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Topic: My Recent Experience - 1 Large Dog, LAX to UK (via ARN - AMS) October 2017  (Read 1571 times)

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For those who are looking for a recent travel experience of someone moving a large dog, I have a short write-up for you!  Learn from my mistakes, and make your travels as stress-free as possible.

First off - I had a great experience.  I am a patient person who generally doesn't stress out over things that are out of my control so that most likely helped as a reducer of stress.

That said, the other week I was on a mission to bring my 100lbs (130lbs with carrier) Bloodhound home from the Los Angeles area to Suffolk.  I flew out to LA without a return ticket in hand late August to allow me some flexibility in my travels in terms of dates and air carriers.  First off, I used KAYAK (kayak.co.uk) as a search engine for a one-way ticket out of LA area airports to the major airports around the UK.  My targets were: LHR, LGW, AMS, CDG.  I found some good deals that ended up in LHR from LAX, but every air carrier would NOT allow ME to book my dog, and insisted I use an authorized agent to book using their cargo services.  This irritated me to no end, and so I quickly crossed off English airports off my destinations (sorry England y'all lost out on some revenue)!  The air carriers all cited local laws which RECOMMEND using an agent/ broker to organize everything for a nice fat fee for stuff I'm fully capable of doing, and the animal must travel as manifest cargo (not as excess luggage).  See City of London website below for more information on the PETS scheme.  Quite frankly - I didn't wanna drop 600$ or more for someone to book my dog as cargo for me..

That left heading to Europe as an option.  Going to Europe the two major airports near the English coastline are Amsterdam Schipol (AMS) and Charles De Gaulle (CDG).  For ease of my wife not having to awkwardly drive over, I utilized the Netherlands route, as there's a ferry that connects to Harwich making it easier on wife, harder on me.

The trip to Amsterdam:
On Kayak, I found a last minute deal through Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) from LAX-ARN-AMS for under 1000$ USD.  There was another route through Russia, but I didn't care to risk a trip out there given current relations and the risk of visa fees in country.  SAS has a great team for handling people and pets, and the whole experience was great (not perfect but damn near).  After booking my ticket for me and my luggage, I gave them a call (per their website) a couple days prior to give them a heads up on my intent to bring my humongous dog.  They noted my request, and I didn't hear back so I assumed everything was all set.  I showed up at LAX approximately 3hrs prior to BOARDING to give a good buffer and ensure everything was ready to go.  Their agents greeted me with a smile and welcomed me, having been briefed on me and my dog!  Wow, I felt like a VIP.  They provided me with my boarding pass and billed me 140$ USD for my dog.  That's right, 140$ from LA to Amsterdam with a connection.  Compare that to over 3000$ flying him direct to LHR, I felt I made the right choice.  A couple hours later we were aboard an Airbust en route to our new home.

Arriving at Sweden was a mixed bag.  I watched as the cargo handlers offloaded the big dog, and I could see them smiling and greeting him as his crate was offloaded from the plane.  Smile on my face I continued to customs as I knew my mut was being well looked after.  An hour passes, and my connection arrives and the worries begin - a small narrow-body metro jet.  Small jets are convenient, but their cargo doors are small.  I approach the agent before they begin boarding saying if there's any issues with the big dog being loaded, I'm right here..  5 Minutes later he said "Yep, dog's too big."  Before I could think about worrying he said "your flight will leave in 4 hours on a larger aircraft."  They re-booked me, pulled my bags, and even handed me some vouches to stuff my face with airport food.

I met up with my dog in the baggage area, and let him stretch his legs.  Customs challenged us, but upon seeing his paperwork he stressed it's best to confine him to his crate or to leave the sterile area and re-check in as my flight neared.  I opted to remain in the sterile area as I didn't care to bring my dog and bags with me through security alone.

A couple hours pass, and my dog and I are aboard a 737 en route to Amsterdam.  We land, and the real fun begins.  I booked a flex pass on the Hook of Holland ferry from Stena Line (link below) so I knew if I didn't make my ferry I could re-book for the next day.  I'd been to Amsterdam before, and the train/ bus system was familiar to me.  I knew I'd have to take a train toward Rotterdam and eventually a bus to the port Hoek van Holland Haven.  My large crate doesn't have wheels (my bad) so it was a lot of me pushing a heavy crate around like a fool, but the local folks were more than helpful in assisting me in my incompetence.  After a train connection we made it on the bus, in route to our boat.  This is important: keep around 20 euro on you for traveling (per person) as it'll cover the train and the bus in case you miss using a machine to pre-pay.  I didn't have my bus fare pre paid, so I gave a local a 10 pound note for him covering my fare, which I felt guilty for accepting but I didn't have to get off the bus.

