Monday, January 26, 2009

Flying Pets - Egyptian Style

(Above): Doggie and half brother Cooper (on the bottom,) back in Connecticut.

VB has flown pets into and out of the USA, Baku, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. We originally flew our pets through Heathrow, via BA. After moving to Baku in Azerbaijan, BA refused to fly them. Their argument was that British Mediterranean ("BM" - an appropriate acronym considering the level of service they provide), which is one of their subsidiary companies was not the same as BA. They would only fly pets through to the USA on one carrier (airline) only. If it were just BA, then fine, they said. VB thought their argument was contemptible.

The difference between BA and BM (besides the crappy pieces of metal BM calls airplanes), is the disservice and the passengers. The staff on BM made sure to ply the already drunken sots who worked on and off 6 week shifts (rotators), in the oil fields (platforms), with more alcohol, so they became so rowdy, and abusive towards other passengers, the flights became truly hellish. The staff walked by, with small bottles of alcohol, and literally tossed them around the plane, like candy, to the boozed up oilmen. Why fly, if there's no adventure involved, right? Why fly, unless you can have a drunk kick your laptop from aisle to aisle? Why not? Why not just kiss your ass good-bye, cuz if the plane ride doesn't kill you, the other passengers will?

That's pretty much when we started using Lufthansa, beside the fact that BA made it pretty clear, our dear Doggie was no longer wanted. True, Lufthansa terminals are nothing compared to Heathrow Terminal 4 , with the mini shopping mall (basically eye candy since we could hardly afford the goods), but we have been very satisfied with Lufthansa's service, particularly regarding our pets. Though, the food on Lufthansa, leaves a lot to be desired.

Every country has rules and regulations for importing and exporting pets. They all require exams, some (Azerbaijan) require another rabies shot (regardless of when you had the last one), and a worming, in order to leave the country; and most like those "stambs." For the most part, your country's Embassy page for the host country generally specifies what's needed to enter that host country with a pet. For instance, The US Embassy site for Azerbaijan contains detailed information on how to import and export your pets, in the "Visiting Azerbaijan", Travel With Pets subsection under the US Citizen Services link. Whereas, The US Embassy to Egypt site contains no information whatsoever (if they do VB can't find it.) What's not included, is the rigmarole involved in departing the host country.

As many times as we have flown with our dogs, VB can probably count on one hand when a customs official actually asked to see documentation. It may seem to be a waste of time, but no one wants to get caught without it. Otherwise, your pet will be the one to pay.

Azerbaijan requires an unofficial $50.00 fee upon arrival. They make no qualms about the shakedown. The customs man holds your vet certificate in his right hand (even though he can't read a word of English), his left hand held out, palm up. The message is: just fork it over, and I let you pass. They (officials in Baku) will tell you, if you don't pay, your pet will be put into quarantine. Problem: Baku has no quarantine facilities that are known of. They do have a military/police dog training center on the outskirts of town, holding some very large and menacing looking German Shepards, which VB visited. VB was told, that for a fee, you could board your dog there. But, quarantine, no. Baku's form of animal control is to have a "Dog Call" day, where gangs of men, dressed in black leather jackets (resembling the Anthony Soprano gang), and matching black Mercs, drive around shooting cats and dogs in the street, during daylight hours, in public view (VB witnessed such a day). They then grab the animals by their tails, and throw them onto a flat bed truck. If they can't kill the animals with one shot, they either track the yelping animals down, or they bully club them to death, despite the fact that there may be droves of people coming and going (or someone like VB watching it all from a balcony). They will even shoot animals with tags if they find them on the street, as VB was advised by a local. VB says, "better safe than sorry."

Here's the rest of VB's latest "stamb" saga:

To The States, July 2008

VB checks in Doggie, as usual, paying the extra fee for transportation through Lufthansa. For an approximately 45 pound dog, that was about $150.00. When we arrive in the States, it's not as nice as it was in the past. Usually, you get called over to the area with the large scanners. Someone behind the counter checks the papers, asks a few questions, and you're on your way home. Just wondering if this (the Obama bumper stickers) had anything to do with VB's most recent entry?

