When you look at a retriever pup, you automatically fantasize about how fun and cute it would be to have one as a pet. All you see are its adoring look from those sparkling and innocent-looking eyes, cute little puppy paws, wagging tail and soft fluffy coat. What you won’t think of at that moment is how much work, responsibility and financial commitment you need to engage in when owning a pet.
A pet requires more than just cuddles, praises and play time. It needs to have a comfortable, clean and safe living condition. Above all, a pet depends completely on its owner for food and water. Hence, if you’re someone who tends to travel a lot or need to leave your pet alone for long periods of time, you should really think twice about owning a pet.
As an expat, it’s even harder when you are considering having a pet. It comes a time when you have to make a decision on what to do with your pet when you leave the country. I’ve seen some expats who left their pets in the care of unwilling friends or colleagues who agreed to adopt their pets out of obligation. These pets, once used to having first class treatment, suddenly found themselves in a state of total confusion and loveless relationships with their new owners. The only person to be blamed for this is its previous owner; not the pet or the new owner. Dumping your pet on someone else is a selfish and irresponsible action.
However, if an expat decides to take their pet with them, the next challenge is to import the pet into a new country. It can be a daunting, frustrating and stressful process. I recently had such an experience and notice that there is a lack of proper information out there to assist pet owners in this process. It took us months to research the information online and dozens of phone calls to the veterinary clinics in Phnom Penh, Veterinary Services Department of Malaysia, KLIA Quarantine Department and Malaysian Airlines.
So, for this post, I would like to share some crucial information concerning the importation of pets (particularly a cat) from Cambodia to Malaysia. Once you know what to do, it actually facilitates the process and reduces a lot of the stress for you and your pet.
Documents needed to import a pet into Malaysia:
1. Import permit/license
In order to obtain this permit, you need to send your pet for relevant vaccinations. For Malaysia, their main concern is rabies. The vaccination must not be less than 30 days upon the date of importation. This means, your pet must be vaccinated for rabies at least one month (but not more than one year) before it travels to Malaysia. Make sure that your vet provides you with a vaccination book containing clear and precise information of your pet with the official vaccine sticker (name and code) and the date of vaccination. It must also be stamped and signed by the vet.
If you’re unable to apply for a permit in Malaysia, you need to send or fax a copy of the vaccination record to your family, friend or pet relocation agent who will need it for the application process.
Once this is done, you need to fill up a form (Form A) which can be obtained at the Department of Veterinary Services of Malaysia or downloaded from their website here. You don’t necessarily have to fill or sign the form personally but the person handling the application should have your contact details and the information of your pet’s date of departure, flight number and other details. (Please refer to the form for all the particulars needed.)
There are several Department of Veterinary Services in Malaysia. I know of two if the applicant lives in the region of Selangor or Kuala Lumpur.
Department of Veterinary Services
5th floor, Podium Block 1A, 4G1,Wisma Tani, Precinct 4, 62630 Putrajaya, Malaysia
Tel: +603 8870 2213 or 8870 2381/82/93/84, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Section 15, Kawasan Perindustrian Shah Alam, Selangor
Tel: +603 5510 3900
I would advice you to call the department up for directions as well as operating time. They are very helpful and efficient. The whole application process usually takes around 30 minutes if you have all the necessary documents. You also need to pay RM5 for the permit.
Once the permit is obtained, you should have two copies as the airline, upon check-in, and the quarantine officer at the arrival terminal will most likely ask for it.
2. Veterinary health certificate
You must obtain an official certificate of health for your pet from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Cambodia. This must be in Bahasa Malaysia or English only. For other countries, you need to get the same from the relevant ministry dealing with veterinary services.
This certificate is only valid within seven days upon departure of your pet. This means, the certificate expires or will not be accepted if it’s dated more than seven days before your pet’s travel. It must also carry the official stamp as well as the correct information of your pet, the owner and the date of travel.
Clinic Animal Navetco (#45A, Street 178 & 318, Phnom Penh, Tel: +855 (0) 12 587 085) assists with the application of this certificate at a fee of US$50. It takes about 3 to 4 days to process. So do plan your schedule carefully.
