Sunday, January 16, 2005

Travel notes...

Getting Mojo to the Philippines and back was complicated and a lot of work, but strangely enough none of it really mattered that much.

First, we needed to get Mojo out of the US and into Manila. For that, we needed an import permit from the Philippine Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). To get Mojo out, we needed an export permit from the BAI. Even though Mojo originated in the US, we still needed a permit to get him out.

Well, let's take a step back. To travel, the basic thing you need is a vet health certificate and a reservation on your airline. The vet cert is checked by the airline, and you need a pet reservation because your dog is flying in-cabin, and there usually limits as to how many animals can travel.

For overseas travel, you also need a vaccination record, one that specifically shows a rabies vaccine. This is used pretty much everywhere.

So, for the Philippines, you need the import and export permit, the health certificate, and the rabies thing. So we got all that. The documents from Manila were hard to get, and we got Ela's dad to bring them over when he was here.

Then, we found out at the last minute that the USDA apparently needs to certify animals for export, or that to get an "International Health Certificate" we needed to go to the USDA. Weird. We ignored that, because we didn't have time, and Mojo wasn't a cow or some other livestock animal.

Well, when we got on the plane the only document they cared about was the health certificate. We paid the $320 ($160 each way) exceess baggage charge, and got a receipt.

When we to to Manila, the customs person was really surprised that we checked "something to declare." When she saw it was a dog, she was even more confused, then sent us over to the animal people. The animal guy looked at the import certificate, the vaccination thing, and the health cert, and that was it. He didn't look at Mojo. Strange, huh? I think we paid PHP200 or something to get him in.

So we needed to get Mojo out, which means we needed an export cert. We did this at the end of the trip.

We went to the BAI office with Mojo and the documents. They looked at the health, vaccination, and import receipt, then looked at Mojo for about 20 seconds, then gave us the export permit. Oh, and another PHP200.

When we got to the airport, nobody even blinked at the Mojo. When we got on the plane, we were kind of weirded out that nobody checked anything. When they did come by, they wanted to make sure we paid for his passage. They didn't really care about the documentation, etc.

In Japan, they looked at all the stuff: health cert, vaccination cert, receipt. But they didn't really bother to look at Mojo.

When we got to the US, the immigration guy was kinda surprised at the "something to declare" thing. We went to the "other" line, where a woman asked us about food, etc. She confiscated Mojo's chicken jerky, then waived us through.

Nobody on the US side looked at Mojo's papers at all. Or Mojo, for that matter.

I suppose that means that:

* you don't really need anything except a health certificate and a vaccination certificate to bring a dog in and out of the country,
* the airline looks at the paperwork sometimes, but not others,
* customs really doesn't know what to do with animals, really

If we had checked "nothing to declare," we could have gotten through both the US and Philippine customs with no issues. Nobody knows what to do with pets, and are pretty confused about what to do with them. In the Philippines, you might be able to get away with no animal paperwork at all. And, of course, the USDA thing is total BS.

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