As usual, VB was called over to the area with the ginormous scanning machines (you know, for those of you who think you can hide a teeny weeny apple in the bottom of your luggage). The real tall customs official, with his hands on his hips, asked, "Where's the papers for this dog?" VB hands him the Egyptian export papers. He says, "This is worthless! Where's the stamps?!" (Where has VB heard this before? Is there an echo in this "customs" environment? Are all these guys starting to sound the same?) VB then hands him the USA export papers from January 2008 (remember, this is now July 2008), which has the rabies date, (December 2007) signed and sealed by the local vet, and the Connecticut State Vet. (VB refuses to use the pet passport, unless all else fails.) VB says, "I took her out with these. They should be good enough for her re-entry." The customs official says, "Okay. Now do you have any fruits or vegetables on you?" (WTF!? Does VB look like a fruit or nutcase?!) VB replies, "No." He then asks, "Any dog food? Maybe a few snacks?" VB reluctantly says, "Snacks, yes." "Where are they from?" he wants to know. VB says, "The States. I bought them here. They don't sell dog snacks in Egypt." (They sell them, but they can be very difficult to find.) Customs official (who's itching for a fight, and barked up the wrong tree) says, "Okay. You're free to go. Have a nice day." VB says, "You too. Thank you." And whispers to Doggie, "Let's get the fuck outta here!"

(Below): Cooper welcoming Doggie back, July 2008.

One cycle of the export, re-import chain, and now another round begins.

Now, onto the start of the next sequel:

To Egypt, January 2009

Vet and Forms:

On this most recent trip (January 2009) VB had the dog vaccinated over 30 days before leaving (December 2008). She even made sure to have the vet give Doggie individual doses for the vaccines, so she could put the bottle stickers in the pet passport. "The stambs" (stickers) were all signed, initialed and stamped with the veterinarian's license. Then VB arranged for a visit to the vet within 10 days of departure from the USA. Everything normal on the pre-trip examination. (VB's Doggie is perfect in every way!)

The next day VB and The Boss Man head down to the state's agriculture department for a signature from the state vet, to make "official" the transport form that was filled out by the personal vet. Upon arrival, a young woman, sees "Egypt" as the destination and says, "Oh, you'll need the Fed." Well, (1) someone at the state capitol division of agriculture can actually read?, and (2) Since when did they have a federal agricultural agent working for them? The fed charged us $24.00 for his opinion of how the animal world works (regarding Baku's extra rabies requirement, "You can't have too many rabies shots in these places." "Baku is totally different, let's not talk about Baku,") and his "official" signature and "stamb". He said, we should really have Federal Form 7001, signed by a Federal Agent (isn't that what he is?) and when asked, he couldn't seem to find a copy of Form 7001. Some fucking expert.

VB remembers the day when she stopped in to that office located in the slummier part of Hartford, with no one on duty, to pick up a form she had sent in over a week earlier, and had not been returned yet. She was leaving for JFK, and stopped (praying they would have a copy) on her way to the airport, en route to Baku. After this fiasco, VB decided driving the form to the office herself was a surer and safer practice. They are now centrally located, among other government offices.

(Below): Connecticut Statehouse, Hartford, CT.

VB decides, just out of curiosity, to look up this, so called, Form 7001. Many sites dedicated to helping travelers with pet transport, mention Form 7001, as well. So VB gets to the Federal Internet site, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Down to the right, there's a link: Travel With A Pet:
"This page provides basic information on domestic and international travel of common pets and other animals. If you have any questions or concerns about exporting animals to another country, you should contact the Veterinary Services Area Office in the State from which your pet will be transported."
After clicking on the "More" link, VB goes from one page to another, all essentially repeating what she quoted above. So VB clicks the link for Area Offices, where she goes to a useless link for Connecticut, with another freaking sub-link for New England Area Offices. It states,
"...We assist many business entities and citizens with health certification of animals and animal products for importation and exportation...."
The address given, is the same one we visited, Bureau of Regulation and Inspection, CT Department of Agriculture, 165 Capitol Avenue, G-8A - exactly same office. To see the actual Form 7001, go here. It literally looks like the Connecticut State Form VB had signed. (VB got tired of searching for an online copy of the CT State form. Just take her word for it.)

From another link at the APHIS website on Egypt, they have: "Pets

The following requirements are those listed in the ASPCA booklet entitled
"Traveling With Your Pet".

"Cats and dogs must be accompanied by a valid government veterinary good health certificate issued at the point of origin (validity means 2 week from date of issue). This certificate does not exempt the pets from examination by an Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture doctor on arrival. If disease is suspected, quarantine will last no longer than 15 days. In the case of a quarantine period, the owner will be charged for the care and feeding of the animal."

