Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sailing with an Oldsmobile

Olds napping in
his PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
Our dog Peanut, aka Oldsmobile, is a 10 lb, 16.5 year old half dachshund/pomeranian mix, and is traveling with us. He's been a champ since we left Seattle, minus a few potty issues, but hey, what can you expect, we took him out of his house and messed up his routine, so there are bound to be issues! Thankfully, he's getting used to being on the boat and has been 'boatbroken' again since we've been in Monterey, which has been nice.

We refer to him as 'Olds' for short, and to get Olds ready for travel, I wanted to share with you what we had to do to travel with a dog internationally, because it is not easy to figure out and the websites that are out there are confusing and not very helpful.

Dr. Rebecca Birchmeier
First, you need a good vet. After an unnamed groomer in Seattle accidentally cut Olds, who had to be taken to Companion Animal Clinic on 45th & I-5 to get 12 stitches, we met Dr. Rebecca Birchmeier who turned to be the best thing out of that debacle. We immediately switched vets and made Dr. B our primary for Olds. Dr B is the owner (and primary vet) for Companion Animal Clinic and worked with us in prep for getting Olds ready for our trip. I have to plug her clinic because we love her, her staff, her stellar care, attention to detail, her patience and great prices. Olds even loves going there and get excited when we arrive! And she also has experience with senior dogs, since she has a 15 year old dog as well! Dr. B and team helped us plan out our dog food rations, first aid kit, medicine for his allergies, vaccinations and other needs Olds would have while we travel with him. Each country has different requirements, and since we are visiting about 25-30 while on this trip (pacific coast including Mexico, Central America, Panama and the Caribbean), Dr. B was a HUGE help with figuring out forms and vaccinations needed to travel with a dog.

I woke Olds up from a nap so that he could
get his picture taken after we went under the SF bridge.
Next, you'll need a list of places you will be visiting. I made a list of countries and worked with Dr. B to figure out the requirements for each country. After both of us making multiple phone calls to APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) in Olympia, and working with the manager and onsite vet, we were able to better understand what was needed. APHIS is the division of import and export for the USDA, who works with all countries to set regulations for importing and exporting animals (pets, livestock, etc.) and plants. What happens is this - if you scroll to the bottom of the APHIS link above, you will see a bunch of letters, click on a letter for a country that you want to visit - this is where you'll find the requirements for importing pets. Some countries require a 7001 health form signed by an APHIS vet, which costs $39 per form, per country, so as you can imagine, it adds up. Thankfully, not all countries require a USDA accredited vet signature on the 7001, but they do require a 7001 signed by your accredited primary vet. For example, Mexico requires a letter stating that the pet has been evaluated/examined and has a clean bill of health - in Spanish and in English - along with updated Rabies certificate. Some countries also require other vaccinations and a microchip. I remember when Peanut got microchipped, Dr B said 'This is the oldest dog I've ever microchipped' -lol!  Since we are on a boat and not flying in, we listed many countries on one 7001 form which APHIS said was ok since we are just 'passing through' and have a specific signed 7001 forms for those countries who require one specific to their country. Some places will quarantine your dog, at your expense if you don't have the right paperwork - sometimes upwards of $40 a day, for even a year yikes!

Olds, napping in the cockpit.
After you've figure out the regulations for each country, you'll need to make sure your dog is vaccinated. Olds is an auto-immune dog, and hasn't been vaccinated in quite some time. The state of WA cares about the health and welfare of the pet, and therefore doesn't require a Rabies  vaccination or other vaccinations; most states require it regardless of your pet's health. Peanut is now the proud wearer of a microchip and vaccinated until the cows come home, including his monthly heart worm pills and Frontline! Thankfully Dr. B was able to research and confirm that an older auto-immune dog can be vaccinated without harming his health. You'll need multiple copies of these vaccination forms (originals) because apparently some of the countries will take the forms, so you don't want to be left hanging in some random country with an undocumented pet. Dr. B was kind enough to provide us with gobs of signed paperwork for Olds, in both blue and black ink, along with letters in Spanish and English, and plenty of 7001 health certificates!

Once you have the health certificates from your vet, you need to either set up a face to face appointment with APHIS to have your certificates stamped and approved, or you can snail mail them in for their 'federal' approval and stamp ($39 for each country on the 7001 form). They have strict guidelines, so if you don't get it right, they won't stamp it. If you give your APHIS office a call, they will send you a .pdf with the guidelines that you and your vet can follow on filling out the 7001 health certificate and how to mail them in with your payment. Within a week, we were in business, and our health certificates for Olds were stamped, approved and sent back! Thank you dear friend Lisa for overnighting those to us!!

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get your dog ready with vaccinations and to get your certificates! If you go to a Rabies-Free country (i.e. Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Galapagos, etc), it can take a long time!

We can't thank Dr. Birchmeier enough for everything!! 
Thank you and your staff, Dr. B!!!

Companion Animal Clinic
APHIS Import/Export Home

Feel free to contact us directly with any questions!


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