One of SmartShanghai’s most popular articles over time is our guide to taking your pet out of China. With the borders still closed and airlines operating with restrictions, we’ve reached out to Lee-Anne from SCAA to give us an update on what has changed. Another situation that has evolved with the border closure is that more expats are in need of flight volunteers. Scroll down to read what’s that about and how you can help.

What Hasn’t Changed

Pets leaving Shanghai must meet export requirements and meet import requirements, which can be different depending on the destination. It can take anywhere from a minimum of 30 days (i.e., for the US, Canada, Malaysia), 4 months (i.e., EU, Singapore), to 8 months (i.e., Japan and Taiwan) to get your pet ready to fly.

Requirements at a minimum include an ISO microchip, a rabies vaccination, and a 7-day pre-flight health check to apply for the Animal Health Certificate issued by Shanghai Customs. The medical preparation and application for the Animal Health Certificate are done at the Shenpu Pet Hospital. Additional requirements for certain destinations include: a rabies titer blood test at least 30 days after the microchip and Shenpu clinic rabies vaccination, followed by a 3 to 6 month before pets can do their pre-flight health check to travel.

What Has Changed



Since March 2020, Shanghai Customs will only issue an Animal Health Certificate for pet export for dogs with a Shanghai dog license (read about how to register your dog in Shanghai here). Shanghai has a one-dog-per-household registration rule. Owners traveling with more than one dog may get an export permit with a consent letter from the dog’s registered owner. There is a simple form letter for this purpose to be presented at the pre-flight health check.

Limitations on How Many Animals

The biggest challenges to moving pets in the pandemic are airline policy changes on HOW MANY pets a passenger can move and HOW pets move (see three ways below). It’s important for pet owners to research airline pet travel policies thoroughly before purchasing their tickets. Airlines move pets one (or more) of 3 ways depending on policy and destination import rules:


    • Limited spaces in the cabin (size restrictions) for a reasonable fee


    • In the hold as excess baggage (US$200 an up), and


    • In the hold as cargo/freight. This being most costly at several thousand dollars per pet and requiring a professional pet transport agent for Customs Clearance.


Owners can book cabin and baggage space themselves, with their pet booking tied to their ticket. Cargo space requires a pet relocation agent and Customs Clearance. It’s important not to confuse cargo with excess baggage in the hold when choosing your airline.

Some destinations like the U.K. and South Africa ONLY allow pets flying in as cargo/freight. However, in some cases, flying together with a pet as excess baggage or in the cabin to a neighboring country, and either shipping your pet using an agent or traveling by land across the border, is possible.

Covid Airline Policy Updates


The restrictions that have caused many pet owners headaches and extra costs to get their pet home are airline-related policies. Airlines have either stopped excess baggage transport, cut pet-friendly transit options, cut routes from China, or reduced the number of pets per passenger include:


    • China Eastern Airlines: no more excess baggage transport (unknown when it will resume)


    • Air China: excess baggage move on limited routes, and only 1 crate space per flight


    • Chinese air carriers do not move pets in the cabin.


    • Aeroflot: down from 5 per passenger to a limit of 1 per passenger. In the cabin or as excess baggage


    • Korean Airlines: pet-friendly, allowing multiple pets per passenger in the hold and 1 in the cabin; however, the Shanghai route has been cut. Flying Korean Airlines requires an extra domestic pet move.


    • EVA Airlines: pet-friendly, allowing multiple pets per passenger in the hold and 1 in the cabin; however, foreigners cannot transit via Taipei.


    • Lufthansa: down from 5 per passenger to a limit of 2 per passenger. In the cabin (one per passenger in cabin) or as excess baggage


Lufthansa is Getting Fully Booked for Baggage Hold Pets

Already, pet owners planning a Spring/Summer move from Shanghai find LH flights fully booked for pet spots in the hold. Shanghai pet owners heading to Germany may need to look at other city departures (i.e., Lufthansa from Nanjing) to access pet space. IF EU citizens find their airline/route is fully booked, looking at other European airlines or destinations and transit is needed. Depending on passenger mobility to travel from an alternate destination home, pets flying from Shanghai are issued an EU import certificate that, when stamped on arrival by Customs at a first EU point of entry, is valid for onward travel to another EU country within a limited time. No separate EU pet passport is required.

Get Around US Carrier Issues

US Air Carriers remain unfriendly to many pet moves – this is not a COVID issue. American Airlines does not move pets from China, and United and Delta do not offer excess baggage moves. The latter two only offer very costly cargo in the hold and few cabin spaces for small pets – limit 1 per passenger.

