Travelling with a guide dog both home and abroad

Whether you are travelling locally, nationally or internationally with your guide dog, it is important to always plan ahead and communicate.

Travelling with your guide dog within New Zealand

Day trips or overnight trips

Whether going out for the day, going on an overnight stay, or heading off inter province on holiday, you will need to carry certain things to keep your pet refreshed. On day trips you will need items such as a foldable water bowl, water (if you are not going to be near a tap) and plastic bags for toileting purposes. On longer extended trips, you will also need to consider taking items such as a dog blanket, grooming brush, dog food and their favourite toy. Plan ahead and find out what facilities are available where you are going, and communicate your needs to the people there.

Domestic flights within NZ

As with any form of travel or accommodation, (either domestic or international), always advise others that you are visually impaired or blind and travelling with a guide dog. You will need to do this at the time of booking.

Regardless of how you get to the airport, once you arrive at the airport the first stop is the check in counter.  The staff will go through the process of checking you in and then let the correct people know which flight you will be boarding. If a person travelling with you is sighted, they may take you through to the waiting lounge. If in the case of travelling alone and ordering VIP assistance, always let the staff know where you are sitting, so when the flight goes to board, it will make it easier for them to find you.  Alternatively, in bigger airports, the staff may call you over the microphone and you will need to make your way to the counter/gate. If you have booked in for VIP assistance, you will be taken onto the plane earlier (usually about 5 to 10 minutes beforehand) and seated in the correct seat.  If it was stated on your ticket (when booked) about forward seating, this will be for the guide dog.  This usually means the flight is full and the guide dog will have to be slid under the seat in front of you.  If you are lucky and there are some spare seats, you may get a space for them to lie on the ground in front of the seat next to you (not in the aisle).  They will usually have a bit of foam to lie down on (which is just in case anything happens).  This is to protect the floor if the guide dog has a mishap - just in case there is a release of fluids (that could result if the dog gets scared). If possible, gently talk to and stroke your pet during take off and landing to calm them.

Once the plane has landed, you will be the last to be taken off. 

If you are flying from say New Plymouth to Auckland, then the steward will assist you off the plane and arrange for someone to take you through to collect your baggage, then to whatever mode of transport you are catching next. This may be the taxi stand, bus stop, or to the shuttle bus etcetera. Remember to have written contact details with you (for example the name of the hotel you are staying at) so that airport staff can point you in the right direction.

If you are flying purely within NZ, you will not need any paperwork for your guide dog other than its guide dog passport in case of general enquiries.

Domestic flights within NZ connecting to international flights

If however you are changing off a domestic flight onto an international one, you will need to read the information below about obtaining export certificates and any appropriate paperwork before you leave home. It makes it much easier if you get any export certificates and checkups etcetera done locally before you board your first flight. These will normally need to be done so many days beforehand, but your local vet will be able to give you the correct contact details and the most up to date information at the time of your enquiry. Remember, MAF export certificates are only required if you and your guide dog are leaving New Zealand. If changing from a domestic flight onto an international one, staff can assist you from your place of arrival, to the next counter at the international airport. If travelling with a friend, you may wish to walk or take the shuttle there. Sometimes your luggage will be transferred automatically (for example if flying with the same airline all the way), and other times you will need to collect your luggage and check it in again (for example if flying with different airlines). MAF inspectors and / or other airline staff may wish to sight your guide dogs paperwork at various stages throughout your journey. Ensure you keep this paperwork handy at all times.

Exporting your guide dog from New Zealand to Australia

The following information will cover the import and export of guide dogs to and from Australia and New Zealand. It is essential that you follow the correct procedures and get the correct paperwork before you leave, to avoid any more serious problems occurring. Failing to be prepared and / or provide the correct paperwork may mean not only delays, but more seriously, your guide dog may be refused entry onto the flight.

Scenario: Booking an 18 day holiday from NZ to Australia

When travelling overseas (and depending on whether you are travelling by yourself, with someone or maybe with a guide dog), the process may differ slightly.  For the following example, we will assume that the trip will be with a guide dog and a friend for a stay of 18 days.  Once you have determined which location you are going to visit (for example Sydney Australia), the following process will need to happen.  When you go to book your tickets with the airline (either online or through a travel agent), they will need to know the following information.  You will need to advise them that you are visually impaired and that you will also have a guide dog on your journey.  They will need to have the details entered for your trip, so the right people can meet you at each stage of your trip.  This may include places where you are staying.  If the place knows that you have a guide dog it may determine where they put you (for example a room on the bottom floor of a hotel with a grassy patch nearby).

