5 Things To Know Importing & Exporting Live Plants & Animals

Aug 11, 2017
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Written by Fiona Lu

Importing and exporting goods and specimens into and out of Australia is no easy task. It sounds like a simple process but there are actually strict laws that stop foreign and native plants and animals from entering and leaving the country. In order to avoid wasting money and time, you should familiarise yourself with the legal requirements and processes involved before you decide to purchase or sell.

If you are interested about what goods you can import from overseas, check out our previous guide What You Need To Know About Importing Goods From Overseas.

What You Need To Know About Importing Or Exporting Live Plants And Animals

1. There Is A Live Import List

The Department of the Environment and Energy (DEE) has prepared a Live Import List that specifies what plant and animal specimens are considered suitable for live import into Australia.

Basically, the list has two parts:

  1. Part 1 details what species can be brought into Australia without a permit.
  2. Part 2 details what species require a permit before being imported into Australia.

For a snapshot of what live plant material can be imported for the purposes of growth and/or propagation, check out the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ How To Import Plants.

Depending on the species of the animal, such as native wildlife, livestock, a companion animal or reproductive material, you may need to refer to other lists such as the Australian list of CITES species or the List of Exempt Native Specimens (LENS).

2. There Are Strict Laws Controlling The Import Of Live Specimens

Australia has strict biosecurity laws that exist to prevent foreign plant pests and diseases from entering the country and harming the environment, agriculture and economy. The export of native wildlife and wildlife products, the import of endangered species and the import of live animals and plants is regulated by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (the EPBC Act).

Essentially, the EPBC Act controls the export of most Australian native animals and plants. It imposes a criteria that determines whether trade exports and imports are allowed. If you do not meet the relevant criteria in the Act and regulations (relevant to your state or territory), then you cannot export or import wildlife and/or wildlife products.

3. There Are Conditions You Must Satisfy


There are conditions that vary depending on the genus and species of the plant and/or seed and its origin. In order to examine these conditions, you must refer to Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ (DAWR) Biosecurity import conditions system (BICON). The BICON system is a useful tool that outlines what biosecurity conditions apply, as well as whether the species you wish to import is allowed into Australia. The conditions will relate to how the specimen is to be packaged, what documentation should be attached to each consignment, declarations that must be signed, etc. However, even if you meet the conditions it does not mean you are able to import the specimen. A departmental officer will assess the risk posed by your import and then make a final decision.


Similarly, there are conditions regarding species, country of origin and quarantine requirements. To find out whether you meet the conditions, you must contact DAWR. The department will assess the animal’s country of origin, and assess whether you meet the biosecurity requirements before importation or pre-export preparation.

Moreover, cats and dogs being imported into Australia must meet the standard Agriculture conditions. Be aware there are certain dog breeds that are prohibited under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956. For pet animals, they can be imported into Australia if they are from approved countries.

If you wish to export a household pet, it is permitted so long as the pet will not be used for commercial purposes such as selling or trading. However, Australian native animals are not permitted to leave Australia.

4. A Permit From A Government Department May Be Required

After checking the import conditions, you must apply for an Import Permit from DAWR. The department is the first point of contact who will ensure you meet the conditions before importation.


Usually an import permit is issued after post entry quarantine arrangements have been made. Therefore you must carefully check if your plants enter a government post entry quarantine (PEQ) facility or is undergoing post entry quarantine at an approved arrangement site on arrival. Without an import permit you cannot import any live plant material, even if it appears on the Live Import List.


In most cases, you will need an import permit from DAWR. In fact, it is your responsibility to obtain one. There are many types of permits:

  • Single use permits – Available for single specified consignment for a period of six months up to twelve months.
  • Multiple Consignment Authorities – This authorises an unlimited number of consignments of a particular specimen/s for a period of up to three years.
  • Testing permits – Available for scientific purposes.

Further, a permit may not be required in some circumstances, such as if you are importing non-CITES plants or animals, exporting a plant or animal in the list of exempt native specimens, etc.

5. You Must Have An Acceptable Purpose To Import Or Export Animals

Finally, there are two “purposes” that are considered before an import or export is approved. First, commercial uses. Second, non-commercial uses. Exports of live native animals may be permitted for non-commercial uses such as:

  • Research;
  • Education;
  • Exhibition;
  • Conservation breeding programs;
  • Travelling exhibition; and
  • Household pets.

If you want clarity about commercial or non-commercial uses, the Department of the Environment and Energy has helpful resources at Exporting Live Plants And Animals.


There are many considerations you must make when importing and exporting live plants and animals into and out of Australia. If you comply with your obligations and the relevant laws and regulations, you are not at risk of having your specimen seized.

If you have any questions, or require advice or assistance you can contact a business lawyer.

Want to learn more? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 700+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

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