Agrovet (#26, Street 294, Phnom Penh, Tel: +855 (0) 23 216 323) does assist as well but according to them, they can only produce an unofficial certificate (without the official stamp) and it is acceptable by the government of Malaysia. In order to prevent any problem with immigration, I would strongly advise you to obtain an official certificate.
This original certificate is crucial for you to import your pet. It has to be submitted to the quarantine staff at the KLIA arrival terminal.
Preparing your pet for travel
It is essential that you prepare your pet prior to travel in order to ensure your pet’s comfort throughout the journey. Air travelling can be a traumatic experience for your pet but there are ways to reduce this stress.
1. You must transport your pet in a suitable travel carrier/crate. Do not be fooled by products that claim certification from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This is usually a marketing gimmick. As long as the crate is sturdy, locks securely, has openings for air and ventilation, contains sufficient space for your pet to stand up and shift its body position, it should be good enough.
2. You should allow your pet to get used to the travel crate before travelling. This might take a few weeks. My Pet Move provides a good video demo on how to train your pet to use the travel crate as well as choosing the right travel crate for your pet.
3. Most airlines strongly recommend that you attach a water bottle on the crate. Make sure that it’s the type that doesn’t spill. You can buy this easily from most pet shops or veterinary clinics. You also need to train your pet to use it if it’s not used to it.
4. Ideally, you might want to consider training your pet to wear a collar and use a leash before travelling. This is to allow you or the airline staff to secure your pet easily should it accidentally escapes from the crate. This is also necessary, particularly for restraining/handling dogs when it is finally released from the crate at the quarantine area.
Using a leash can be difficult for cats or dogs that are not used to wearing a collar. We didn’t manage to train our cat to wear a collar since it was too late and thankfully nothing happened.
5. It is advised for your pet’s nails to be clipped prior to travelling to prevent them from getting caught in the cage during transportation.
6. Never ever sedate your pet for the journey. It has been known to cause a lot of complication to animals and some even resulted in death. Some vets and pet owners have recommended that a small spray of lavender oil on the crate lining may help to calm your pet. However, if you wish to do so, I would advise that you try it out first with your pet before travelling. Different pets react differently to foreign objects or scents.
7. Stop feeding your pet 12 hours before travelling. This is to prevent it from throwing up or defecating during the journey.
8. Line the bottom part of the travel crate with newspapers and then lay your T-shirts or other items that contain your scent on top of the newspapers. This will help your pet to feel more at ease during travel. It is not advisable to put too many items in the travel crate in order to allow ample space for your pet and prevent the risk of suffocation should the crate experience sudden strong movement or get squeezed accidentally.
9. Stick your contact details on the inside of the travel crate. This should contain your name, address and telephone number.
10. Prepare some food for your pet and provide the airline staff with clear feeding instruction if the journey is long. It was not necessary in our case since it was only a 1 hour 50 minutes flight.
10. Make sure that the travel crate is shut securely throughout the whole journey (if you need reinforcement, you can tape around the crate with strong tapes but make sure that you do not block the air passages). I wouldn’t advise locking the crate under lock and key to prevent your pet from being trapped in the crate if something happens. What’s important is to make sure that the crate does not open up or disintegrates during transportation.
Booking and preparing your pet’s flight
1. Your pet will be checked in as excess baggage if it’s travelling with you. With Malaysian Airlines (MAS), it costs about US$12 per kg from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur. Even if your pet qualifies within your own personal luggage allowance, it will still be considered as excess baggage. So do set aside money to pay for this.
2. When booking your flight, do inform the airline that you will be bringing along a live animal with you. This can be done through the phone (+855 (0) 23 426 688/ 218 923/24) but it’s better to pay them a visit in person at #35 – 37, Street 214, Phnom Penh, so that you can get a printed copy of your bookings stating clearly that you have a live animal with you. Always ask for the number of an airline staff dealing with pets transportation in case of any complication upon checking in.
3. On the day of departure, it’s advisable to call the quarantine officer stationed at the arrival terminal in KLIA to inform them of your pet’s arrival. The office’s number is +603 878 72370. Provide them with your pet’s flight details.
