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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Are you Bringing your Dog to Ecuador? Then you Must Read This LONG Post by Star

I was very happy when mom asked me to pass on this information to you because I realized that with time, even mom forgets what a difficult time we all had. So, we hope that this post provides you with the information you need to, if not avoid, at least minimize the headaches and heartaches of such a trip.
  • Should you contract a pet transportation company in the US?
My mom tells me that pet transportation companies are great under the right circumstance. She used them before when moving my late sister from South Africa back to the US. However, when moving to Ecuador you need to be aware that these companies are subject to the same airline rules that you are. Yet, they do have contacts and that may help you so that shouldn't stop you from exploring this option. It is very important that if you decide to hire one of these companies you make sure that they will clear your doggie through Ecuadorian customs, otherwise they will not be much help to you.
  • What airline to fly?
Mom says that this is a really tricky question because we only have experience with one airline: Continental. However, she has asked around and gathered some information from the experiences of others. She recommends that you call every airline and ask the following questions:
  1. Do you have any temperature restrictions? Most US airlines have temperature restrictions. This means that they do not allow live animals from May 15 till after Sept 15th. Continental Airlines is the only US airline that is equipped to make sure animals are kept in temperature controlled environments so that they are kept SAFE during the high heat months. Continental is nicely set up. They take good care of doggies under their responsibility. The people who work at the counter with the dogs are wonderful. Unfortunately not everyone you come in contact with during this process is that way. Some of the Continental agents mom spoke with were pretty nasty.
Delta Airlines has also established a similar program to Continental’s, but it’s relatively new and it doesn’t cover many cities like Quito, for example. International airlines such as LAN Ecuador don’t seem to have these restrictions. However, it’s critical to call all the airlines you are considering to find out their policies.

  1. When can I book the reservation for my dog? This is a very important point. Continental Airlines only allows you to book reservations for your doggies 3 days before departure. They also have a 75% rule; that is, if the flight you’re hoping to depart on fills up to 75% capacity or more, you won’t be able to book your dog. Flights bookings can change drastically from one day to the next. For my family that meant that we all stayed until we could all leave together. We had sold our home and had a rental car so that meant we had to find a place to stay and extend our rental car for a week. Thankfully it was only one week!!! We had a great experience with a manager of Continental (Virginia) who made sure we could all go together a week later. The other agents were telling mom that we had to stay in the US till September!!!
  1. Do you have any capacity restrictions? This is basically the 75% rule Continental has. Find out from all other airlines before you choose which one to fly with.
  1. Is my dog going to go as Cargo or as Luggage? This is also a critical point because if they come as luggage, you can handle the clearance of your pet by presenting the papers to the customs agent in the luggage area. If they come as cargo and depending on the time the flight arrives, you will most likely have to leave your dog for a minimum of one night in the airline's cargo warehouse. Trust me, this is NOT fun. And, you will need and agent in Ecuador to help you maneuver the bureaucracy of customs.
So make sure that the airline agent you are talking with understands the question!!! Many agents will just 'yes' you to get you off the line. Make them find out and give you a DEFINITE answer.

  1. Do you have any rules about bumping my dog? Continental failed to tell mom about the 75% rule the many times she spoke to the airline agents. But, they always made sure to worry her to death by telling her that they had the right, once the reservation was made, to bump the dog and send it in the next flight available. That's me they were talking about bumping.... the very idea! This possibility drove mom crazy!
  1. What other restrictions or rules do you have that I should be aware of? Every airline is different AND they change their rules often. Just be persistent and get all the facts.

  • What airport: Quito or Guayaquil?
We flew into Quito in Continental. That meant that we arrived there at 11 PM and I went as cargo. Mom tried very hard to clear me BEFORE we arrived, but Continental Cargo didn’t have Internet service that day; and thus, the papers that were sent to them from Houston never arrived which meant I wasn't cleared. The result was that I spent the night in a dark, dusty and dingy warehouse. 
Quito is a hard airport to get to because of the altitude so there are only smaller planes that fly there. We have learned that Guayaquil is a much better airport if your dog comes as accompanied luggage. Cargo is always dealt with by a different department and they are not always very understanding of your dogs needs. Whenever possible fly into Guayaquil as luggage. Bigger dogs may have a problem because they will be forced into cargo. If there is a hiccup and they have to spend the night, the high temperatures of Guayaquil can be dangerous. Remember Ecuadorians are NOT equipped to take care of doggies.
  • What steps you have to take to get ready for the trip? 
More visits to the vet than I wanted!!!!
First I had to get shots, then I had to get an exam and this was not pleasant because they had to make sure I didn’t have parasites. But wait that’s not all … because we had to stay an extra week I had to go back to the vet to get another exam! This vet was in TX in a small town so they didn’t have the ear thermometer… you know what that means… NOT Fun… but I’ll stop complaining and give you the details…

1.      Dogs have to be vaccinated 6 months PRIOR to your trip for:
·         Distemper
·         Hepatitis Canina
·         Leptospirosis
·         Parvovirosis (Parvovirus canino)
·         Rabies
·         Parainfluenza

2.     Dogs also need to be treated for external and internal parasites within 30 days of departure. If you are tested and no parasites are found, then there is no need for treatment.

