- Language Tips
Some people bring their dogs wherever they go. Meng Delong / 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.
It's not cheap to transport a pet internationally, and the fee usually depends on the animal's weight and distance of the flight.
Zhang charges about 2,000 yuan for an international shipment, not including airline fees and end-destination costs.
Some pets, however, suffer from taking a flight. To's cats hid when they got home and were traumatized for about three weeks.
Liu Lang, vice-president of the Beijing Small Animal Veterinary Association, says this is often par for the course and suggests pets are given sedatives before being shipped.
Zhang of HFDS adds owners have to sign a contract agreeing the airline cannot be held responsible if the pet is injured or dies while being shipped.
In August 2012, a woman surnamed Zhao shipped her two golden retrievers on China Southern Airlines. The flight case broke and after going missing for 30 hours, one of the dogs was found dead at Beijing's airport.
Zhao said the case broke because it was unloaded without due care and sued the airline. The suit is ongoing.
And there have been similar examples. In response, 81 animal protection organizations wrote an open letter to the Civil Aviation Administration of China in September, calling for an improvement of the management of live animal shipments and "civilized" loading and unloading of animals.
"Such accidents can't be avoided, but the risk rate is much lower than shipping by train or by bus. Dogs may run about if the flight case breaks when unloading is not done carefully," Zhang says.
"If the dog runs onto the runway, it must be shot to ensure the safety of flights. Some pets die of heatstroke in summer if the airplane postpones takeoff because of high temperatures in the luggage cabin."
A pet store worker grooms a teddy dog in Liaocheng, Shandong province. Zhang Zhenxiang / For China Daily
(China Daily 03/07/2013 page18)