Our three dogs have finally joined me to live the expat life in Panama, but there were lots of twists and turns in the process since I last wrote about it in December.
Back then, we had followed airline guidelines and purchased proper travel kennels for them. We were putting two of the dogs in the larger kennel together, and one in the smaller kennel.
Well, after training them so they’d be relaxed and groovy with this arrangement during the stress of the actual flight, the airlines went and changed the rules on us.
It wasn’t pretty.
I got a frantic call from my husband, who was back in Florida attempting to orchestrate the pet move.
“They’re telling me I can’t put two dogs together in the same kennel at all. What am I supposed to do?”
He checked with several airlines and got the same story from all of them. Apparently the whole “ship each pet separately” is a new IATA (International Air Transport Association) guideline. Nobody would deviate from it for any reason.
Pretty ironic when their first piece of advice about successful pet shipping is:
“It is important to train your animal to its new surroundings. Let it become familiar with the crate or kennel a few weeks or months before your planned departure. Animals behave perfectly fine when accustomed to the kennel or crate they are transported in.”
We even got a letter from our veterinarian stating his recommendation that the two who are used to rooming together travel together in the same kennel. The manager of the baggage department at the airline essentially slammed the door in my husband’s face.
This was not encouraging.
In the midst of it all, I flew back to Florida for our son’s wedding.
We decided it was more important to focus on family and friends for the weekend, and that we’d deal with the dog problems afterwards. I was able to compartmentalize, but my husband, apparently was not.
So, during the weekend, various family members tried to give me advice about what we should do with our dogs. I politely but firmly told each of them that we had agreed to put it on hold until after the wedding, and that I wanted to keep it that way.
Nevertheless, my father-in-law managed to tell me he thought we should take the dogs to the pound and be done with them. . .
It was hard work.
Anyway, the wedding was great, and it was wonderful to see friends and family.
The morning after the wedding we tackled the dog transport again. The four big problems were:
- My husband was on his own. I was leaving Orlando to head up to Boston to help my college daughter with something, and was already booked to fly directly back to Panama from Boston.
- From a purely logistical standpoint, my husband didn’t see how he could get himself, two large suitcases and his boxed-up bicycle, as well as the three dogs and three kennels, to their different drop-off locations at the airport, get the rental car returned and get himself onto the plane.
- We had trained our three dogs (and bought kennels) for shipping two together and one on his own. Now we would have to buy a new kennel and ship each separately, which they were not used to
- Temperature restrictions were becoming an inevitable issue. The airlines won’t board an animal if the temperature at departure, layover, or arrival would be over 85 degrees. Given the time of year and a departure from Orlando, layover in Miami and destination in Panama City, Panama, those temperatures were pretty much guaranteed.
Because of the temperature restrictions, my husband would need to buy an unrestricted (i.e., very expensive) ticket so he could change his flight if need be. That also added an element of uncertainty and another level of expense — more nights in a hotel, additional car rental fees, meals, etc.
Our oldest son, who’s very logical, listened to our tale of woe. He asked probing questions.
I mentioned that we still had the option to hire a pet moving professional to handle logistics for us. I had already contacted a recommended Panama pet mover and gotten a rough estimate of the cost for that service.
Our son did the math and pointed out that the cost of hiring a professional wouldn’t be much more than the cost of doing it ourselves, with all those extra costs.
So, although we’re very much bootstrapping, do-it-yourselfers, with bit the bullet and hired Panama Pet Relocation.
Total cost for their services? A whopping $4,200 (keep in mind every situation is unique with different needs and costs).
Part of that covered costs that would have come straight out of our pockets in any case:
- USDA certification
- Consular apostille
- flight costs
- veterinarian fees at Tocumen International Airport ($130/dog, or $390)
- other charges
They determined that the best way to get the dogs from Orlando to Panama was to drive them first to Miami, then fly them out of Miami at night.
So last Thursday morning, a driver picked them up and drove them to Miami.
After the dogs’ departure for Miami, my husband flew out of Orlando on Thursday afternoon, arriving in Panama that evening.
On Thursday, the company went to the USDA and the consulate for those approvals, and at 11 PM the dogs flew out on a DHL plane, arriving at PTY at 2 AM. They stayed there until 7 when the vet arrived, and then the company took them through the veterinary clearance process, delivering them to my husband at his hotel at about 10:30 AM.
