It was a decision I struggled with for nearly a year… how on earth do I get my dog Darcie all the way down to Patagonia from The States safely?
The idea of her flying in the bottom of an airplane, being carried nearly half way across the world killed me. Would she be okay? Would I be okay with myself if anything happened to her? I knew my decision would be a selfish one, she had been in great hands the previous year away from me.
Image: Stevie & Darcie courtesy of Anthony Taylor
My emotions eventually won over as I decided there was no way I could be without my best travel buddy and fur friend. She had been traveling with me ever since I found her as a barn pup in Alaska over four years ago.
So then, the homework began. I started with Google, as does everyone… There was, needless to say, an overwhelming amount of information which often contradicted itself depending on which link you clicked. I had also spoken with friends Nonurbia who had flown their adopted street pup out of South America and wrote a helpful article about it here.
Three months later with a small mound of paperwork we boarded the flight bound for South America. After having jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops with endless emails, phone calls, vet visits, and papers made, here’s what eventually went down as I transported and imported my dog to another country:
1. What the airlines needs:
Note: This is if your dog is too big to ride in the cabin with you. If you have a small dog that will fit comfortably in a kennel in the space underneath the seat in front of you, the list below becomes a lot shorter.
A. The Ticket: Before you book your own ticket, call the airlines ahead and be sure that there is room on your flight for your dog to fly in cargo. Most flights will only accept 2-3 dogs per flight. Only certain airplanes have the adequate cargo hold for pets.
Direct flights are better and less paperwork. You’ll need the legal papers for each country you transit through. I booked my ticket direct and overnight as it is easier on the pet. The weather is typically cooler and your pet is naturally tired and therefore more relaxed. If you do book a ticket with layovers, be sure that you have plenty of time to transit with all the required paperwork between each flight. If you’re importing the pet to the country (not just in-transit to your final destination), give yourself at least 8 hours to complete the paperwork upon arrival.
When you call to book, have the dimensions and weight of the kennel as well as the weight and breed of your dog ready for a proper quote.
B. Good Weather: Most airlines won’t fly a dog if the weather is predicted to be over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 25 degrees both at your departure location and final destination. This was particularly hard for me as Argentina has opposing seasons to The States. I flew in November as it was fall in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern. It was a close call, but worked out in the end.
C. The Kennel: This has to be airline approved and depends on who you fly with on the different requirements. Your dog will need to be able to stand up, sit, and lay down comfortably without touching the sides of the kennel.
Puppy pads for the bottom of your kennel should be taped down to soak up any mess during the transport. I also gave Darcie a piece of my clothing (shirt, etc.) so that she had a familiar smell in her kennel which can give your pet a sense of security. Make them sleep and eat in it before you fly them so that they’re familiar with the kennel before the big flight.
You’ll also need bowls for food and water that clip securely onto the door of the kennel which can also be accessed from the outside, without opening the kennel door.
Tip: Put either a treat toy or a water bottle with holes in it and some calming treats such as Zuke's in their kennel so they have something to play with. This acts as a stress reliever and a distraction for your pet during the long transport.
D. Drugs: Most airlines wont approve any kind of relaxant type drug for animals as your animal could have a bad reaction to them. I gave Darcie Zuke's all natrual Enhanced Calming Functional Chews before the flight which are filled with chamomile, valerian, hawthorn, l-theanine, and passion flower which all aid nervousness and stress. You can purchase these online at: https://www.zukes.com/dog-treats/meaty/enhance-calming/
I also used natural drops that I put into Darcie’s water just before her flight called Rescue Remedy (http://www.bachflower.com/rescue-remedy-pets-bach-flower/).
E. General Health Certificate: This is different than the one below for SENASA which is government certified. This is a general certificate that is only filled out and signed by your veterinarian within 10 days of your flight.
F. Rabies Vaccination: You’ll need a signed copy from your vet of a rabies vaccination certificate that shows they were given within the last year, but no more than 30 days before your scheduled date of departure.
G. Vaccinations Certificate: This is another paper your veterinarian will print off and sign for you showing that all vaccinations are up to date and none were given less than 30 days before the flight.
H. Check In: Be sure to check in 3 hours before your flight if you’re traveling internationally. I took Darcie for a long walk, made sure she hadn’t eaten in the last 12 hours (sometimes it can make them sick while flying), drank plenty of water and gone to the bathroom just before I checked her in.
Check to see what location your dog goes to. Often, the cargo location is just
outside of the main airport. Your specific airlines will let you know where to drop off your pet upon departure and where to pick them up at your next destination. Bring all of your paperwork and be sure that you have extra copies of things in case they want to keep any of it for their own records. This way you’re not left at your final destination with any missing paperwork.