Permits required from your NZ vet, and contacting MAF (and AQIS) to export (and import) your guide dog

In terms of your guide dog's paperwork requirements, currently Australia has two short term stay permits. One is for stays of less than 10 days, and the other is for stays of up to three weeks. For this example (that is for a stay of 18 days), your local government accredited vet will need the form for visits of up to three weeks. They will also need an export certificate form. They will help you by filling in these forms once performing the vet checks and treatments necessary for export. Once your vet has prepared your short stay certificate and your export certificate, it helps to forward copies of these onto AQIS in Australia to speed up your arrival interview when arriving overseas. The link that follows is a list of government accredited places that you can contact for this procedure. Two days before departure from NZ, you will need to have your guide dog treated for fleas, ticks and worms. Once arriving in Australia, the government accredited vet over there will check your dog 2 days after arrival. A second visit to an Australian accredited vet will verify (14 days after the initial application) that the flea and tick treatment is still working. A third and final visit to the Australian accredited vet will be undertaken 2 days before flying back out of Australia, where the export certificate will be issued upon clearance of the animal. The reason for such hefty checks is because of an Australian tick that can paralyse dogs. New Zealand certainly does not want this tick entering its borders.

Please note that the only difference between a guide dog and any other dog being exported is that you do not have to pay the cost of the export certificate, and that on agreement with the airline, your dog can travel with you in the cabin of the aircraft.  Cats and dogs must have been continuously resident in New Zealand for 90 days immediately prior to export, or since direct importation from Australia or since birth to be eligible to enter Australia.

Remember, get all the paperwork done that you need to have before you leave home.

From the airport terminal ... to boarding your flight

Once you have arrived at the international airport and booked in your luggage you will need to go through customs to leave the country. It is wise to have your correct documents handy and ready to show them when required. Once they are happy with your paperwork you will then need to put your items into a box so they can be x-rayed.  This may even include a cane, if one is being carried with you.  The next step will be that you will need to go through a scanner yourself.  You can not just walk through with your guide dog.  They may want to hold onto the lead of the dog while you go through the machine.  They may lead you up to the scanner or point you in the direction of it. Be careful not to touch the walls of the scanner as you go through.  If it beeps, you may have to be searched by a hand held metal detector. Then your guide dog will be able to come through.  The dogs harness may set off the alarms as well.  Once you are through and have gathered your items, you will be off to the waiting lounge where you will be boarded later on.  When your flight is called, they will ask for people who need special assistance to go up to the counter first.  You will be checked by the airline, as well as MAF, to make sure you have the correct paperwork for both you and your guide dog to leave the country.  If it is not correct for your guide dog, you may not be able to leave the country with it.  Make sure that all of the correct procedures have been met, so that the guide dog can fly as well.  Again, you will be taken on early before the rest of the people are allowed to load onto the plane.  If you are travelling with a guide dog, in most cases if not all, you will be upgraded to either business class or first class for the leg room.  Here again, they will give you a mat for your guide dog to lay down on for the journey.  There will usually be a spare seat beside you for the guide dog to lay down on the ground.

Asking for VIP assistance

When the airline stewards / stewardesses come around, tell them if you need assistance. Let them know when they are serving food that you are visually impaired (in case they don't see the guide dog first).  It makes it a lot easier to get them to tell you what is on your plate rather than guess and taste it first.  The staff should have had training beforehand on how to deal with blind and visually impaired people.  Assistance needed may also include information about buttons on the remote control, and other general information such as arrival time etcetera.  When you are in the air, an arrival form will have to be filled out.  If someone is with you, they will usually help you fill out the form for customs.  If not, ask one of the staff to help you fill it in, and you just sign your name.

