cannot fly in cabin from international locations into Malaysia, but this is untrue. It’s old information – their site has just not been updated at the time of publishing this story. Some pet import companies also don’t know that this is possible, and give out incorrect information to their clients. In September 2018, OhMyExpatLife blog reader Tara S. imported her cats from the US to Kuala Lumpur and her cats traveled in the cabin with her. Her story is on the bottom of this article. According to Tara, who did extensive research on this: “There are several airlines that do allow pets in the cabin that land in Kuala Lumpur. Korean Air is a great airline and this was my first choice but all the flights were landing at night and my babies would have been stuck in some office at the airport until the next day so we chose to go with KLM. There advertise as the ‘pet friendliest’ airline around.” So if you really want your pets to travel in-cabin instead of in the pet cargo hold, definitely call around to various airlines to find one that will allow you do so, and that has a route to Malaysia that is suitable for you and your pets.
4. Obtain an import permit from the Malaysian government for each pet.
Within 30 days of your pet’s flight into Malaysia, you must get an import permit for each pet from the State Director or Director General of Veterinary Services. You’ll need a licensed import agent to apply for this (see below). Your import agent will let you know what is required to obtain the import permit for a pet coming from your country of origin, such as a current copy of your pet’s health records and vaccinations. Here’s the import permit we were issued:
Here are two really good import agents:
Best Way Global Services
(This is who we used – CL was great! He’s affordable, responsive, diligent and he took care of booking our quarantine stay, too.)
(I’ve not used CTI myself, but I heard good things about CTI from friends in KL who hired them to import their pets.)
5. Get a “veterinary certification” within 7 days of your pet’s flight, and a 15-digit microchip for each pet.
Malaysia requires that your veterinarian create an official health certificate with the name, age, description and microchip number of your pet. This must be issued within 7 days of your pet’s flight. Also, be sure that your pet’s chip is a 15-digit international microchip or your pet will be denied entry to the country.
The veterinary certificate must include the following (as per the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs):
A. The animal has been examined and found to be healthy and free from any clinical sign of rabies and infectious or contagious diseases of dog/cat, at the time of examination and certification, prior to export.
B. The animal has been vaccinated against rabies using an approved anti-rabies vaccine, prior to export.
C. The vaccination history status, treatment given and health status of the animal.
The certification must also have records or your pet’s routine vaccinations. For cats, that’s the typical FVRCP series and leukemia; for dogs, it includes distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis, hepatitis and parainfulenza.
To be safe, it’s helpful to take the extra step of having your veterinarian include a letter stating that your pet is healthy enough for air travel and that there are no signs of infection or contagious diseases present.
Note: the rabies vaccine must be administered between 30 days to 12 months prior to your pet’s flight to Malaysia. Also note that unlike some countries, at the moment, Malaysia does not require a rabies titer test for pets entering the country, which is good since that’s a pain in the neck. But this can change at any time, so check with your import agent.
Make at least 5 copies of the certificate and vaccination records, one for each of the following: the airline; your pet’s travel crate; transit permit (if flights connect through another country); Malaysian quarantine; and one for you.
6. Check with your home country’s Department of Veterinary Services or Department of Agriculture for export requirements.
In order for your pet to fly internationally, your home country may require you to have an animal export permit, or perhaps even a pet passport. To obtain these, you may need to supply a recent health certificate, vaccination reports and other pertinent information. You’ll probably need to fill out some paperwork, too.
For example, if your home country is the US, the pets must be examined within 7 days of the flight and your vet must fill out, sign and stamp a specific USDA form. Then you have to take that form down to a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services office (or Fedex it there) and pay a small fee, get your application approved and obtain a certification number. Here are links to the government sites of the US, UK and Australia about pet export requirements:
Here is the form that the USDA requires your veterinarian (who must be USDA accredited) to fill out for your expert permit.
7. Book the quarantine stay, and visit your pets while they’re in quarantine.
Pets flying from some countries are not subject to quarantine. At the time of writing this, those countries are: Brunei, Japan, Ireland, Singapore, and the UK. But note that your pets must still meet all the other requirements.
