Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guest blog: traveling with a pet

Guest Blog: The worst flight of your life – without a plane incident

If you ever have the fortune of relocation for work or relationship, congratulations to you, but if you have to take your pet with you, I sympathize with you for the grief you are about to endure.

If you own a cat or a small pet (rodent, rabbit, hamster) then you are, relatively, in luck, but if you have a medium or large dog, that is where your trouble start.

Tenchi (Photo By Assaf Flatto)
My experience is based on the regulations I have encountered in my country and with the EU regulations, but the Airlines all share the same rules handed down by the IAWA so there is no going around them, unless you own or know someone with a private plane.

The first hurdle is the “local” veterinary services; you cannot book a flight without notification from the country /district or municipal vet, regardless of the fact if you have had your pet with the same Vet since he was a puppy. 

So you have to take him for inspection, which in my case was a glance at the dog, a look at the papers and rubber stamping a form, for that I had to book a meeting 3 weeks in advance, have blood drawn from my dog, wait in the waiting room 45 minutes and pay $90 US.

Once I passed this hurdle, it was time to book the flight, here you are restricted with cages, you have to bring a cage for the pet, and you'd think you could find a place that will rent one – No, either you buy one at the pet shops (that is if your dog is in the sizes they hold in stock), or you order one specificly, or if you cannot, you can rent one from the Airline – which I highly recommend not to do.

Booking the flight is like passing a bureaucratic semi marathon, it cannot be done on-line as you can imagine, so you wait on the phone and (I tried 3 airlines) then they have to look up what the procedure and price is, and prices can vary and fluctuate, cargo flight (I.e. the only one for pets heavier the 12kg) is cheap $150US, but if I could I would have paid a full seat price for my dog.  

Training dogs to sleep in the cage is a matter for the individual dog, so I cannot say what is right, let’s just say that mine hated the thought and so did I.

 Then the day to travel to the Airport arrives, you gather your stuff, the pet, the cage, all the proper documents and head for the airport.

In the Airport you first need to verify your booking at the check-in desk, then go pay for the dog's flight ,in that desk you will also have to show the veterinary certificate for the dog and (in some cases) the medical insurance for the dog.

You the need to hand your pet in the oversize luggage, word of advice, make sure your dog did his toiletries before the flight and do not give him any food right before, cover the cage bottom with old papers and place something with familiar scent in with him.

Once you hand him (in the cage) you walk to the boarding gates, have your heart set to stone for that distance while you can hear him cry out for you.
Once you are on the plane, make sure to remind the craw that you have a pet in the cargo, there have been instances where the cargo pressure was not pressurised or heated and that caused death to animals, make sure the craw are aware, and then take your sit.

The first part of the nightmare has passed.

During the flight (if you are like me) most people try to sleep and enjoy some slight turbelance, but not during this one, every bump or twist of the plane I found myself cursing the wind and the engineers that build the plan, why can't they make a flight with no bumps?
Some people will ask to visit the pet in the cargo, unless you have a very friendly craw most requests will be denied, at most (maybe) someone will go and look on your pet and say “he is fine”, but don't be fooled by that statement, though there is not much you can do but nod and say “thank you.”

Once you land, you will have to pass border control, and collect you luggage before your pet is brought to you, if you fly to Paris, insist they check again, I had to wait 1 hour AFTER I got my stuff till they brought my dog to me.

They have not checked his papers but I think that is because they didn't want to admit to messing up.

Once you get your dog take him out of the cage ASAP! ! and remember to keep him on the lead/leash in the terminal, he will try to pee in the first place he can – keep him away from the police dogs.

Normal behaviour will resume slowly. Give him time to recover from the ordeal, and let yourself relax in his presence, you will need it as he will need you.

One thing I promised myself and my dog after that one – Never again!!

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