Arrival at Sydney terminal

Once the plane has landed, again you will be the last to get off the plane. You will usually be met at the door of the plane.  From here, you will be taken towards the baggage area to collect your bags.  When travelling, it is a lot easier to find your bag amongst the rest of the luggage if either you have a bag locator (which beeps when a button is pressed on the remote you may be carrying), or some identifying marker.  This could be a coloured ribbon, fluoro tape on your bag and so on.  After this, you will need to go to customs. Usually, if you have VIP assistance, you will go through another gate which is a lot quicker.  This is usually the one the pilots go through.  Then, you will be checked by customs again to make sure you have the correct paperwork for the guide dog to enter the country.  This process may vary from country to country (as to what their requirements are) for you to enter and leave with a guide dog.  Ensure you find out what the requirements are for the country you wish to import your guide dog into / or export your guide dog out of before you travel. Failing to look into this first may mean having to leave your beloved pet behind, and pay a huge boarding bill while you are away.  I had even heard of a man who worked for customs Australia, saying that should people not have the correct paperwork that their guide dog may have to be put down. It would definitely pay to get this correct before travelling. Once the foreign officials are happy with your paperwork, they will let you and your guide dog into the country. You will need to get your dog vet checked again 2 days after arriving in Australia.

Below is a detailed page on MAF's Export Requirements for exporting dogs and cats to Australia

Below is a link to MAF's general information about exporting cats and dogs to Australia

We highly recommend that you use the services of a registered pet export company as they are familiar with the protocols and procedures necessary to export pets overseas. A pet exporter will be able to help you out with an indication of costs. The following link (found on the Biosecurity New Zealand website) is a list of registered pet exporters within New Zealand

Please be advised that if you are planning on returning to New Zealand with your pets in the future, you will need to contact the imports group at MAF to obtain up to date information on importing pets back into New Zealand. We strongly suggest that this is done before your pet is exported from New Zealand (as you may not be able to import your pet back into New Zealand). The imports group can be contacted by phone: 04 894 0304 or email:

Importing your Guide Dog (when returning from Australia) back into New Zealand

Export permit from Australia to NZ

In most cases, when people go over to Australia for a holiday, it is usually for 2 to 3 weeks - so a blood test is not needed.  If the period of stay is for longer than 1 month, on your return journey (if over this period of time), you will need to see the Government vet. This will be 30 days before you fly. Here, they will need to do a blood test (which will be sent off to be tested).  Your dog will also be given a special wash, which will kill off any fleas, ticks and so on.  You will need to check with the vet what sort of costs there will be.  For guide dogs, the importer must provide official documentation from a member school of the International Federation of Guide Dog Schools which states that the guide dog has been in the service of its handler at and/or under the supervision of the school for at least the six months prior to the scheduled date of importation.

Below is the process that a person would need to follow to export a guide dog back into New Zealand. The only difference in exporting a guide dog (as opposed to a pet dog etcetera) is that there is no charge to export guide dogs, providing documentation is provided showing the dog is a service dog.  All live animals exported from Australia are required to meet the importing country's health requirements and obtain an export permit and, where specified, a health certificate prior to departure.  Details on the process you need to follow and the information you need to provide to AQIS can be found on our website at
Some information on the importing country’s requirements is also available at:  Note: protocols are a guideline only and it is your responsibility to contact the relevant Government authority in that country to confirm that you are complying with the importing country’s requirements at the time of export.
Important points to remember:
  1. Contact an AQIS Accredited Veterinarian (AAV) to assist in the preparation of your pet(s) for export. These can be found at:
  2. Complete a Notice of Intention to Export Live Animals’ (NOI) application form and submit it to the nearest AQIS regional office at least 10 working days prior to the intended departure date. 
  3. If an import permit is required provide a copy, in English, along with the Notice Of Intention... If you require an import permit it must be obtained prior to submitting your Notice Of Intention application form to AQIS.  If the import permit is not in English you will need to provide a certified translated copy. Upon receipt of your Notice Of Intention... application form, the AQIS office will contact you to arrange a suitable appointment time for the issuing of the export permit and health certificate.  You will need to bring along all the documentation provided to you by the AAV detailing the treatments, vaccinations and inspections undertaken to prepare your animal(s)
  4. A fee for service will apply to the processing of your application and the issuing of the export permit and health certificate per quarter hour or part thereof, which will be charged at the time of service. As a guide, an AQIS appointment will take a minimum of 30 minutes. Payment can be made by credit card or cheque. Some AQIS offices are able to accept cash payments, please check with the individual office when arranging your appointment. For further information regarding fees and charges, please visit the AQIS website at:
  5. If there is any likelihood that your pet will be returning to Australia, it is imperative that you discuss this with AQIS as early as possible. Animals cannot be imported (or returned) directly to Australia from some countries, so appropriate advice is essential before your animal leaves Australia. If you wish to re-import your pet within six months of export, preparations must be made prior to leaving Australia. For more information please call the Live Animal Imports (LAI) Program on (02) 6272 4454 or visit the LAI website at:
Most government vets will have a branch in each city (for example Rosebery in Sydney).  The quickest way to locate your nearest government vet, is to contact a local vet who can put you in touch with them.