Airports and Customs:

Upon leaving the US, VB was told the carrying fee, with Lufthansa, had gone up to $200.00. And, they stated, "Oh, this is the third time Doggie has flown with us." VB said, "Yeah, and she doesn't even get frequent flier miles. VB thinks they should have one for pets too." Wow, they thought that was just hysterical. A nervous VB - not so much. The check in agent "assists" VB to the office where they swab the cage, to make sure VB hasn't planted explosives in it. Then the swab dude says, "Okay, you can not touch the crate from now on. Oh, would you put the dog back in?" VB asks, "Yeah, Doggie will kennel up, but VB does have to touch the gate in order to lock it." Swab dude says, "That's okay." Ya think!!?? "It's going to smell like beef jerky," cuz VB had to buy some at the rest stop, since she forgot treats!!! Did anyone ask to see the papers? Nooo. Swab guy staples an official Transportation Security Administration, Notice of Baggage Inspection to the gate, also. (VB usually finds one of those in the top of her luggage, when they've decided to rummage through it, and pick out a favorite item to keep.)

On every flight, VB says (to the friendliest looking stewardess), "Um, I have a dog..." "And would you like for me to check to see if your dog has boarded?" "OMG. yes, please." Then later the stewardesses ask VB about her dog, how many times she's flown, what kind of dog she has, is it friendly, and does she drug it for the flight?" VB says, "Well, VB thinks after Doggie's flown like 10 times, they should at least give her a pedicure, while she's on layover." Hoot, hoot - wow they and a few passengers thought that was a howl. VB, not so much. VB's "not a good traveler," according to her own kids. BTW, no Doggie doesn't get drugged (anymore - from past experience), but VB does. From the AVMA: Don't Sedate or Tranquilize Pets Traveling By Air:
"Pets are just like people who sometimes become anxious when they don't travel frequently. This leads some owners and veterinarians to question whether administering sedatives or tranquilizers to dogs or cats prior to flight is a good idea. According to national and international air transport organizations, as well as the American Humane Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases the answer is "no"!

"An animal's natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation," noted Dr. Patricia Olson, DVM, Ph.D., director of veterinary affairs and studies for the American Humane Association. "When the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury."

Whether flying in the cabin or with cargo, animals are exposed to increased altitude pressures of approximately 8,000 feet. Increased altitude, according to Olson, can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems for dogs and cats who are sedated or tranquilized.

"Brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs and cats are especially affected," noted Olson. "Although thousands of pets are transported uneventfully by air, airline officials believe that when deaths do occur they often result from the use of sedation."

The American Humane Association cautions veterinarians to carefully consider the use of tranquilizers or sedatives for their clients who are considering air transportation for their family pet."

When we arrived in Cairo, (how many times does VB have to repeat herself?) the customs guys did not even freaking care! The papers stayed folded in the small folder, unopened since being shoved in there, after the federal animal expert, signed them and had them signed by the state vet, for good measure. We were waved through, like "get outta here, already." Doggie does not bark, (the insane barking usually gets us moving out of an airport faster than anything) but the customs guy was on his mobile - obviously so much more important than doing his job. He didn't even give a shit about what was packed in VB's bags ( just adding insult to injury! VB expects to be harassed by customs on each and every departure and arrival. If this is not done, it will give her a pleasant feeling of complacency.) Holy cow, if all VB and Doggie's departures and arrivals were so uneventful, we'd get through with a lot less anxiety. This must be a fluke!

Fluke is right. The new terminal is not yet open. As the meet and greet agent commented, "They said December, but not which year." Now, your driver can not bring the car around for you any more. We were urged to take a driver used by the agent. We declined. Instead our driver and VB got on the overcrowded public bus and took the bags to the car. We drove back around, and told the guard VB was departing (he didn't believe us, but let us through anyway). Then The Boss Man threw the disassembled crate into the back, Doggie onto VB's lap, and off we went. The last VB has heard, no private cars will be allowed for arrivals, at all. You will now need to use one of the meet and greet agents' drivers in order to get to the parking lot, or the public bus. So, if you're bringing in a pet, your arrival just got a bit more difficult.

(Below): The brand new highway from the airport. As our driver said, "You can only go 65 mph. This is torture!"

If anything, the International Standards people (those folks who decided slow moving signs, and other traffic related signs could be used as international standards) should get together, and define an international code for pet travel. This way everyone is on the same page, even if some decide not to read it. It would make international travel with pets much easier, and less ambiguous.

