Back from abroad, with pets in tow

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 28, 2013 

To move her four pets from South Korea to Singapore last April, marketing director Lovey Chin paid a sum roughly equivalent to an economy air ticket for each of them.

The Singaporean, who was returning home after working in Seoul for 1½ years, hired South Korea-based pet travel agency The First Class Pet to help with travel arrangements.

She paid between $11,000 and $12,000 for the agency's handling fees, the cost of her pets' flights, miscellaneous costs such as blood tests and a 30-day stay in a quarantine centre here, which is required by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) for cats and dogs imported from South Korea.

Ms Chin, 37, says: "It's a very painful process to bring them here, there is a lot of paperwork and you have to plan three to six months in advance to do a rabies vaccination and coordinate everything.

"But when you have dogs and cats, you have them for life. I had to take them with me when I moved."

Two of her dogs and one cat were adopted in Korea and one dog was adopted when she lived in Hong Kong in 2009.

Documents such as a veterinary health certificate and an import licence have to be in order before animals are allowed into Singapore. Animals from some countries must have certain vaccinations and blood tests done. It can take up to six months to get pets ready to be imported to Singapore.

Companies here that specialise in pet import and export include Mitchville and Shiloh Animal Express.

Handling fees for such services are between $350 and $1,000. The cost of air freight to Singapore usually starts from the price of an economy-class air ticket for humans and can go up to the price of a business-class ticket, depending on factors such as the weight of the pet and destination.

For Ms Amanda Lim, however, the Norwegian forest cat she bought in Hong Kong earlier this month travelled with her back here for free.

"My cat travelled for free as it was part of my baggage - it took up about 8kg of the 30kg limit. It wasn't stressful for me, you just have to plan in advance.

"The breeder I bought it from made sure it met all the health requirements," says Ms Lim, 26, who owns an entertainment company.

She arranged for the cat to be on her Singapore Airlines flight as part of checked-in baggage and it travelled in a carrier placed in the air-conditioned cargo compartment beneath the passenger cabin.

This is one of two kinds of pet travel for cats and some breeds of dogs that Singapore Airlines offers on selected flights.

The other option on Singapore Airlines involves the pet being checked in and collected from the cargo terminals of the flight's departure and arrival airports. Airlines such as Qantas and British Airways also offer various travel options for pets.

Travel charges for pets can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

While Ms Lim's cat did not have to be quarantined when it arrived here, dogs and cats imported from places such as the United States and Malaysia must be quarantined at AVA for periods of up to 30 days (go to for details). This is to prevent the spread of rabies in Singapore.

Quarantine fees in the AVA's Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station cost $16.80 a day for a dog or cat for non-air-conditioned accommodation and $26.25 for air-conditioned accommodation.

Owners are allowed to visit their pets there.

Bird-farm owner Nichol Tan, 41, did that every two to three days when his Taiwan-bought shetland sheepdog was quarantined there for 10 days.

"I was a bit worried about my dog but I felt better after I went to visit it and spent an hour with it once every two to three days," he says.

But for Ms Pauline Chen, 38, a freelance sales consultant in the telecommunications industry, being separated from her cat was tough.

The Singaporean lived in Malaysia for two years and moved back here in June this year.

Her cat arrived here in August and was quarantined for 30 days.

She says: "He was not comfortable with the new environment and ate very little during his stay there. I was counting down the days to when he would be allowed to come home with me. "

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 28, 2013

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