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Dog owner fleeing China in limbo due to ‘unreasonable’ Australian law

She's not the only one impacted. A British couple also say they're also frustrated by Australia's pet restrictions and have already spent up to $14,500.

A Chinese woman desperate to leave Hong Kong after she was filmed during the island’s democracy protests in 2019 is rethinking her plan to emigrate to Australia. With Beijing continuing to flex influence over the island and prosecute dissidents she's keen to leave – but there's a catch.

Mary (not her real name) is one of a growing number of skilled migrants held back because their applications to bring their dogs and cats have not been processed. While she’s secured a job as a health professional, in an area that's in high demand, she’s yet to book a plane ticket.

That’s because she’s been working since November to get her dog Bella approved for travel. While Mary understands the process can take time, it’s the uncertainty of the prolonged wait period that’s causing her to consider migrating to a country like Canada instead.

“If I had a clearer timeframe then I could plan ahead, but I don’t know when I come, the wait feels infinite,” she said.

Inset - Bella a toy poodle. Background - Hong Kong protesters on the street holding up their phones.
Mary, who attended the 2019 Hong Kong protests, has been struggling to get Bella (inset) approved for travel to Australia. Source: Getty/Supplied

Another concern is that under new Department of Agriculture (DAFF) guidelines, which took effect in March, Bella will have to be quarantined for 30 days because her identity can’t be verified to an accepted standard. Mary is worried the stay will be expensive for her and stressful for Bella.

“She is a rescue and has had a lot of behavioural problems, I’m worried about depression if she goes into boarding again,” she said.

Why the government has changed its pet import rules

The government’s pet importation rules are designed to keep Australia free of rabies, but the process can now take over six months depending on which country the animal originates from, as animals must spend 180 days in an approved country prior to export.

DAFF confirmed with Yahoo News Australia it has 2100 applications under assessment for cat and dog import permits, a caseload consistent with peak periods. “The department is waiting for requested information from some of these applications, that once received, will be progressed quickly,” a spokesperson said.

British couple's $15,000 pet import 'nightmare'

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to overturn what they say are “unreasonable” rules.

Background - Emily and John and Arlo together in the UK. Inset - Arlo on his own on the couch.
Emily and John have been separated from Arlo since moving to Australia and have spent around $14,500 trying to ship him over. Source: Supplied

One signatory is Emily Morrell and her partner John who began trying to move to Western Australia from the UK in January 2021. She describes the situation as “an absolute nightmare” and estimates they’ve invested between £7000 and £8000 ($12,600 - $14,500) with an agent trying to get their dog Alby to Australia.

Alby was left with John’s parents temporarily as they set up home in Australia, with a view for him to follow in the coming months. But the process has left them confused, frustrated and fatigued. “We probably wouldn’t have come if we’d have known this,” she said. “This is probably going to put a lot of people off.”

Man's family stuck in UK for months with dog, waiting for permit

Another UK dog owner, Alan Walsh has been living in Australia since January 5, but his wife and children stayed with their Alaskan Malamute. He told Yahoo News Australia the change in government rules has left his family unable to get a permit to bring their dog across, leaving them in a situation he describes as "absolute mayhem".

"They've been stuck over there for three months, we've got a property over in the UK that's sold but we can't finalise it because we haven't got a permit for the dog," he said. "It's just totally messed us up, we're in limbo and don't know where we stand."

After telling DAFF in March about the stress off the application process, highlighting the impact on his family and that they might lose the sale of their house, he was told applications made in early December are currently being processed. "I understand that delays in application assessment are incredibly stressful," DAFF wrote.

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