From there, three very excited (but sadly dehydrated!!) dogs and my husband left Panama City for Las Tablas. For this part of the trip, we hired a van and driver. At a cost of $400, it wasn’t much more than the out-of-pocket costs to rent the van, gas it up, drive it to Las Tablas and then back to Panama City, and without the wear and tear of doing it when already exhausted.
Happily, they’re all here now and have had a couple of days to relax. The dogs seem to be adjusting well to their new home.
If You’re Planning to Bring the Family Pet(s). . .
If you have a dog or cat — especially if it can travel in the cabin under the seat — you shouldn’t have a lot of difficulty bringing your pet with you to Panama. As long as it’s healthy and you’ve done the paperwork, the process will be pretty straightforward and not very expensive.
However, if you have more than one, think long and hard about the new IATA guidelines. Requiring each animal to have its own kennel, in my opinion, has everything to do with profits and nothing at all to do with the animals’ welfare. It adds layers of difficulty and expense to the process.
My husband admits that, had he had any inkling of how complicated it would become, he’d have seriously thought about finding new homes for one or two of the dogs months ago. That was definitely not an option at the last minute.
In our situation, although not what we planned or anticipated, hiring a professional to handle the logistics and take the stress was well worth it.
But I hope we never have to go through that again.
Glad your dogs are safe and sound with you.
I’m not surprised by the one pet per kennel rule as that’s been in effect for international flights for quite some time. All it takes is one pet panicking to rile the other, and it can get nasty even among the closest of animals. Obviously paying a professional worked for you.
For others who don’t want to go to that trouble or expense, another option is to arrange for a good friend (better yet, hire someone) to help you with luggage, pet kennels, etc. on both ends. I flew with my two children, 3 kennels and lots of luggage in July on an international flight from DC to Amsterdam. Yes, it was hectic, but the shuttle driver picking us up from car rental return was patient as we loaded/unloaded everything. Check-in took longer than usual because the airlines’ manager had to teach the newer employee how to process the pet paperwork; TSA review was a hassle (removal of each animal for security check of the kennels). Equally stressful on landing to get everything. I did have two kids to help carry and keep an eye on things, but when I do it again, I’ll arrange for an adult on either end, even if I have to pay someone.
Linda, I’m not sure when they changed the rules — some time between last October when I talked with an agent from American Airlines, and a few weeks ago. . . but it certainly caught us by surprise. I think we still would have tackled it ourselves had it not been for the added level of uncertainty and expense dealing with the heat restrictions in Orlando, Miami and Panama City. After living in limbo for several months (we vacated our house near the end of February), my poor husband just couldn’t face it. By using the pros, they were able to send the dogs on a non-passenger flight at night so the temperature restrictions were not an issue. . .
Anyway, I’m just glad it all worked out. And kudos to you for handling your pet move on your own! I understand the paperwork is even more complicated when you’re flying into Britain and other EU countries. . .
I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading all your stories. Thank you for sharing. One day, my wife and I will take the leap to live our early retirement years abroad and Panama is on the list to consider.
Concerning pets… I guess that Panama does not have a mandatory quarantine for all incoming animals?
Yes, Panama does have a quarantine law but if you jump through the right hoops they allow you a 30-day “in-home quarantine” instead of keeping the pets in their facility.
That’s a good thing to know. Thank you so much for the response and information.
I’m planning a trip to Panama during July/August. My dog (a labrador of 2 year) is used to travelling by car, boat, plane. I’m from Belgium and last year we (my dog and I) travelled to New York and part of Canada.
I’ve read about the administration and the vet that should meet me at the airport and about the 40 days ‘in-house’-quarantine. Does this mean I can travel through the country and stay at various hotels during that time. Does anybody has some practical information how this ‘in-house’-quarantine is checked or what the rules are?
Thanks in advance for any information.
I’ve never heard of the 30-day quarantine actually being enforced. However, you might run into a different problem. There are very few hotels in Panama that will allow you to bring your dog. If you plan to bring him, make sure you have appropriate accommodations lined up ahead of time — don’t count on being able to go where the mood takes you and finding a welcome for your dog.
