Dog on a plane

Heather at the shelterWe have a dog. We found Heather at the animal shelter 12 years ago when she was 3 months old and I’m happy to say that she has as much energy now as she did back then when you could hardly keep her in your arms from all of the wiggling. Naturally she’ll be going with us so the first thing we checked out was being able to take her in the airplane cabin with us. Although small, she’s too tall to fit in a cage that would go under the seat in front of us so we asked about buying her a human ticket so that her cage could sit on the seat beside us. Not allowed. Have you heard of an airline called Pet Airways? They have refitted the interior of their jets with kennels instead of seats so that pets fly in the main cabin rather than in the hold. There were only 2 problems: they didn’t fly outside the US and they are out of business. Actually their still-active website says they they aren’t currently flying, so perhaps they will be back.

Queen Mary II to the rescue! Cunard operates a sailing every couple of weeks from New York to Southampton, England with kennels onboard for a dozen animals. Heather’s fare would be $800 and ours would be twice that each for the one-way crossing but what a way to begin your new life in Europe! I read that oddly, when the ship approaches the spot where the Titanic sank, it slows so that passengers and crew can pay their respects. I think that would kind of creep me out.

OK, so we can get to England but how do we get across to France? The obvious choice seemed to be the Eurostar train through the channel tunnel but unfortunately that train does not accept pets. A wise taxi company has come up with a solution: they will pick up you, your dog, and all of your luggage, drive onto the Eurotunnel train that transports cars, and then deposit you in France where ever you wish to be driven. They will do the same with the less-speedy ferry crossing and there’s even one ship  that has kennels so that even foot passengers without a car (like us) could walk on board with a dog and then exit a few hours later on the continent.

Knowing that Heather would have to have certain inoculations and other tests to avoid quarantine once we reached England, Bill telephoned the Cunard cruise line to see if they could send us all of the requirements. That conversation lasted less than a minute so I figured the results would not be good The reservationist told him that the next available sailing with a kennel slot was 18 months from the date he was calling, far longer than we wanted to wait.

Heather today

By this point it was clear that we were not going to be able to avoid sending Heather as “checked baggage” as the airlines call it when your companion animal travels with you in the hold of the plane. The next step was to buy a travel kennel and take it to the airport to make sure that it was acceptable to Delta. We will actually be on an Air France flight but Delta handles their Atlanta operations. I think we’ll follow the advice that a woman who travels this route frequently with her dog. She takes a photograph of her pet, writes a short message to the captain to remind her/him of who’s onboard down below, and includes her seat number.The captain is in charge of making sure that the animal section of the hold is pressurized and climate controlled, So a reminder wouldn’t hurt.

Whether Heather was going by air or sea, she would have to follow the same regulations that would allow her to get a Pet Passport in Europe and to accompany us on our travels. She’ll need a microchip and a rabies shot at least 21 days before we go and not more than 10 days before departure her vet must verify that Heather is healthy enough to travel and that must be certified by an office of the USDA. Although we could assemble all of the documentation ourselves, we might use a company called Pet Travel since they have it all in one package for $15 and apparently even show you how to fill out the forms in French! On that last point it seems that at the US departure point the airline or shipping company always want to see all of your pet’s documentation yet in France it’s never requested. In an expat forum, someone pointed out that if you are walking through the green “nothing to declare”exit from customs then you are stating that everything is in order. Makes sense.