Beware hidden fees of moving pets overseas

Maisy Mok

The Consumer Council is warning pet owners about unexpected expenses when hiring agencies to help relocate pets overseas amid the emigration wave.

The watchdog said there is a wide discrepancy of up to 190 percent between the quoted standard fees of pet relocation service providers and the actual costs pet owners are charged.

Eleven providers were asked in a shopping survey for a quotation for relocating a British short hair cat and a Shiba Inu dog to Australia, Canada, Britain, the United States and Taiwan.

Among them, nine offered a quotation for relocating the dog to Australia but the standard fees and the actual expenditure could differ by 15 percent to 190 percent.

“The differences were mainly due to the exclusion of the relatively substantial fees for pets’ shipping, quarantine and import permit from the standard fees,” said Nora Tam Fung-yee, chairwoman of the council’s research and testing committee.

The lowest standard price for relocating the dog was HK$20,000 from KaRoy International Pet Services.

But clients also have to reimburse an additional HK$38,000 for pet’s shipping, quarantine and import permit, making the final total almost 3 times as much as the standard fees.

The highest standard price for transporting a Shiba Inu to Australia was HK$62,000, offered by Pet Holidays, and includes shipping fee and import permits. When the additional HK$$9,486 for keeping a pet in quarantine was included, the total expenditure would be 15 percent more than the standard fees.

“Different service providers include different items in the standard fees of their quotations so it is not wise to compare them directly and consumers should not judge the value of the proposal based on the standard fees only,” Tam said. A detailed quotation should list all items and costs and the responsible party of each item, she added.

Georgina Noyce, The Standard’s animal columnist for the past 12 years, said the move of relocating her four dogs and two cats from Hong Kong to Ireland was expensive.

The move took place in January 2019 – before the pandemic – with the help of Pet Export Vet.

“Let’s just say, cost-wise, it would be cheaper for a human to travel business class around the world than each animal to travel but it covered the exhausting and time-consuming research on destination requirements, working with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department on export and suitable travel crates for the size of the animal,” Noyce said.

“Plus, experienced people make health checks before travel and after, and then the very long journey from the destination airport to my home.”

Noyce said including air travel time, immigration and road travel, it took close to 30 hours for all six pets to reach Ireland.

“I can well imagine that it is much harder and even more expensive now because of limited capacity due to flight cancellations, but an experienced company would or should be aware of all that and keep clients up to date and aware of any change in cost, ” she said.

“It is expensive, but I was given a quote based on size and type of animal, destination and import regulations for the destination country.”

The Consumer Council is aware that consumers may change their immigration plans due to limited flights under the pandemic or other personal reasons. Seven providers surveyed offer unlimited rescheduling but would charge extra for handling repeated paperwork.

Five would not refund consumers for early termination of the pet relocation process. The remaining six would refund the deposit after deducting the actual payout or administration fees while three companies said administration fees ranged from HK$2,000 to HK$4,000.

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