When it comes to customs and the TSA, VB has always been confused. They say, put all your liquids in a quart size bag. Okay, so VB did that. The ass from TSA, snooping through VB's luggage a couple of years ago, pulls out the quart size bag and yells (at the top of his lungs) "LIQUIDS!!!!!!! LIQUIDS!!!!" Ooooh, what a find - liquids all bagged up in a small quart size zip-lock plastic envelope, just as instructed. Then on another trip, VB accidentally packed an Opinel knife in her carry-on. The Opinel is in a zip-lock plastic bag which she uses for "Road Trips." She, unfortunately forgot she had it packed in her carry-on, last year (January 2008) when they found it. The TSA idiot pulled the knife out, fully open (it was a real nice larger version.) He then held it up, over his head, and yelled (really loud, for everyone to hear and see), "Noooo, you can not take this on! It's Too Big!!" (Hold that up higher and scream louder, would'ya?) Really?! VB knows that. The damn thing just got buried on the very bottom of VB's bag. Does VB look like a terrorist? Obviously. The Boss Man felt so bad for VB, he bought her a whole new set. Now she's got even bigger ones than before.

Between "coming and going, and coming and going" as one Pakistani taxi driver in Abu Dhabi said once, VB gets awfully confused.

VB's no expert, but here's a few tips on importing, and exporting a pet to and from Egypt.

Import To Egypt:

Don't worry your little heart out. When you arrive, they will not look at your damn veterinarian papers. Your pet could be carrying ebola and they wouldn't notice. They couldn't care less. That pet, is a distraction, and you obviously have contraband items in your possession. Instead, Egyptian customs officials will, open the largest bag you have (don't you know - that secret thing is always hidden in that largest bag), and rifle through it. (Do they really need to sniff VB's underwear?) A man in a suit will ask, "What is in these bags?!" You will reply (since they haven't figured out after unpacking and repacking the damn thing), "Blah, blah, blah...stuff for our house, clothing, etc." and don't ever mention dog treats or dog food, as VB has been told, these items are forbidden. "Do you have anything to declare?!" "What would that be?" VB asks. "Video cam-me-ra, or more than 3 lit-res of alcohol." VB: "No." (Thinking, "WTF! Right now, I only wish I had a drink!") After the harassment (no bakseesh required), VB is allowed to exit terminal.

Export From Egypt:
This only applies if the pet is accompanying you on your flight, either on board or in freight / cargo (like with your check-in luggage.)

1) You need all shots documented with stamps (aka, "stambs"). Get a "pet passport" for this (not one from the USA, cuz they don't have room for the stamps). Some American vets will give you the sticker from the bottle, but most won't. Ask (in advance) for vaccinations from single dose bottles so the American vet keeps one sticker, and you can put the other in your pet passport. These stickers need to be signed, initialed) by the vet, dated (within the past year), and stamped with their official logo and license. (If you don't have stamps, there are people in Cairo who can do this for you, for a price, without the shot - again you will need to provide evidence of true vaccination, like an official vet / USA export document.) The customs official will accept the export documentation from your home country, if it is within the past year. But, again, stamps are the best.

2) Having your dog chipped is also good. If you have a chip, and an I.D. provided by the chip manufacturer (as in Home Again Microchips), you don't need it, but it's recommended. The Egyptian customs official was very impressed with the chip information, and expounded on it in Egyptian, which VB doesn't understand one iota. VB is actually thinking of purchasing a chip reader, just in case it's ever needed, since the American chips may not be the same as the ones used overseas.

3) Your passport.

4) Your pet.

Make a copy of all these items before traipsing out to the Wildlife Office. Take the papers, copies, and your pet to the Wildlife Office near gate 3S at Cargo Village. A vet will vet your papers, and might want to see your pet. He will want copies made, and if you get there very early in the morning, or possibly middle of the night, you will find few xerox machines available anywhere nearby.

You can visit the vet at the Wildlife Office anytime within 24 hours of your flight, or 3 hours before your departure (if you are blessed with good luck.) All this will cost you 50LE.

Anyone who tells you anything else is full of shit. They will have you running in circles, and most likely getting the shakedown from everyone you talk to. This is much simpler than most people will tell you. It is fact, one of the simplest pet export procedures I have experienced, providing you have ALL of your documentation (and your pet there too.) Some vets will take care of this paperwork visit to the Wildlife Office for you.