Contact details for your nearest city of departure are available from:

Contact details for DAFF in Sydney
Live Animal Exports  DAFF Biosecurity - Animal Division
Phone +61 2 6272 4581  Fax +61 2 6272 5423 
Contact details for DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) in Canberra
7 London Circuit, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

What the Australian accredited vet will do before your departure from Australia

Once arriving in Australia, the government accredited vet over there will check your dog 2 days after arrival. A second visit to an Australian accredited vet will verify (14 days after the initial application) that the flea and tick treatment is still working. A third and final visit to the Australian accredited vet will be undertaken 2 days before departure from Australia, where the export certificate will be issued upon clearance of the animal. Here again, they will be fully checked out to make sure that all of the boxes have been ticked allowing you to export your guide dog back to New Zealand.  Once they are happy with everything, you will be given an export certificate for you to carry with you when leaving the country.  If you do not have this certificate your guide dog may not be able to leave the country with you. The reason for such hefty checks is because of an Australian tick that can paralyse dogs. New Zealand certainly does not want this tick entering its borders. 

If you are flying to a country other than Australia, please check with that country what their requirements are for importing and exporting a guide dog to and from that country; and what sort of costs will be involved.  You will also need to check with the airline as to where the guide dog may be put in the plane.  This will either be with you, or in the cargo hold.

Keeping your paperwork on you and safe; and MAF clearance times for Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland

On the day you go to fly out, make sure you have all the required paperwork (for both you and your guide dog). Having it easy to access means you will not be holding up the line looking for the required documentation. The whole process of going through customs etcetera will be done all over again to export your guide dog back into New Zealand with the airline.  Please be advised that if you are planning on returning to New Zealand with your pets in the future, to contact the imports group at MAF to obtain information on importing pets back into New Zealand. Please refer to the web link below for importing a dog from Australia.  Please also be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page for specific information on importing an assistance dog.

Until further notice, the restricted clearance times for cats and dogs from Australia to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland are between 5.30 am and 6.30 pm on weekdays. MAF Biosecurity New Zealand must be notified at least 72 hours before the expected time of arrival of any animal. Guide dogs can only currently be examined by a MAF inspector in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports. MAF needs 72 hours advanced notice of arrival.

Contact details for MAF:
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Pastoral House 25 The Terrace
PO Box 2526 Wellington New Zealand
Telephone: 64-4-894 0100 Facsimile: 64-4-894 0733 Web:

Contact details for biosecurity:
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Pastoral House 25 The Terrace 
PO Box 2526 Wellington New Zealand  
Telephone: 64-4-894 0443 Facsimile: 64-4-894 0733 Web:


Plan ahead and keep up to date with current protocols as these are subject to change without notice. Knowing what your dog needs to have done, and keeping the paperwork in a safe place and easily accessible can make your trip much more enjoyable in the long run. It is up to you as to whether you take your guide dog with you on holiday or not. There are some great puppy walkers who may be able to house your dog if you do need to go away and can't take it with you. If you do decide to take your guide dog overseas with you, ensure you have researched all procedures and paperwork thoroughly before going. Phoning, faxing and emailing ahead to both MAF and AQIS can help make your trip so much easier. If travelling to countries other than Australia, please ensure that you do your homework first.

With some airlines, you can pay for economy class and get upgraded to business class (or first class) for the leg room for both you and your guide dog.

This section on "travelling with a guide dog both home and abroad" is intended only as a guide (for those who wish to travel with their guide dog).  People must take responsibility for their own travel plans.