For pets coming from anywhere else, they must be quarantined for 7 – 10 days to make sure they’re “free of infection” (presumably just from rabies, but the quarantine office couldn’t confirm that for me). There are three pet quarantine locations in Malaysia: Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Padang Besar. Your pet will need to be quarantined at whichever airport he/she flies into.
At this time, pets with medical conditions requiring medications can sometimes get a waiver so they can have at-home quarantine instead. Your import agent will need to work with the quarantine staff to argue your case and obtain this waiver.
You can reserve your pet’s quarantine stay yourself here. Or you can ask your import agent to do this for you. The per-day rate is minimal (see below for full costs). You pay at the end of the quarantine period.
You will need to supply your pets with bedding, food, water/food dishes, toys, litter boxes, kitty litter, leashes, etc. The floor of our cats’ room was pretty dirty, so you may want to line the floor with newspaper, too. For cats, I highly recommend bringing them little cat tents (or even just boxes turned on their sides) so they’ll have somewhere to hide and feel safe. It also helps to line their bedding with some of your worn t-shirts so that your pets can be comforted by your scent.
You will need to do all the feeding/cleaning of your pets, so plan to visit them daily. Daily visits also help to ease their stress. It provides them with so much comfort to see people they love, and it helps them understand that they haven’t been abandoned, so I strongly encourage this. I was saddened to see many pets at the quarantine facility that were never visited by their owners, and the pets were understandably freaked out. Please make time to visit your pets and reassure them that they haven’t been abandoned.
If you can’t visit them certain days, your import agent may be able to arrange a feeding/cleaning service for you.
Here are the addresses and phone numbers for Malaysia’s three animal quarantine centers:
Kuala Lumpur – KLIA Animal Quarantine Station
Jalan Pekeliling 4
64050 Sepang, Selangor
Penang – Bayan Lepas Animal Quarantine Station
9583 Jalan Ban
11960 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Phone number: +60-4-6451292
Padang Besar Animal Quarantine Station
02100 Padang Besar, Perlis
Phone number: +60-4-9490230
8. Arrival procedures.
When you and your pets fly into Malaysia, you will likely not see your pets at the airport if they were transported in the cargo hold. The import agent is responsible for meeting your pets at the cargo area, waiting for the DVS representative to come, and then accompanying your pet to the quarantine facility. Usually, you will not be allowed to pick up your pet or accompany them to the facility. But if you land during office hours of the quarantine facility, you’ll be able to go and see your pets as soon as they’re checked in, which I highly recommend so you can help them settle in.
While individual costs will vary, here’s what we paid for our 3 cats to be flown from California to Penang, to be imported into Malaysia and quarantined in Penang:
USDA Certification: $38 USD
Flight: $863 USD for three cats on Cathay Pacific
Transit fee for Hong Kong airport: $110
Import Agent costs:
- MAQIS Import Permit application for 3 cats – RM220
- Custom clearance – RM250
- Delivery to quarantine station – RM 60
- Seven days quarantine charge – RM128 per cat
- EDI Documentation / Custom document / FCZ – RM85
Total cost for all 3 cats: RM5043 (about $1260 USD)
…and it was worth every penny to have our three furry family members here with us. They think so too.
Full service pet relocation services
If you decide to go the full-service route, here are some turnkey pet relocation services. Please note that I don’t have any experience with these companies since we only used an import agent, so you’ll need to research the reputability and the costs of these companies yourself:
JetPets (this one is particularly popular for Australian pet importing/exporting)
Also, International Pet and Animal Transport Association has a database full of pet shippers who are members of their association, which you can access here.
Experience of an OhMYExpatLife Reader
In September 2018, Tara S. imported her cats from New Mexico (United States) to Kuala Lumpur. She followed the steps outlined in this article and did much of the legwork herself, and hired a Malaysian pet import agent in KL to help out with paperwork filing and in-country logistics. She has kindly offered to share her experiences so others may learn from it:
Phew! That was a lot of info!
Please let me know if this article is helpful to you, and feel free to ask me any questions you like. Before we moved, I was super stressed out by the thought of hauling our cats to Malaysia and was worried that we’d have to jump through a ton of hoops to make it happen. Our little guys mean the world to us and this process scared the pants off of me. But thanks to thorough preparation, it all turned out fine for us, and I’m sure it will for you, too.