The Hound has left Hanoi!

Finally, a long overdue blog post and an update on the hound and my recent movements.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant last spring, we’ve been trying to figure out what was the best plan for Tala as I would need to come back to the UK to have the baby, so would be away from Hanoi from mid September until early December – a long time to leave the hound. I decided to take her back with me as we will be leaving Hanoi permanently in early 2015. Tala will stay in the Isle of Man with my parents until next March when we’ll come back to London for a few months before our next posting…

So the last few months I have been very preoccupied with global pet travel – not an easy or straighforward process. It was only in 2012 that the UK changed the rules for dogs coming from unlisted countries. Prior to that (since 1897) dogs had to endure a terribly cruel six month stint in quarantine, as my Irish Wolfhound did when we moved from the United States in 1999. It was an expensive and depressing process, the stress of which left her with several health problems that she never fully recovered from. If anything is wrong with the paperwork, dogs can still end up in quarantine, so the stakes for Tala were high.

In order to keep the UK rabies-free, the rules are still very stringent. For more details look very carefully at DEFRA’s website several months before planning to travel. Timing and documentation is key for the microchip insertion, rabies vaccinations, serology test, and finally worming.

One also needs to travel on an approved airline (we used Qatar Airlines) and the dog must travel as cargo (when entering the UK), although this can mean that one still travels on the same plane. Dogs also must travel in an approved container – Tala travelled in an IATA approved sky kennel in a large size.

The whole process was very stressful, with a few unexpected last minute surprises and extra costs despite my trying to do all my research in advance. Two more important details:

One piece of small print that I missed was that the third country vet certificate needs to be stamped on every page – not just the final page as the Vietnamese vets had thought. Getting the additional stamps prior to departure was a last minute stress at the airport.

Also all dogs entering the UK need to have a handling agent at the London end which I only found out the week before traveling as my friend had just completed the same route. This is a significant expense – it was half as much again as the overall cargo costs. Unfortunately, as we were arriving on a Sunday, there was only one company we could use – James Cargo (JCS Livestock) – but my advice would be to arrive on a weekday so one can use a smaller company, which would be better value and perhaps give a more personal service. There is a list of agents, more information about pet container regulations, and the pet travel scheme on the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre’s website. Staff at the HARC were very helpful and professional – they see many different types of animals, from llamas to lizards, so the Nubian hound was not such an exotic arrival.

All in all, it was an expensive and stressful process, and I’m glad we only have to go through it every few years. It cost quite a lot more than we had initially budgeted because Qatar billed volumetric weight (67kg) rather than actual weight (32kg – 22kg dog and 10kg kennel) – something we had missed in the small print beforehand, and another unpleasant last minute surprise at the airport, especially as it wasn’t possible to pay by credit card.

Even once all the paperwork was done, it was a long journey for both of us. We left home in Hanoi at 9am on Saturday and finally arrived on the Isle of Man on Monday evening. Three days of traveling with a dog and while 8 months pregnant! But she coped well, and is now enjoying discovering the Isle of Man.

Here is Tala’s journey in pictures – mostly taken with an ipad:

Tala’s last motorcycle ride in the old quarter and then getting worried about why all her worldly belongings were going into a giant suitcase…

Last walk in Hanoi at 7am before traveling on Saturday and then heading to the airport at 9am.

At the airport: Although it was more stressful and tiring for us not using an agent, it meant that Tala was able to be on a leash out of her crate during almost four hours of paperwork checks. She finally had to get in the crate about two hours  before flying and we said goodbye as she went through a giant x-ray and scales. It was nearly 40 degrees centigrade so it was quite worrying to see a malamute puppy and a pomeranian in unsuitable cages hanging around cargo waiting to go on Vietnam airlines.

Safely through animal immigration at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre and into the car for the next leg of the journey. Tala seemed very calm and happy despite over 20 hours (Hanoi-Bangkok-Doha-London) in a crate (they are let out at HARC while the paperwork is checked) and she didn’t even soil her crate during the long journey!

After a four drive up to Lancaster we had a pub dinner at a dog friendly hotel. Everyone in Lancaster asked if she was Egyptian, but the hound didn’t hold any grudges as the pub gave her a huge bowl of leftover meat from its Sunday Roast!

lancaster pub

The next afternoon we boarded the Ben My Chree Ferry for the final four hours over to the Isle of Man. The lucky hound got to share a dog friendly cabin with us and she even had her own bunk.

Finally, we made it to the Isle of Man in time for a beautiful first walk in the evening light. The city hound approached everything with extreme caution and even managed to bolt and then do a spectacular flip through the uneven grass when surprised by a bird!

Another post will come soon about walks around the Isle of Man. If you have any questions about flying your dog to the UK please get in touch as I know how daunting it can be!