Our beloved fleabags, I mean "furbabies," are of course accompanying us to Korea. This is a multi-step and expensive process, but relatively simple compared to that of other countries. If you are taking your pet(s) to South Korea:
- Get your pets microchipped. Korea doesn't require pets to be microchipped as of now, but they will by the end of this year or next year.
- Vaccinate your pets for rabies. Even if their rabies vaccination is current, it must be redone after micro-chipping. This must be done 30 days before the flight. I cannot stress this enough: if their rabies vaccinations are thirty days or older, they should be released from quarantine the same day you arrive. If not, they will have to remain in quarantine until the 30 days are completed. This is expensive, time-consuming, and worrying.
- Talk to your vet about flea medication, sedation for the flight, and any other problems you foresee. This is the step in the process when I discovered my cat, Quinn, has gingivitis, so a little kitty toothbrush and chicken-flavored toothpaste are ready to be packed.
- When you know what airline you'll be flying with, look up their pet policies. Most airlines won't let the pets travel in the cabin. Others have weight or size requirements, or restrict the number of pets flying in the cabin on any given trip. Find out if your pets will travel as checked or carry-on baggage. Either way, you will be paying out the nose.
- Buy the appropriate carrier. Airlines have specific rules about what kind of carrier and accessories are required. Some common regulations follow (not a complete list). The kennel must be hard-sided and made of wood, metal, plastic, or a similar material. There must be litter or some sort of absorbent lining. Kennels must have a water container with outside access for filling. Food and water dishes must be securely attached and accessible from the outside. A 24-hour supply of food must be attached to the top of the kennel. "Live Animal" stickers must be put on both sides of the kennel. The kennel should be clearly marked with the animal's name. That's for checked baggage. Carry-on regulations are generally easier. They usually want a soft-sided kennel of certain dimensions or weight, possibly with an absorbent material on the bottom. Some airlines - Southwest, for example - actually sell carriers at the ticket counter.
- Wait until 10 days before the flight. In some ways, waiting is the hardest part.
- Print, buy, or find the required paperwork. I bought a Pet Passport package from PetTravel.com, which includes a Korean certificate and one for the airlines as well. The vet had never seen the Korean certificate before, so she recommended a USDA one. So the vet will be signing three certificates. I say the more paperwork, the merrier - and the less likely the pets are to be booted out of the airport or thrust into quarantine.
- Go back to the vet and have him/her sign all the paperwork. It's very important that you do this 10 days or fewer before your flight, so that the certificates are recent. You will need at least a certificate for the airlines and an APHIS form 7001. Some sources say it's better to have your vet sign two original certificates for each animal. Attach to these the animal's vaccination and microchipping records.
- Go the state USDA office or mail these documents to the federal USDA office. They will examine and stamp them. DON'T try and do this right before you leave; mistakes can be made, and you don't want to try and get them fixed when you're supposed to be leaving for the airport. Make copies. Lots of copies. Store them in different places. Don't lose them.
- Try and get your animals used to their crates. Ours never will - Quinn, in particular, hates being caged with the passion of a thousand burning cat nuns - but you might have better luck.
- Pack 'em up and take them to the airport. Apologize profusely for what their stupid humans are making them undergo. Promise it won't be like this forever.
- Board the plane. Worry.
- Arrive in South Korea and haul them off the plane or run to checked baggage to get them.
- Take them to the quarantine stations.
- If all the paperwork and, most importantly, the rabies vaccinations checks out, then the animals will be free to go that same day. Then all that's left is to make sure your newly Korean pets don't become addicted to bulgogi.
Right now, Quinn and Friday are at about step 3. I actually have all the paperwork they'll need, but we can't do much about the kennels until we know what airline we're flying. We're hoping, since Friday is a small dog and Quinn is a medium-size cat, that they can both travel with us in the cabin, but it's more likely that they'll be checked.
Tomorrow I'm making an appointment with the vet for Monday or Tuesday of next week - that is, April 4 or 5. Since we're leaving, at the latest, April 10 or 11, that puts us well into the "10 days or less" bracket required of the various health certificates.
I must admit, I'm becoming pretty nervous about getting the kennels ready. I'm beginning to think that we should just go ahead and assume that the girls will be checked and buy the kennels, water bottles, food containers, absorbent liners, etc. that we'll need.
The costs are definitely adding up, but it's worth it to us. We are both deeply attached to little Friday, and Linus overcame his dislike of Quinn (who hates him, too) long enough to acknowledge that I would be miserable without her. I'm trying to think of it as an exercise in child-rearing, only kids aren't so expensive and needy. Right?