We have three animals, Rosie the dog, and two cats, Geronimo and Ho Chi Minh. England has a no rabies policy, and as a result you either have to put them in quarantine for six months, in England, or you can send them under the new PETS scheme, which does not require a quarantine.
PETS stands for PEts Travel Scheme, and is a program whereby your animals can undergo the six month quarantine at home, before they leave for England. You begin by having your animals “chipped", which means that a small microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) that identifies your animal is placed in one ear. After that you give them a rabies vaccination. A month later you have their blood drawn and sent to be tested at a laboratory at the University of Kansas (just this one lab in the US is authorized to test for rabies under the PETS scheme). If the titer levels come back high enough, then your animal is eligible to enter England six months after the blood was drawn.
We started this process in late May of 2003, under the assumption that we would be moving to England in December, around Christmas time. But due to family circumstances we decided to move earlier, in early September. This meant that our animals weren’t ready to come under the PETS scheme, and so we left them at home.
There is a much longer story that could be inserted here about the two cats. The short version is that Ho Chi went missing, and so Rachel went back to San Francisco to send Geronimo over before the six months was up (so that we didn’t lose both cats). This meant that Geronimo had to finish the last two months of his six month quarantine at a quarantine kennel south of London. Which was fine, but it was also quite expensive. (For those of you wondering what happened to Ho Chi, he came in from the cold after 3 months, 1/2 his former weight but fine otherwise, and is now staying with a friend in San Anselmo. We’ll probably send him over in March, when Rachel goes back to San Francisco.)
As for our dog Rosie, our good friends Aaron and Julia have been taking care of her for us. Their children were thinking they might want a dog, and Julia thought that having Rosie for a couple of months would be a good way to test that theory. It was a great test, because after three months of Rosie they realize that Marcus (their six year old) isn’t quite ready for a dog.
Which brings us to today. I started by calling the USDA to track down the PETS certificate that our vet will need to fill out, as well as the tick and fleaworm certificate. Then I called the vet to see if they could fit Rosie in next week. Then I called Virgin Atlantic, which is the only carrier authorized to fly animals under the PETS scheme from San Francisco to London.
But when I got off the phone all I could think was “George Orwell was right, 1984 is happening right under our noses.” Why? Because Virgin refuses to ship Rosie unless there’s a human flying with her.
“What?” I said. “That’s right. You can’t ship your dog without flying too, because with the heightened security levels the USTA has changed the rules on us.” “No they haven’t” I said, “I just called United, and they say they’ll ship Rosie without anyone flying with her.” “Well…” the woman admitted, “I guess it’s our rule in conjunction with the USTA.”
I couldn’t believe it. I can send a package, but I can’t send a dog? If that isn’t the most idiotic rule I’ve heard yet, it’s got to be close.
The bottom line is that if we can’t ship Rosie via Virgin, we’ll use United. But that means that she’s not eligible for immediate entry, and we’ll have to have the quarantine kennel pick her up and keep her for a couple of days until their vet can fill out the early release paperwork. Which means more money and hassle.
So, if you’re flying Virgin from SFO to LHR, and could help out, do drop me a line.
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