We arrived at the ferry late, but luckily it was having a scheduled inspection that made it depart an hour or two late.  We met with some senior agent who (like SAS) expected us based on my reservation and logged us in without issue after reviewing the dog's paperwork and scanning his chip.  We woke up the next morning, disembarked, and were retrieved by my special lady friend.

NOTES TO PREVENT ISSUES:
The USDA office in LA was good, but its hours are from 0730-1100.  I brought with me the Annex IV paperwork pulled directly off of the UK gov's website, but was rejected by the USDA office as "there's a newer version out."  To be frank, this was a waste of time as no one in Europe or the UK gave a damn about what version the paperwork was, so long as rabies was up to date (in my dog's case he had a 3yr vaccine which was fine and not expired), tapeworm was within the 5 day mark, and his chip was good to go.  This said, just print out the Annex IV off of the APHIS website.  The bottoms of your pages (at the time of this writing) will have "Page ___ of ____" on them, and you fill in the page numbers.  If it's pre-filled, you most-likely have an older version of the form and the USDA office will send you packing.  Also, ensure you have your rabies certificate from your vet from when your animal received its shot.  If you show up to the USDA without this, they will require you figure out ASAP how to get them one (usually fax).  I had good records and luckily mine was still in my dog's packet from years prior.

Ensure your air carrier can fit your dog carrier.  I should have done more in this regard, and I should've compare the carrier width/ height to the cargo door dimensions.  I suspected his crate would be too large for my connector flight, and it was.

Arrive over an hour before your ferry departure if you're taking the Hook of Holland from the Netherlands to Harwich.  They will not let you check in if you're not there at least 40 minutes early.  This is stated on their website as well as your pass - don't be a dummy and ensure you're early.  If you're running late, get a taxi from Schipol to the port as it'll save you 30+ minutes in travel time.

Print out the example Annex 4 form with a color printer.  It's got all the fillable areas highlighted in red and make filling it out fool-proof. 

APHIS:
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/take-pet-to-foreign-country

City of London:
https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/animal-health-welfare/heathrow-animal-reception-centre/importing-your-dog-cat-or-ferret/Pages/pet-travel-scheme.aspx

SAS
https://www.flysas.com/en/travel-info/other/travel-with-animals/

Stena Line
https://www.stenaline.co.uk/ferry-to-holland/plan-your-trip/travelling-with-a-pet

USDA LA
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/USDA/@33.9185409,-118.4017629,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x80c2b14e63a77141:0x21b528303bde1dba!8m2!3d33.9185409!4d-118.3995742


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Excellent report!  Thank you.


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Hi!

I'll be making an expatriation soon myself and I really appreciate your post as it has provided some info I've not found useful from less than current sources.  Could I confirm a few Q's w/you?

1) Besides Customs in Sweden, did you have to go through it again in UK/Harwich? I saw that the agent had cleared your dog in Holand, but wanted to be sure you were basically green-light the rest of the way.

2) Is it correct to assume your dog did not have a Pet Passport but was US-originated? 

3) Were you charged Customs/Port or VAT at any point for your dog? (two of my 'professional pet relocators' are insisting I pay a $500-$600 Customs fee for LHR and warn of being asked for VAT at the Animal Reception Center

4) Could you IM me your Microchip format - this has become a serious source of confusion/contention between my vet and vending companies.  I'm presuming yours was successfully scanned on the Hook.

May have more, but these were the ones that came to mind first.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2017, 01:39:34 AM by ElwynFigg »


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Ah another person who took SAS! :) This is one of the few carriers that allows two cats to fly in the same crate as long as the crate is large enough. We flew with our kitties from Chicago to ARN (where they hung out at partner's parents for a few years) when we moved to the UK and they even forgot to charge us! So kitties got a free flight over the pond.

They were extremely caring about the pets including stopping by my seat several times before takeoff to let me know when they were to be loaded, that they were loaded, that the heating had been put on in their hold, and then when we landed, where we could pick them up in bag claim. The crews on both ends loved saying hi to the kitties, although we found it amusing that customs at ARN could have given a damn about paperwork. But Arlanda is such a chill airport and so much less busy than other European entry points that they have the capacity to manage bobbles like yours with the crate with little drama/excess rules/fees/etc. Its a lot less stress for everyone involved.

As an aside - we just took SAS from ARN-LAX-ARN on vacation and it was a great flight, especially in Plus. I hope you tried the small batch Norwegian gin!


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