People, myself included, seem to waver somewhere between thinking I was either totally justified or completely crazy to bring little Ollie Pup (official name: Oliver Ollie Pup Oxen Free Goat Fox) with me on the big trip from Thailand to the United States. Looking back, it actually wasn’t that difficult of an affair at all, but it did require a bit of stressful planning on account of the limited and spotty information available out there in English. So I’ve decided it’s pretty much my responsibility to document my own experience to answer all the questions people might have about the process, because believe me, it was totally worth it. Ollie Ollie Ollie!
There were a few sites that I did find helpful. First and foremost there was this one, appropriately titled, “How to Bring a Thai Dog to America, the Story of Dino.” Our stories actually sounded quite similar, and I was able to even contact the author via email to quell certain concerns about the well-being of the dog during transit and layover handling and such. (His most comforting bit of input: “First of all, Thai dogs are extremely tough. There is no possible way that an 18 hour or even 36 hour flight will harm a Thai dog that’s in a safe cage with food and water.” Turned out to be true!) There’s also good (and still accurate, despite his story taking place a good 6 years ago) contact information for both the Airport Quarantine Station at Suvarnabhumi Airport and for Shamu Shamu Pet Store in Bangkok.
Then there was this site (“Pet Cargo Travel” by pettravel.com) that outlines the specifics of the crate requirements and has other helpful tidbits. Some of them I found to be excessive or untrue, at least for Qatar Airways, such as the need to paste “LIVE ANIMAL” stickers on the crate. Seatmaestro.com has airline-specific information with the different (or often not-so-different) pet policies for each. Of course, speaking to your airline directly and finding out their specifics ends up being necessary as well. I ended up having experience with both Aerosvit Ukrainian Airways and Qatar Airways in this regard, as I had to change my flight. Though Aerosvit doesn’t have the most glowing reviews, their tickets are quite cheap and I favored a layover in Kiev to one in Doha for temperature reasons (despite the reassurance that my dog was a tough one). In both cases, the total trip would have ended up being 23 hours–the shortest I could find anywhere, and no, the dogs are not let out of the crates for the layovers (the doors are cable-tied shut).
I was able to be in contact with representatives from Aerosvit via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and was impressed by quick and knowledgable replies (though I’m not thrilled about how withholding they’re being with the refund I was told I could have if I provided the necessary medical documents). Qatar I had to deal with by phone: their numbers can be found here. For Aerosvit it would have cost $250 for him to fly; with Qatar it ended up being $200 (6000 baht paid in cash at the counter… I want to say there may have been an extra 500 baht service charge as well).
The crate. I always tell people that, in the end, it was the getting of the crate that was the most difficult part. Airlines require very specific crates and in a small town like Thung Song they’re just plainly impossible to find in a shop. I considered checking out the offerings in Nakhon Si Thammarat, but ended up deciding it would be easier to order one online. I went to Alibaba.com to find a provider and was successful, though you may recall I was a bit unhappy that circumstances led me to purchase a crate that was so entirely too small for Ollie it was nearly laughable, except for the $70 I lost on account of it not being worth it to send back. Still, I can’t overlook my own hand in the mishap, and was otherwise happy with my experience with the company. Click here for details of the crate, and just be sure to measure the dimensions you’re given against the actual size of your dog. (The first one I bought was the FC-1003; the better one was the FC-1004. Also, in Bangkok it is possible to find the appropriate crates in shops, such as Shamu Shamu, but I think it ends up being cheaper to order, provided you get it right on the first shot.)
The train. Though I searched the forums on Thaivisa.com and such, I found it difficult to determine whether he’d be allowed on a train, how much it would cost, and… how exactly it would work. It ended up being very, very easy (and inexpensive!). After buying our own tickets, we were directed to the Cargo office of the Thung Song train station. We gave him Ollie’s information (size, weight, etc) and our train details and he issued us a ticket for a whopping 90 baht ($3). During the travels he had to stay in the cargo area of the train, in his crate. We were allowed to visit him whenever we liked and the train staff were all really nice. They thought he was so cool, and said he was quiet and well-behaved. They also gave me coffee and mused about him going to America. “He’s going on an airplane?!” “Yes! In three days.” “Wow. I’ve never been on an airplane. I always take the train.” As I mentioned in my previous post, it was a bit of an ordeal to find a taxi to take us from the train station to the airport at a price we considered reasonable, but we finally succeeded (I think he agreed to 500 baht, but we ended up keeping him around for multiple legs of the journey and it ended up being more– 1200 for train station to quarantine to kennel to Khao San Road, including considerable wait times at the quarantine and the kennel. Not bad, really.). It’s worth putting your driver on the phone with the people at the quarantine office so he knows where to take you, because it’s in a different part of the airport from the terminals. Quarantine office information (as found on the “How to Bring a Thai Dog to America” article listed above):
Animal Quarantine Office.