What to do if you have two small pets?

You can buy two seats on your United or Delta flight. One cat/small dog under the seat in front of you, and the other pet under the seat in front of the extra one purchased. Far cheaper than one pet in the cabin and the other as cargo/freight (if cargo is available).

Pets Separated From Their Owners

Increased restrictions have made it especially hard for pet owners who have been out of China since late 2019/early 2020 or had to leave China suddenly in 2020, without enough time for pet export preparation, as well as for owners of multiple pets.

Even owners with enough time to prepare found themselves unable to move their pets due to a lack of flights accepting animals.

Owners planning their pet move and those overseas whose pets are still in Shanghai may, of course, hire professional pet transport agents to ship their pet as cargo (freight). Some pets stuck in China have fortunately reunited with their families overseas this way. Cargo moves do not require pets to be tied to a passenger ticket; however, it is very costly (several thousand USD per pet) due to airline cargo fees, Customs Clearance, and agent fees.

Reunite Families – Be A Flight Volunteer

Are you planning to return home overseas this year? If you don’t have a pet, or have the pet allowance to take an extra one, Second Chance Animal Aid asks passengers to please consider being a flight volunteer to help reunite pets separated from their families for a year or more already. Being a flight volunteer does not involve any extra cost to you. You’ll have support with the pet’s export preparation, flight check-in, and meeting on arrival.

You’ll also have the undying gratitude of pet owners who miss their animals terribly and have not given up hope of having them back.

How it works:



      • You already have a ticket booked and are willing to help.


      • If airline policy allows you to add a pet to your ticket, SCAA will connect you with pet owners whose pets are still in Shanghai awaiting being reunited with their families.


      • Because pet airline bookings are tied to a passenger’s ticket, flight volunteers need to provide their airline reservation details, and SCAA and/or pet owners will arrange for the pet to be added to their booking.


      • Because the Animal Health Certificate from Shanghai Customs must be issued in the name of the passenger, flight volunteers need to provide a copy of their passport photo page for the pre-flight health check.


      • All export documents will be organized by SCAA, and the owner and additional (not required) documentation with proof of pet ownership and owner’s former Shanghai residency will also be provided. SCAA and/or the owner will ensure pets are checked in with flight volunteers and the pet’s airline fee paid.


      • Owners will meet flight volunteers on arrival to pick up their pets.





Flight Volunteer Needed:

SCAA is seeking flight volunteers for many different regions, including Brazil, Canada, EU, USA, Zimbabwe.

Among the many pets seeking a flight volunteers are Nigel & Penelope:

Nigel & Penelope’s owner was already preparing to repatriate to Canada around Chinese New Year 2020. With Air Canada’s cold weather restrictions for pets in the hold and limit of one in the cabin, finding a flight for one passenger to bring two pets was already a challenge. Then one by one, airlines began canceling their China routes.

With no more job, residence permit, or apartment, Nigel & Penelope’s owner eventually had to leave Shanghai without her cats. The cats are well-cared for after some shifting around homes and temporary boarding.

The cats are prepared for export and could fly on a minimum of 8 days’ notice to organize their pre-flight health check.

As the usual June expat exodus season approaches, SCAA would love to see these cats and their owner finally reunited after over a year apart. Nigel & Penelope are seeking flight volunteer(s) (one or two passengers traveling together) for a flight from Shanghai to CANADA [Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver]


Many other pet owners are in similar situations, longing to see their pets again.

Please reach out, and SCAA can introduce separated families who need your help: [email protected]

Pet Relocation Agents

For pet transport, there’s a wide variety of people out there calling themselves agents.

Second Chance Animal Aid suggests owners start a search for pet relocation agents first through personal recommendations if friends have used an agent and are happy with their service getting pets home safely and comfortably.

A good starting point is the International Pet and Animal Transport Association (IPATA). IPATA is a non-profit trade association whose members are dedicated to providing the highest professional pet move services.

Some IPATA-member pet transport agents, whose business focus is purely on domestic and international pet moves, that SCAA is familiar with from our adopters’ good experience include:

  • Globy Pet RelocationShanghai/Beijing/Guangzhou
  • Kevin Home ExpressShanghai and Beijing
  • Shanghai M&D Pet Service—With so many changes announced so frequently over the past year, pet owners should use travel advice and experiences as a good starting reference, and double check policies are current.



Please note that this article was written a few years ago, and some of the information may be outdated. If you have any new or updated information on this topic, feel free to share experiences or ask questions, someone may know the answer and be able to help you.