Pet owners pay through nose as exodus quickens
Emigrating Hongkongers are paying a fortune of up to HK$60,000 each to send their pets overseas due to flight cancellations under the pandemic.
A pet shipping agency told Headline Daily, the sister publication of The Standard, that shipping a cat to London now costs nearly HK$35,000, 80 percent more than before the pandemic. And after taking into consideration fees for vaccination and consultancy services, it would cost the owner nearly HK$55,000 for each pet.
The number of pets leaving has surged amid an exodus by Hongkongers.
All pets are required to obtain an animal health certificate from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department before they can be shipped out of Hong Kong.
The department says more than 8,100 applications for cats and dogs were submitted in the first 11 months last year - more than double the same period in 2020. Applications for birds also rose from five to 25.
Pet Travel said last year was the best yet since its opening.
A person in charge said pets were usually shipped as cargo, but the current shortage of cargo flights has triggered an increase in prices.
When flights are canceled, owners also have to pay extra to redo parasite control documents for pets.
"If the animals need to go to London, most of them have to transit in Europe. It would cost up to HK$60,000," he said.
He believed that business this year would be similar to 2021, but added that some people have recently moved back from the United Kingdom and need to send their pets back to Hong Kong.
As for the Omicron-related flight cancellations, he said airlines fix cargo prices quarterly, so the shipping cost is not greatly changed at the moment. But prices could go up for people who book flights next month.
The founder of an immigration consultancy said pets are part of the family for most Hongkongers: "One customer owns a bulldog that is too big for most airlines. The family's emigration plan was delayed because of it."
Last May, the Consumer Council warned people about unexpected expenses when hiring agencies to help relocate pets overseas amid the emigration wave.
At the time, the highest standard price among 11 service providers for transporting a Shiba Inu to Australia was HK$62,000, offered by Pet Holidays, and included shipping fee and import permits, before adding another HK$$9,486 for keeping the pet in quarantine.
Georgina Noyce, The Standard's animal columnist for the past 12 years, said relocating her four dogs and two cats to Ireland was expensive.
The move was in January 2019 -before the pandemic - with the help of Pet Export Vet.
Noyce said that including air travel time, immigration and road travel, it took nearly 30 hours for the pets to reach Ireland.