3.      Dogs also have to have a medical exam within 10 days from departure.

4.      All of these things are then recorded in an International Health Certificate which needs to be stamped by the USDA

When your vet completes the APHIS 7001form completed then it must go to the USDA for a stamp. You will also need to take the rabies certificate with you, although they don’t stamp that. Our Vet offered to federal express the form to the USDA but we were short on time so mom chose to have someone drive it to the USDA to get it stamped.

5.      Once this form is stamped by the USDA, you must also have it stamped by the Ecuadorian Consulate.
  • Should you hire a customs agent in Ecuador?
Definitely NO IF your doggie can come as luggage into Guayaquil. If your dog comes as cargo, you may need to a customs agent if you do not speak Spanish.
  • Where to stay in Quito?
If you are flying into Quito, you’ll have to stay the night there. Vieja Cuba is a wonderful hotel which we highly recommend. They care about doggies as much as they care about people. After being cooked up in the warehouse for so long I loved running in the garden.

  • Should we try to fly to Cuenca?
Absolutely not! You will have to deal with more bureaucracy. Just take a van with a driver. It is a long trip but well worth it. We used FastLine and they were wonderful.

What else?
You may have other questions and you’re welcome to email mom. If she knows the answer, she’ll share it with you.

Another person’s experience --
I am going to add here the experience of another person narrated by her. This just gives you a taste for how different this can be from person to person; so be prepared. While my experience was filled with trouble hers was smooth and she brought not only a dog, but 2 cats as well. By the way, this lady chose to have a travel agent make all the flight arrangements for her and her pets… it sounds like it was a very good decision. Here is her story:

A smooth pet importation
The documents for the pets allowing them to enter Ecuador all had to be obtained within 10 days of their flight, so there was a lot of last minute running around.  The first stop was the vet so he could administer any vaccines due and fill out a USDA form for which he had to have special training to complete.  Second step was to have the forms stamped by the official USDA veterinarian in the "state in which you reside."  

I called the USDA first and was glad I did because the fellow who answered the phone was very helpful.  He had me fax a copy of the forms to him to check prior to making an appointment with the very busy USDA vet and found that one vaccine was missing.  Evidently corona virus is not prevalent in the Bay Area so my vet didn't stock the vaccine.  I called around and finally located a vet in Colma who had the vaccine, drove down, picked up the dose, drove back to Oakland and had my vet administer the shot and then revise the form. 

The next day I had the appointment with the USDA vet which, luckily for me, was in an office close to the San Francisco airport.  I didn't have to drive 90 miles to the state capitol.  She stamped the form for each pet and I paid the fees.  The last step was to have the whole pile certified by the Ecuadorian consulate.  That was where living in a major metropolitan area was a good thing - the consulate is in San Francisco.  They took their fee, stamped the forms with a big gold seal and sent me on my way.  We were ready to travel. 

We arrived in Guayaquil safe, sound, and sleepy.  My worries about the pets were unnecessary, and all of the stress was left in the US getting the proper documentation to import the pets.  When we got to the airline check in counter, I taped a day's worth of food for each animal to the top of each kennel and hooked the water bottles onto the wire kennel doors.  The bottles were similar to the ones hamsters use and they may leak.  So the kennels were all lined with puppy piddle pads.  Later I realized that they also performed well in their intended function.  The flights were smooth and on time.  I'm glad I went through a travel agent who researched the airlines and their pet policies.  We flew on American through Miami and had a short layover and no delays.  The flight also had an early arrival in Guayaquil, coming in about 8pm.  Many flights arrive between 11pm and midnight and that can be a real problem.  

In Guayaquil, we went through immigration without any problems - it's been fast and efficient each visit.  Our luggage came through and last on the carousel was the dog in his kennel.  Airport staff had pulled the cats off to the side already.  We were on the opposite side of the carousel so only the dog kennel was tall enough to see.  It all got loaded on carts to go through customs.  A security employee helped shepherd us through. 

The luggage went through an X-ray and the pets had their papers inspected by someone working in a small office to the side of the main luggage claim area.  The whole process took less than 45 minutes from plane to curb including standing in line and we were about last in line since the animals came off the plane after the luggage. 
Finally at curbside, the dog got a chance to relieve himself.  One benefit of Guayaquil over Quito is that it has planting areas just outside the doors whereas Quito is all paving.  The poor cats had to wait until after the drive to Cuenca, but all of us travellers made it safely and without too much trauma, and are adjusting to our new lives well including one cat who chose to live in the wardrobe for a month before coming out.


    1. Star, Amber and I had a little easier time of it. I will have to say Mom was pretty confused because the Continental agent told her she needed an agent in Quito, so she called several different airlines and they said she didn't. But no one told her about the difference of luggage and cargo. Everything worked out well. Mom gave us to this person who put us on a gigantic flying metal bird and then showed up when this huge metal bird came down the first time and took us for a walk but she brought us right back. I guess she wanted to spend some time with this person she calls her daughter. After a long time, and a lot of moving us around on some moving sidewalks, we were put on another giant flying metal bird and it went up again. This time it was up for a long time and then it came down again. The people moved me and Amber to the place where the luggage was and there were people walking and running everywhere!!! Then Mommy and that other person showed up. We're happiest when we're with our mommy. I'm glad you have your mommy, too.