Saturday, 6 December 2014

Bringing our Dogs to Ajijic

Now here's a thing! Where do you start when you decide to emigrate and have pets to relocate?

Our lovely mutts, Deefa, the black labrador and Zoob, the Patterdale Terrier already didn't know which end was up after living in a series of temporary homes with us after the sale of our own house. In the space of four months, they'd lived in Culbokie on the Black Isle in the Highlands, Orkney, Inverness and Eathie, back on the Black Isle. So just to add insult to injury, we then load them into the car and drive to Glasgow where they are packed up in dog crates and suffer through three flights over 3 days and 5,500 miles to Guadalajara, Mexico.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here - let's look at exactly what was involved in arranging for them to be shipped (OK, flown) to our new home in Mexico. We looked at the costs with a couple of firms but when one of them, was highly recommended to us by our financial adviser, we decided to go with them.

I have to say that Transfur animals provide a very personal service with either Andy or Paul always available to answer queries and organise the trip. They were extremely good at researching the most pet friendly companies offering flights to Mexico and they booked the dogs' travel with United Airlines. One point to note is not to book your own flights until the animals flights are confirmed. This is because you can't change your own flight without financial penalty but you can change the animals flights free of charge!
Zoob & Deefa Dec 2014

Transfur have a detailed animal measuring chart and once they have the size of your pet they then order appropriate crates for them which are sent to you in advance of your travel date. Unfortunately, although they had informed me that United Airlines charged by the weight of the animal plus crate, they chose to order wood crates which inevitably cost a heck of a lot more than plastic crates. I've since found out that because of this weight per crate charge, other pet export firms use plastic crates whenever possible when shipping with United Airlines. (NB. Different rules apply for different Airlines, some of whom insist on wood crates so check before ordering). The other downside was that these crates resembled coffins and I couldn't bear the thought of putting my dogs into one of them.

We had arranged via Transfur animals to take our dogs to, Glasgow Depot the afternoon prior to our flight and having spoken to them about our crating concerns, they assured us that they had plastic/metal crates to fit both dogs which we could exchange for ours at their depot. This proved to be a real godsend at the other end because we'd never have been able to lift the wooden crate containing our outsize labrador and neither is there any way you are allowed to take your dog out of the crate before you leave the airport! I most likely would have used for the whole export service if I had know about them sooner. they also offer a very friendly and personal service and the Glasgow concern is run by two sisters, Gail and Karen.

Now comes the interesting bit ........ we'd sorted out the Animal Passports, organised their shipping and overnight accommodation, found an animal friendly B & B for our arrival in Ajijic until our new house was ready but we couldn't find out from anyone in the UK where we needed to go to collect our dogs in Guadalajara! Now correct me if I'm wrong but shouldn't the export agent provide end of journey details for a client when the fee is a whopping £3500? These are the people who ship pets all over the world for a living but they just tell you to phone United Airlines at Heathrow to find out what to do at the other side of the world! I called United Cargo, Heathrow but needless to say, no-one could tell me where the animal cargo depot was in Guadalajara and they weren't prepared to find out. After a bit of wheedling, I did manage to get the phone number for United Cargo in Guadlajara and then I struck gold..........

Gold in the name of Ricardo Cardenas who works for United Cargo in Guadalajara. We spoke in Spanglish, e-mailed in Spanglish and eventually I understood what he wanted us to do. As we were arriving in Guadalajara the evening before the dogs, we had to declare two pieces of missing luggage - the dogs. As passengers, we are apparently allowed one dog each as luggage so when we filled in the customs form we were under strict instructions not to tell the authorities they were coming as cargo, just to act dumb and say we were coming back the next day to collect them. Ricardo, in the meantime, had worked his magic behind the scenes and had arranged to offload the dogs himself from the aircraft, neatly ripping their air waybill numbers off the crates as he did so. This ruse meant that the dogs did not have to go to the cargo warehouse and could come straight in to the terminal as luggage for veterinary checking. It also meant we wouldn't have to pay a huge fee "impuesto" for getting them released from the airport. This man deserves a medal! He stayed with us all the way through the vetting process, called an external vet for dog worming (see below), even persuading her to leave her clinic in Chapala and come immediately as the poor dogs had been travelling for 4 days. I am deeply indebted to Ricardo Cardenas.

You need to note that you or your UK vet need to liaise with DEFRA regarding the very strict rules for exporting pets to Mexico. We complied with every aspect and more but despite this, the authorities would not release our dogs until a vet had been called to give them a worming tablet each. This was not on the list of requirements and even though we regularly worm them ourselves, it apparently should have been done by a vet and certified on their animal passports before we left the UK.

We are now happily installed with the dogs in our beautiful home in Ajijic and the very stressed pets we met at the airport are now relaxed and happy once again

Postscript ...... Deefa was released from his crate in the airport carpark and promptly threw up thereby neatly disposing of the offending worming tablet!

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