I. Airway Bill: Most airlines will fill out and give you an airway bill which is your receipt of your cargo (pet). Keep this as it will have a tracking number you can use to track with your phone.
When you board you flight, you can ask the captain to check to see if your dog is indeed on the flight. They have the capability to see the cargo holding area for pets by camera and can verify that your pet is on the flight with you before you take off.
2. What the government needs:
Each country has their own set of rules. As for my trip, I was dealing with SENASA (Argentina’s version of The USDA) and The USDA’s local office for Texas, where my departure was scheduled from.
A. SENASA & USDA Verifications: First things first. Directly contact SENASA here and The USDA at email@example.com to verify that all the information is up to date and you have the list of the latest requirements. Things change year to year and is always better to have something in writing directly from the government in case you encounter any problems later on.
Note: If your flight includes any layovers, you’ll need to fill out the transit portion of the form and be sure to obtain all of the required import paperwork for each of those countries.
B. Anti-Rabies Certificate: This must show that your dog’s rabies vaccinations were given within the last year and not within 30 days of your departure.
C. Vaccinations Certificate: This will show that your dog is up to date on all current shots (none newer than 30 days) and must be dated more than 14 days before your date of departure.
D. Anti-Parasite: Argentina didn’t require this, though most countries do. This is typically given before you mail in your paperwork to the USDA and must be verified that your vet administered the medication before your certificate is approved by the USDA.
As most of these are time-sensitive, you can mail in a prepaid envelope or even overnight mail. I was able to get my papers to and from the USDA in two days time.
E. Certificado Veterinario International (CVI or International Veterinary Certificate): This must be both in English and Spanish. You can download the certificate which is already translated both in English and Spanish directly from the USDA’s website, here.
It must be filled out and signed by a veterinarian that is USDA accredited. Your veterinarian will let you know if they are indeed certified to do this. If not, there are many in every town, you’ll just have to call around.
If the country requires an anti-parasite treatment for your pet, you’ll be asked to mail in the information from your vet to be verified before issuing the completed CVI. There will be a $38 fee that you’ll need to pay by check with the mail-in of your paperwork in order to obtain the endorsement.
After this is obtained, you’ll need to mail in your certificate to your local USDA office to certify it. It’s best to contact them directly by phone so that your vet can fax it before mailing it in so that you don’t waste your time and money if there is information missing from your form. Once they tell you it’s all okay, mail in your health certificate, check made out to the USDA for $38, rabies and vaccinations certificates to your state’s USDA office.
F. Titer Test or FAVN Report: This can take months, so check ahead of time to see if the country that you’re traveling to requires this. Argentina did not, but many countries do.
3. Once You Arrive
These are a list of the main tasks that had to be done. There was a lot of in-between papers, payments, offices, and forms that aren’t listed because it is very dependent on which country and if you’re importing temporarily or permanently.
Everyone at the airport will let you know what to do when you arrive, just be sure to give yourself at least 8 hours to complete everything required upon arrival to import your pet. Argentina was particularly funny as most of the workers will break from 1-3 for lunch, siesta and yerba mate.
A. Location: After you go through customs, head to your pick up location for your pet. Every airlines is different as most are just outside of the main airport, check beforehand.
B. SENASA: You’ll need to head to their office to pay a fee (less than $10). Bring pesos as they make you pay this at the bank there at the location and wont accept card or any other currencies. There they will check the pet to be sure it’s in a healthy state, fill out the required paperwork and then give you the signed form.
C. AFIP: After you have the required documents, you’ll visit the AFIP location which is another government office located there at the same location as the cargo and SENASA offices. Here you’ll need to pay another fee (around $100) to import your pet into Argentina. They’ll fill out the paperwork and then once you have the required documents, you’ll head to the cargo office of your specific airlines to pick up your airway bill (the original).
D. Airline’s Cargo Office: Once you have done the above, you’ll bring the acquired paperwork to the office of the airlines that you traveled with (also at the same location as the above offices), hand over the papers with and often pay another hefty fee (around $100), but depends on the airlines.
E. Pick Up: Afterwards, you’ll make your way over to the cargo area in the warehouse where your pet will be, waiting patiently after many hours of your running around to secure the needed papers.
Here’s a video of Darcie finally leaving the cargo area. As you can see, it’s not by any means a place you want your pet for an extended amount of time…
Phones were not allowed which is why the video is a bit shaky!
You can find more details on USDA’s Argentina travel site: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/pettravel-argentina
More info on flying a dog out of South America can be found at: