Monday, September 3, 2012

Traveling with Pets

This post picks up where the last one left off, in the middle of us moving to St. Kitts.  During moving we had to make a few tough decisions about our pets. I slowly sold off my entire beef cow herd, and Julie decided we shouldn't bring our white Persian cat Opal. Opal was a rescue cat that Julie took in a long time ago. Opal is completely deaf and has one eye, breathing problems, and a heart problem.
 Julie's brother Jay thankfully volunteered to take Opal in, since we weren't sure how well she'd travel or manage in the hot climate. The three of us flew to Colorado in July, and Opal became a Colorado Kitty.

The second pet we had to find a home for was Julie's precious horse Irish. At first Julie planned to sell Irish, but after much thought she decided to free lease her to her friend Kim, who lives near Philadelphia. Julie bought Irish as a 2 year-old horse, and understanding the bond she has with her animals, I didn't want her to give up something she really loved. When the time came, we loaded up Irish and drove the 6 hours to take Irish to her new home.

Julie jumping Irish during a stadium event in Ohio

                                   Julie delivers Irish to her college classmate Kim, near Philadelphia

The only pet we planned to take with us was Julie's beloved cat Kermit. Julie and I have had quite a few people ask us about the import process for a pet.  First, every country is different. Second, the process can take some time and effort, so I suggest that if you want to bring a pet to St. Kitts, you should start the process as soon as you can. Even with Julie being a veterinarian the paperwork can be tricky and expensive.

For Kermit the list of requirements was as follows in no particular order:
 - He needed to have a microchip,
- He needed be tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus,
-He needed to be dewormed,
- He needed to have been rabies vaccinated and have blood drawn for a rabies titer twice, 30 days apart, to demonstrate his resistance to Rabies,
- He had to have two health certificates, including one endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture, and
- He had to undergo a 30 day quarantine in our home at St. Kitts. A veterinarian from the government checks up on the animal once a week, and only then are you good to go.

From the beginning it took us around 3 months to complete everything, and that's with Julie as our in house veterinarian. One thing was for certain: Kermit was coming with us to St. Kitts. So once we finally got all of our possessions into the moving truck, we packed Kermit into his new soft sided carrier, and off we went to Akron where we would stay the night with Julie's parents and head for Cleveland International Airport at a bright and early 4 a.m.

Everything went smoothly at the airport, especially arriving at 5 a.m., until we got to the gate. The American Airlines representative at the desk tried to tell Julie that she would have to "check" Kermit as cargo despite AA's policy on taking a pet in the cabin as long as they are under 25 pounds and fit under your seat. She also unknowingly tried to lecture Julie about the strict rules for taking a pet on international flights until Julie told her she was a veterinarian who did import/export work routinely and had personally done the paperwork.

Julie firmly told the gate agent, "I am not 'checking' a family member."  Sure enough, Kermit traveled under her seat to Miami, where we jumped on our connecting flight. After three more hours in an airplane we arrived in St. Kitts just in time to experience our first tropical storm, Isaac.

All in all, our American Eagle flight with cat in hand turned out nearly flawless. Now Kermit enjoys basking in the Caribbean sun from the inside of our temporary home. We were afraid he would have a hard time adjusting to a new country, but he loves the new house and all the small animals he can chase. He hasn't found any small geckos yet--at least we don't think he has--but he will eventually.
                                         Kermit in the St. Kitts house. He is what they call Limin.

So, that's what you get when you mix two people together who love both animals and travel--a mess, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Stay tuned for a big list of interesting St. Kitts stories just waiting to be shared!