BIG TRAVELS: New York City to Manila.

New York City
September 29 - 2015

I really learnt so much from this entire experience.  Some people laugh at how much I spoil Bigs (my French bulldog).  But truth is, he has and does so much for me, and deserves just as much love and affection if not more, than what he gives. Needless to say, his comfort has always been my primary concern.  I’m sure all pet parents out there are with me on this one!  

I was overly nervous when planning to bring Bigs with me to Manila.  I took a glimpse of all the requirements, and just wanted to bury my head in my pillow and wake up when someone has sorted it all out for me.  
I did find a company who specializes in pet relocation.  Their job was to take care of everything, from the paperwork to walking them during stopovers, and making sure your fur baby arrives at your new front door.  However, this would mean that he / she would be flying in cargo. That was not even an option for me, as it's extremely risky to place flat faced animals in cargo due to suffocation.  The rep also stated that it was not their responsibility should my pet die during flight?!!  What the ????!!  So onto the next....

JFK to NAIA (Manila airport) is such a long flight for a human, let alone a dog! We are talking close to 24 hours travel time, including the layovers and flying. Because Bigs is a french bulldog, there was no question that he would have to travel in cabin with me.  Many airlines have banned flat nosed breeds in cargo because of risk of suffocation.  So they have no choice but to ride in cabin.

Airlines that do allow pets in cabin are restricted to a certain number on board (all airlines are different).  Therefore, it's always a good idea to inform them as soon as you have purchased your ticket, to avoid disappointment. After reading endless reviews on airline pet travel, I decided to fly with Delta.  They appeared to be the best, most accommodating, and also are familiar with ESA’s (emotional service animals).

So, first things first.  If you are planning on bringing your pet overseas with you, please check the country’s requirements at least 5 -6 months prior to your departure.  All countries are different, and I was lucky that the Philippines did not have such a tedious process unlike others. But take note that many countries require pets to take tests that require samples to be sent abroad - which can take months to receive the results back.  So always best to plan ahead, to avoid the last minute panic.

I originally referred to the Philippine Embassy in NY’s website for the requirements.  But to be honest, the requirements were rather vague, and I needed a more specific list.  This was where, came to save the day.  Their list is so comprehensive and up to date!  They state requirements for each country, and you can purchase forms on their website.  You can also read other pet parents questions.  Then realize, if you are anything like me, that you are not the only one acting crazy -just to put your mind at ease!
So after conducting some research, I gathered the following info for dog travel to Manila:
  1. If you are not coming from a “rabies free country” (which the United States isn’t) then you need to ensure your dog has had the Rabies vaccination, at least 30 days prior to departure, and not more than 12 months out.  Also, a letter to accompany this from your vet stating that there has not been an outbreak of rabies within a 12.5 mile radius from where you live.Aside from rabies, the other vaccinations needed to be taken were:  distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parvo.  
  2. A vet certificate (which your vet, preferably one that has experience with drafting one can administer).  This needs to be completed within 30 days of departure and also stamped and endorsed by the official government of the exporting country.  In my case, it was the USDA.  
  3. Tapeworm and tick treatment to be taken within 48 hours of departure.
  4. Contact the BAI (Bureau of Animal Industry) and request for an Import Permit.  This is a form they can either email or fax to you.  Or if you know someone in Manila to get it for you personally, better still. You will have to fill this out and present to the officials upon arrival at NAIA airport. This basically states what kind of animal you are importing.

Now, bear in mind that this was over a year ago.  So it’s wise for you to verify with the embassy’s website and to check for any updates first.  
PETTRAVEL.COM. This was by far the BEST resource I had, especially when all the embassy websites would state something different.  

AUTHENTICATION (This only refers to if you are traveling to the Philippines).  Once all your paperwork has been completed, get them authenticated at your nearest Philippine Embassy.  (This is basically their way of saying that all the “foreign documents” are legit and ok to be accepted in the Philippines).  Go there in the morning, and your documents “should” be ready for you to pick up in the afternoon.  Your foreign documents will be invalid otherwise.

PET PASSPORT.  I would recommend keeping all your vaccination records on one sheet of paper (i.e a Pet Passport). You can ask your vet to provide this.  This keeps it organized and prevents delay when submitting them to the officials over at your departure airport and upon arrival in Manila. Because quite frankly, ain’t nobody got time for delays.  The last thing you need is an official taking their sweet time going through the list of required vaccinations.  By keeping it organized shows that you are on top of things, and less likely for them to give you a hard time.

BUY A GOOD TRAVEL BAG FOR YOUR FURBABY.  5-6 months prior to departure, choose a good traveling bag for your furbaby.  I started off with buying two, to see how Bigs liked them.  First one was the STURDI BAG, second was one with wheels, and for the life of me I cannot remember the brand, but this also converted into a backpack.  The third was the one we settled with - the Love Thy Beast bag.  This Bigs absolutely loved!  Anywhoos, why 5 -6 months you ask?  Well, because you want them to become familiar with it prior to flying.  Some people introduce their traveling bag a month or two prior, and that’s fine too.  If your fur baby is traveling in cargo, invest in a good crate for them and ensure they have plenty of room to stand up and turn around in. But I personally, always like to give extra time incase of unexpected scenarios. It’s always better to be ahead of the game eh?

VACCINATION AND DOCUMENT COMPLETION.  Note that some countries require you to complete the paperwork within 10 days of departure, and will not accept anything beyond that. So plan accordingly.  

GIVE LOTS OF PLAYTIME AND EXERCISE.  I made sure Bigs got lots of playtime the night before the flight.  So he was super tired when it came to flying, and snored like the baby he is.  He also walked all the way from check in to the boarding gate at JFK airport.  Then again from gate to gate at LAX.  

THE USDA at JFK is not in a convenient location AT ALL.  It is in the middle of nowhere on the cargo side of the airport.  I commuted from the city by train then took a cab from the terminal to the building (risking my life as the cabbie took numerous illegal u-turns).  I was literally, OFF THE GRID.  So if you can, get a friend or family member, or even better.. drive yourself down there.  Coming back I was lucky enough to share a car service with another girl who was there completing her dog paperwork too.  They have two cab companies that service the area, but neither one picked up the phone when I tried calling.  

CHECK IN EARLY and enjoy that glass of wine you need. I hope this is a no brainer.  Avoid the queues, or make the queues easier to deal with when you sip that wine!

CALMING TREATS AND ESSENTIAL OILS.  There are many calming treats on the market for dogs.  I did buy a pack but Big did not like the taste of it at all, so it was a bit of a waste.  Lavender is also great as an oil to dab a little in your fur baby’s travel bag.  Amazon have a great variety of lavender travel products for pets.  So it may be worth checking out.

DON’T FEED YOUR FUR BABY TOO MUCH BEFORE THE FLIGHT.  I say this because the turbulence may upset his / her stomach and the last thing you want is vomit on your lap. Sadly, Bigs upchucked a bit in the car on the way to the airport.

But most importantly guys, is to relax and enjoy the flight! I think once you have flown with your fur baby once, you will know what to expect so the next times will be a breeze!  In my next blog post, I will be sharing my first hand experience flying with Big in Delta.  How many of you have traveled overseas with your fur babies?  What was your experience like?  Please share!