Earning air miles, but at a cost

Updated: 2013-03-07 10:40

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

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Earning air miles, but at a cost

Some people bring their dogs wherever they go. Meng Delong / For China Daily

Earning air miles, but at a cost

A pet store worker grooms a teddy dog in Liaocheng, Shandong province. Zhang Zhenxiang / For China Daily

It's 11 pm and Tony To waits anxiously in the airport cargo area as he awaits the arrival of a crate containing his beloved three cats.

"They must be very scared as they are in the dark about what's happening on such uncomfortable journey," the 29-year-old master's student says.

In late January, To's wife shipped their three cats from Beijing to Zhuhai, Guangdong province, for 1,100 yuan ($177).

Like many other Chinese pet owners, they contacted an agent on e-commerce site Taobao.com to take care of the arrangements.

"We handle the complicated procedures, such as quarantine certificates," says Zhang Hongyin, the founder and president of Beijing HFDS Pet Relocation Ltd Corp.

The company organizes about 3,000 domestic and 1,000 international shipments annually.

He claims that in 2003 just 300 cats and dogs from Beijing were shipped abroad, while the figure is now nearly 300 per month.

"The market will get bigger. But there's still a long way to go to keep pace with the industry abroad. We also need to raise the threshold for those who are doing the business," he says.

"Chinese are becoming rich and showing more love for pets. My foreign customers often take their pets home for the holidays, and some Chinese even travel abroad with their pets."

Regulations vary according to the country, Zhang adds. For example, an imported pet must be quarantined for a week in Malaysia, while in Canada it is not necessary.

A woman carries her dog at Qingdao Long Distance Bus Station. Zhou Kun / For China Daily

One has to prepare seven to 10 days in advance to ship a pet to the United States, while it takes as long as seven months to ship a pet to Australia.

"Safety comes first. We have to be very familiar with these policies and meet the legal requirements, or the pet may be quarantined and its owner severely punished."

Zhang says that in China, pets from countries like the US, where rabies exist, must be quarantined for a month. But it's only seven days if the animals are coming from non-epidemic areas.

Chinese airlines do not let passengers take pets onboard, but this is not the case in some countries.

Rao Tian, 29, a translator from Beijing, transported her bichon frise from Ukraine to Beijing in 2007 and says it was quite easy. She took the dog on the plane, accompanied by its dog passport, vaccine injection record and a certificate from the vet.

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