Also, the vet at the Wildlife Office upon seein the form from VB's private Cairene vet certifying that Doggie was healthy and vaccinated, states, "this means nothing to me." He didn't even want a copy of it. VB paid 70 LE for that meaningless form.

VB will continue to use these procedures whenever she imports and / or exports Doggie. As she has stated before, "better safe than sorry." No one wants a glitch put into their travels, and you never know when you will encounter the one customs dude who demands that all rules have been followed.

Here are some links to other posts about importing / exporting pets to and from Cairo, from different perspectives:

Bringing Pets To Cairo, at Old Bag of Cairo blog (UK perspective)

Traveling With Pets To Cairo, Egypt! at petrelocation blog (They suggest having your documentation travel with your pet, and the requirement for Form 7001). VB never lets her certificates out of sight during a trip, unless it's a copy of the original. And as for Form 7001? Click on the link further down, and you're taken to PetRelocation. com, which states,
"We are a full service pet relocation company, who offers the complete Door-to-Door service for your pets. Our prices can typically start off at a minimum of $800-$1,000; for complete Door-to-Door services, of a small animal, within the United States."
VB hates to think what the charge would be for international "Door-to-Door" service.

"Strays may lead a dog's life in Cairo, but others live in the lap of luxury, Dena Rashed checks a deluxe pet hotel"

Articles on Animals and Airports:

"Anyone who thinks air travel is a jungle should trek through the Frankfurt Animal Lounge, Europe's most modern airport site for just about everything from worms and fish to wolves and hippos.

Tucked in a corner of the city's sprawling airport, the lounge covers 3,750 square metres, or the size of a professional soccer pitch, and is one of four European hubs for getting your pet from Shanghai to Chicago."

"Frustrated and exhausted travellers at Heathrow have been complaining recently of being treated like animals, caged in the terminal with little to drink and taunted by snarling ground staff.

Little wonder then that Frankfurt airport, the main European competitor to Heathrow, has decided to make a point by treating its animals in transit even better than its pampered business-class humans."

"Lufthansa's recently opened Animal Lounge at Frankfurt Airport is Europe's largest airport animal ward. All animals leaving, arriving or just making a stop-over in Frankfurt end up here. Be it a dog or a cat, an ornamental fish, a horse, a parrot or a camel - they are all looked after by a vet."

(Below): VW Bus going in the opposite direction.


  1. Ay, yay yay! I sent the cat over from Seattle. I would have preferred Northwest/KLM since KLM treats the animals like kings and queens during the Skiphol layover. Unfortunately, NWA required that I use the services of a pet shipper. $$$ Instead we used BA to Abu Dhabi. It was not cheap-$1100 for her to fly alone!

  2. passo per caso nel tuo blog
    un saluto from Italy, ciao

  3. Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo: I recall shipping our old dog to Abu Dhabi. We went AA and BA. AA and BA were in the process of a divorce, at the time. We had to get her from AA and run through the parking lots, behind terminals, to get her to the BA flight in time. She did not like the kennel, and it was hysterical trying to get her in while the crate kept shifting forward. It cost us around $135.00 with BA and they walked her at Heathrow (and drilled a bunch of holes into the back of our crate.) I have heard, that for US flights, Continental is the way to go when traveling with pets. But, that depends on your area of the country too. That's just amazing - $1100.00!

  4. oh my god almighty,and I was worried about the actual plane trip...not the horror shows on either side.

    So we get to Frankfurt, the dog gets ambiant (sp?)lighting while I try to sleep with my eyes open during what is, (if my luck with such things remains constant) to be a 15 hour layover?!!????

    The dog has more room...I can't stand up - lest I concuss myself banging my head against the overhead compartment. I certainly can't get up, turn around and lie down in my alloted area on the plane.

    How am I ever to get this done?

    If they go in my bag that I barely managed to get closed, then they had better be the ones jamming things back in again.

    I may have PTSD and certainly nightmares about Baku...mental note...that never go to Azerbaijan...ever. Sounds like the kind of place that might rent out rooms in secret jails to American military needing a safe place to torture people away from those cumbersome rules and regulations in the Hague Convention and the expectations of a civilized world...issues issues issues....

    all I want is to get from Point A to Point B with my dog. Why does the world have to make every thing a giant cluster***k of what can be so simple. I arrive in Cairo August 9.