Aloha Suzanna: Well here I am at this post now! I just posted this on your 2012 post of Dec. Not sure it you saw it there so here it is again here. Also an added extra at the bottom with the Quarantine questions please. The pet issue is a big one too for me even though my 3 Goldens and cat have flown from Hawai’i to the mainland US and back again and now in Nov. 1st we are flying to Panama. (Las Tablas area). I too have known the same FINALLY able to sit in the seat feeling knowing your pets are safely under neath the plane you are on in baggage. However I am really wondering about the “NO Microchip” policy. I too “saw” this on the Panama website requirements. HOWEVER in order to have the APHIS paperwork (form 7001) done you MUST have the microchip. AND now I have heard from my vet that they are requiring a 15 diget microchip not the 9 digets ones that my animals have – so they are saying I have to get new chips for all 4 animals. Yes yet another expense. So anyway what I am wondering is : HOW did you FIND people that you could coorespond with who HAVE brought their animals to Panama and gave you the info? Also since we are going to the LAS TABLAS area is there any airport CLOSER than Panama CITY that will allow them to get off there? Did you drive them to Las Tablas from Panama City? OR where? I really do need specific answers to a few questions too and would appreciate any help you or the people whom you had contact with and derived answers from could help me.
From this post I see you finally decided to hire a professional. We can’t possibly afford that on top of everything else. I do see you rented a van driver to drive you to Las Tablas. SO if we rent a car say an AVIS or BUDGE that I see has locations in Citre we could not drop the vehicle off there? We’d have to drive it ALL the way back to Panama City? And you say no pet friendly hotels in Panama either? GEE! Even Ecuador we had a great place lined up. I am rather disappointed in this. That means already having RENTED SIGHT UNSEEN a house in Las Tablas area by the ocean and with a pool. Another BIG hurdle and hoop there too! Saddened me to hear your father in laws comment on getting rid of the babies. Gee wiz! As it is my husband said when we leave our chickens and duck no more of them – no fresh eggs in other words and all my chickens KNOW their names and come when I call them! Yes! So I DO need info on the Quarantine stuff. The Panama site for this is all in Spanish which does not help me. However we ARE lucky in one way here that over on Oahu (where Honolulu is) we live on The Big Island called Hawai’i there IS a Panamian Consulate; so getting the stamp with APHIS and them should not be as much work. Also I NEED TO KNOW if there are translation requirements on the documents where you must write all the vet stuff ALSO in SPANISH? For Ecuador the APHIS 7001 had it. DO you know any of this or can you put me in touch with the “many people” who you had been talking to before you arrived who could tell me?
Thank you very much Antoinette Jackson
Hello, Animal Lovers,
Essentially, it is better to have the 15 digit microchip since this is required in all international destinations.
As for finding the right “agent” to assist you and caring for the welfare of your beloved pets, you may want to visit http://www.actionpetexpress.com where you will find so much valuable information on various country requirements, airline contacts, crate dimensions, free printout labels, and which agents to AVOID because as one poster commented, they are more concerned with profits and not the well-being of your pet. I recently flew from United Arab Emirates to VA with my two adopted cats. Fortunately, I was able to fly on Lufthansa, a non-American airline not bound by the IATA and TSA regs designed merely to soak your wallet. I was able to fly my pets as “excess baggage” instead of “cargo” status, saving thousands of dollars. LH also has pet hotels at their major hubs (Munich, Frankfurt, DC, etc.) and my felines arrived sufficiently hydrated with a clean crate and unstressed. I’m not sure if you can find a non-American airline, though, to reach these destinations in Central America but if you peruse this actionpetexpress website, you will find answers to many of your questions. One final note, you may not be aware but whether your pet travels as “cargo” or “excess baggage” status, they are all placed in the SAME holding area, except with excess baggage, pet owners incur a few hundred as opposed to thousands. Agents promise you all kinds of perks that they cannot possibly provide. Beware and be informed. I am sure you can find information about APHIS, quarantine, etc. at this website! Best wishes.
Hi, the hotel Santa Fe, in Santa Fe Veraguas accept pets. Very nice place.
on another subject, is there any meeting clubs around the Azuero area? I would like to attend or start a book club.
I find all of this very confusing. Where can I find a step by step process of exactly what I need to do to get our 70 lb dog from the US to Panama City, Panama?
Sandra L Preston
I worked on the Delta ticket counter from 1996 thru February 2000. The one cage rule for each pet was in effect then. These are very strict rules from the government and can’t be modified. These are all for the safety of your pet. The temperature rule had just been added, as I believe some pets (especially breeds with short or pug noses) had died because they couln’t breathe properly in the intense heat. Think about sitting in a crate on the Tarmac in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas etc. waiting for a connection, when the temperature is 98°, 100° or more. I’m sure there have been many things added since I worked there, but not to inconvenience you or get more revenue. It’s for the animals, and yes, you too. You would be devastated to go pick up “Sammy” only to find him dead in his crate.