Monday, August 13, 2012

Taking a Pet to New Zealand on your sailboat.

Our 1 year old cat Shell helps plot our course to New Zealand.

Taking a pet to New Zealand is complicated, and requires significant per-departure tasks that must be completed 6 months prior to arrival in New Zealand. 

Great Link to New Zealand Biosecurity page concerning Dog and Cats arriving on a yacht.

We started our research into the New Zealand regulations pet importation regulations in June while anchored in the Marquesas. Our thinking at the time was that with 5 months remaining before our arrival in New Zealand we'd have no trouble understanding and satisfying the many requirements. Diving into the details we immediately found that our cat Shell, despite being routinely vaccinated was no where near ready for New Zealand.

First off your pet needs an ISO certified microchip for vaccinations to be considered compliant. Simply, the chip must be implanted before the vaccinations and any vaccinations before the chip are not valid. The real kicker here is the 6 month waiting period required after a compliant rabies vaccination. Since Shell didn't have a microchip her existing rabies vaccination was invalid and the clock wouldn't start ticking until she had a microchip and then another Rabies shot. We immediately looked into finding a veterinarian in the Marquesas. It took some searching on the internet and a few walks around Nuka Hiva over the course of several days before we fully exhausted all possibility of finding a veterinarian in the there.

Timing was now the real issue as the closest veterinarian was in Papeete, Tahiti and our plan was to linger as long as possible in the Tuamotu. At this point we started to consider other cruising options for the season. We looked at sailing south to the Forties and then over to Chile, but that's a long and likely nasty trip. We looked at sailing to Hawaii, but their pet import regulations are equally strict and the waiting period after the rabies blood titre test, is a minimum 4 months, so this would not work too well with cyclone season. We are loathe to rush across the Pacific to the Marshall Islands as we'd skip over too many great places. Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia were too risky due to Cyclones. And only New Caledonia has a lift capable of hauling a catamaran with LightSpeeds 23'-4" beam for storage. But, we couldn't haul the boat with the pet cat aboard as that would be considered 'landing' the cat. All the options had major issues... this is why you need to complete preparations BEFORE crossing the Pacific with your pet aboard.

Again, in our case we needed a chip for 'Shell' and then start over on her vaccinations. Three weeks after the Rabies vaccinations you can go to step 2 which is to take a blood sample for a Rabies titration test and send it to Kansas City or Paris (who knows how to send refrigerated blood samples reliably from Tahiti half way across the globe, we do know this can be done from Panama or Mexico). Then IF and when you get the results of the Rabies titre you can start the NZ importation application, BUT the soonest you can start the minimum 10 day quarantine in NZ is 6 months AFTER the Rabies vaccination.

Good veterinarians are available in Tahiti, so if like us you need to get the process started you can do it, but it won't be cheap to haul a French vet out to the boat as we did. The quick house call cost $225USD for three shots and the microchip. Ooh La La.

The good news about New Zealand is that you can keep the pet aboard for the duration of your stay in NZ, up to a maximum of 6 months, IF and only IF you moor in Opua or Auckland, take a mooring (no docks allowed) and pay for weekly inspections by the NZ Biosecurity. Any boat movements, even shifting moorings require advance approval, so forget about actually cruising while in NZ.

Our hybrid plan is to quarantine 'Shell' aboard the boat while we swing on a mooring in Opua, New Zealand. Once we get settled we'll hire a veterinarian to come out to the boat and draw blood for the rabies titration test and then it will just be a matter of completing the MAF pet import paperwork and waiting for the 6 months to pass since 'Shell' got her microchip and rabies shot in Tahiti. When the 6 months have passed we can then choose to import 'Shell' by having her transported to a quarantine facility near Auckland for a minimum of 10 days and then when released from Kitty Prison, Shell will be a Kiwi cat. We estimate the quarantine to cost $1000 plus transportation to the quarantine facility plus the boat visits by Biosecurity plus the boat visits by a veterinarian plus the blood titration plus who knows what else to total around $2000USD. So, maybe we just continue to quarantine 'Shell' aboard LightSpeed for the duration of our visit to New Zealand.

So, now the question is if we sail up to to Fiji with our NZ certified cat and then back down to New Zealand do we need to repeat the process?