Free Zone Area, CE-1 Building, 1st Floor
Phone 02-1340731, Fax 02-1340732
In the quarantine office. I checked here to determine what vaccinations were needed to allow Ollie entry to America (note: there’s a photo of an adorable puppy you might be interested in seeing on that site as well). I was surprised (though pleased) to find that the only real requirement is a rabies vaccine administered at least 30 days before the departure. No microchip, no further quarantine time after entering the country (as long as there’s no signs of communicable disease or something like that)… really almost unbelievably easy. The only kind of hangup is the trip to the airport quarantine that’s (allegedly) required exactly three days before the flight date. I say ‘allegedly’ because though I had my dear friend Vallapa call the office in advance to find out and she was very unequivocal in her relaying of their terms– no more and no fewer than three days before departure– I didn’t see anything on the actual documents that specified this, and as a result of the, you know, corpse on the plane I ended up flying four days after the check-up and nothing was mentioned. Still, better safe than sorry: to the best of my knowledge you need to be there three days before.
The check-up itself was almost unsettlingly easy (though for some reason took an hour-and-a-half, mostly idly waiting and talking to the Dutch/Swedish couple who were brining the dog they found on Koh Tao back to Holland. See! It would seem this happens often). I filled out a form with all pertinent information and they took a picture of him with a webcam. Then despite filling out the form with all pertinent information, I had to answer a series of questions from the vet, including, “What sex is your dog?” Which I found to be a bit self-explanatory. Then he filled out his own form with all kinds of more… technical information, like “heart rate” and “hydration level,” even though I’m quite sure the vet never laid a hand on the pup. Then we waited some more, paid 50 baht, and were given all the papers we needed– a certificate of good health and an export license.
Then we had to kennel him for three days because we didn’t want to have to find a place that accepted dogs (though I believe the Dutch/Swedish couple said they were staying happily at the Ibis Riverside hotel with theirs). The quarantine office was able to recommend a nearby place to us that cost 200 baht ($6) a day, so we went with that. On the night that I was supposed to leave we took a 150 baht shuttle from Khao San Road to the airport, and then I was able to get a driver to take me to and from the kennel for 350 baht. It started raining like crazy and the streets on the way there were flooded. Not really relevant but here are two pictures of it. The kennel closed at 8:30 so we were set to wait in the airport for four hours with the dog! Yayyyyy… (in the style of Archer) but he was actually really good. This involved eating, sitting, and listening to screaming girls in waves because K-Pop giants Super Junior were in the airport or something.
(And you thought “Gangnam Style” was good.)
Then we went to check in and there was the whole, you know, corpse on the plane thing.
So they put us in the Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, which was nice. So nice, in fact, that Ollie wasn’t allowed in our room and got to hang out with the security guys. They didn’t seem to mind.
And though he’d been soooo good the whole time, when it was finally time to get checked in he’d had about enough. Also, though I was sure I’d read somewhere that food must be attached to the outside of the crate for employees to use during the layover, they made me put the food inside the crate with him, which left even less space… poor guy. 😦
The layover. During my layover in Doha I found myself getting very worried. Will he get left on the hot tarmac somewhere for two hours? Is he being fed and watered? Are they being nice to him? And I made myself busy trying to find someone who knew anything about the cargo area, specifically if passengers were allowed there, specifically if they had a dog there who they were really eager to see. Finally I found someone who did, and the answer was ‘no,’ but he assured me my dog would be taken very good care of. And when I finally got him, this sticker was on his crate so that would seem to be the case.
In DC. I expected to have to at least go to a quarantine office to pick him up, but instead was told he’d be wheeled right out to me. And he was! I can’t even describe how happy and relieved I was to look into his little face, alive and well, no worse for the wear in spite of his hours in the crate. (To answer the question I know you’re all asking, he’d peed just a little in there. That’s it.)
(Of course, then the next biggest challenge was getting Moose to fall for him… which was a work in progress, but I hear they’ve come a long way.)
So that’s the not-very-brief (do you know me?) story of how to bring a dog to America. Feel free to contact me if you find yourself in similar straits and are unclear on anything.