4. Prepare 7 days’ worth of food (with a printed copy of clear feeding and other important instructions) for your pet during the quarantine period at the KLIA Quarantine Station. Dry food is recommended as it stays fresh. It is also advisable to bring along your pet’s favourite toys to keep your pet occupied during the quarantine period.
5. Prepare all the documents and place them in a folder. You should have 1) 2 copies of the import permit; 1 copy for the airline upon check-in and 1 copy for the quarantine officer upon arrival*, 2) 1 original copy of the veterinary health certificate for the quarantine officer and 1 copy for the airline upon checking in and 3) the original vaccination book.
*If you have the original copy of the import permit, do remember to bring it with you! Without the import permit, your pet may not be allowed to enter the country. In some cases, your pet might be quarantined for 3 months, instead of 7 days.
What to expect on the day of your pet’s travel
1. During check-in, you need to submit a copy of the import permit and veterinary health certificate to the airline.
2. Pay for the excess baggage of your pet.
3. Request the airline to check-in your pet last so that it will arrive first at the baggage claim. Your pet is not allowed to board the airplane with you and will be kept in a designated area at the cargo section.
4. Inform the airline that the designated area must be pressurized and climate controlled. There have been reported cases of pets arriving frozen. Since cats have short nasal passages, it’s particularly important that the air is pressurized. MAS provides good care for pets and they seem to know what to do but for peace of mind, some reminding doesn’t hurt.
5. Once you have arrived, you can collect your pet at the baggage claim. With MAS, the staff actually hand-carried the pet to be handed over to us. So, you may not need to worry that your pet will be mishandled upon arrival.
6. If someone other than yourself has the original copy of the import permit, the person should hand over the permit to the quarantine officer outside the arrival gate. To do this, the person should call the quarantine officer at +603 878 72370 to arrange for the permit handover prior to your pet’s arrival.
7. The quarantine officer will receive your pet, check the documents and then issue an official receipt containing the details of quarantine. They will keep the original copies of the documents as well as the vaccination book.
Keep the receipt safely as this will be used as proof that the pet belongs to you and it has been handed over to the quarantine department. You will also need the receipt to enter the quarantine station.
8. Handover the pet food and instruction to the quarantine officer.
9. From this point onwards, your pet will no longer stay in your possession. It will be transported immediately to the quarantine station by the officer. You can visit your pet immediately at the quarantine station (closes at 4pm) near the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). For direction, please ask the officer.
10. At the quarantine station, you’ll notice that it’s well organized. Each pet is kept in a secure, well-ventilated and rather spacious individual enclosure**. For cats, there is an additional smaller cage containing a litter box inside the enclosure. I was told that the cats are regularly released from the cage to roam freely in the enclosure. Since each cat is confined to a space alone, it can get very lonely. Hence, it’s a good idea to bring along some toys or other items to keep it company. I was told that dogs are allowed to be placed together.
** If you are importing more than one cat, they would normally place them together in the same enclosure.
11. You can visit your pet during the quarantine period during visiting hours (from 8am to 4pm).
12. After 7 days, your pet will be released once the quarantine authority determines that it is free from any transmittable diseases. You will have to make a payment of about
RM3 to RM4 per day per pet (depending on the size and other cost incurred during quarantine) prior to your pet’s release.
You should expect to pay the following fees:
- Quarantine certificate – RM2
- Inspection of pet upon entry – RM30
- Transportation of pet to the quarantine station – RM30
- Rental of quarantine space – RM35/7 days
- Litter for cats – RM14/7 days (unless you bring along your own litter supply)
- Administrative fee - RM2
13. Now that you are reunited with your pet, the only thing left to do is to welcome it to its new home.
I hope that the information above will assist you in this journey. Please keep in mind that information and procedures may change from time to time. This information is valid at the point of writing. I would still recommend you to call up the relevant authorities to receive an updates on procedures and documents needed.
I am also pleased to write that all the staff we encountered during this journey have been very helpful, professional and pleasant. Never hesitate to ask them for information and address your concern.
Importing a pet is a serious matter and may cause unnecessary complications and stress (for both your pet and yourself) if not well-prepared. But it’s worth doing it since the reward is having your pet with you. However, if you’re not willing to go through such trouble, do not adopt or own a pet if you’re an expat unless you are able to make arrangements to have your pet cared for by responsible and loving people.