Thursday, September 1, 2016

The 56 steps to reclaiming your pets

Yesterday our cats arrived in country after spending 3 months in a kennel in Jordan. While flights from Jordan are daily to Frankfurt, getting all three cats into cargo at the same time is challenging.  But it happened, and we're glad to have our furballs back. Two have spent the past 12 hours telling us everything that happened to them.  "Meow, meow, meow, purr, meow, head butt, meow meow meow, scratch some furniture, meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow...." I don't think anyone got a decent night's sleep, at least not those of us on the main floor.  Tandoori moved almost immediately upstairs to the quietest corners he could find, and that's where he stayed.  I imagine it was stressful for him the past few months. At best, he tolerates Shawarma and would prefer that Falafel just disappear. So being in close quarters with not only them but other cats as well probably has his last nerve strained. He'll be OK, but he needs lots of alone time right now. Currently he's actually camped out under a couch, so at least he's "around us" without being "around us."

So, planning to bring your pets to Germany on a cargo waybill? Let me tell you about yesterday as an example of how it all works. YMMV.

First, get your rabies titre done as soon as you can long before your pet flies (it takes months), and make absolutely certain it's with an accredited EU lab.  I'd recommend sending it someplace in Germany that you are certain is a good place. And if your vet doesn't know absolutely, ask the pet immigration people here in Germany to be sure. Email one of the vets directly at . Don't skimp on this, don't find a cheaper place, don't go by word of mouth. Just make sure it's absolutely clear that the lab is accepted by the German pet immigration people.

Work with bona fide cargo shippers. Don't trust it to a friend or someone who does it on the side. Hire a company where this is what they do.

Once your pets are on their way, you'll know their flight number and arrival time. Head to the airport with your passport and the waybill about 1 1/2 hours after the arrival time.  Cargo stuff takes a while. For us that meant that a 1:30 p.m. arrival time had us arriving to the first stop about 3:30 p.m.

First stop, the south side of the airport, Cargo City Sud to Building 531D.  Go up the outdoor steps, straight ahead through the first office, through the door, and into a second office.  Here they'll make a copy of your passport and hand you a stack of papers about your pet. They'll also give you a map to the opposite side of the airport to the Animal Lounge.

Second stop, the north side of the airport, Cargo City Nord to Building 463. Go in the small door and up the elevator a floor, hang a left past the waiting room and there's a tiny Vet office. Give them the stack of papers you just received.  They'll have you wait in the waiting room. More about the pet station is here:

We waited extra long due to an issue with the rabies titre lab we used. It's a problem still not fixed, and which is why at the beginning of this I said to make absolutely sure that you're using an EU certified lab that Germany recognizes. The vet didn't fully sign off on our cats (we're working on it), but we paid for the vet fees: 3 cats = Euro 184.25. They take credit cards.

Third stop is Customs.  To get to customs requires step 2.5. Leave the vet office, go past the elevator and enter the next door on your right.  Here, you'll ask for a badge to get to Customs and you'll surrender a driver's license. He'll lend you a handy map to find your way to the Customs office.

OK, so to the third stop.  Customs is a 10 minute walk down the street. Leave the Animal Lounge building, go out to the street (there's a door in the fence) and turn left.  Walk to the end of the road where there is a turnstile entrance. Use your handy badge to pass through the turnstile then walk ahead until you find building D on your left.  Easy enough to spot, it has a giant D on it and comes after building C, which comes after building B, etc. At the base of the yellow tower, there is a tiny and extremely slow elevator. Punch up to floor 3 and head straight (bathrooms are on your right if you need to go), then hang a left and you'll see a door labeled ZOLL (aka Customs). There's a spacious room with airplanes hanging from the ceiling. We were lucky that we arrived just before 6:30...  I think the office closes at 6:30 as everyone left while we were standing there except the people handling our case.

They'll take your passport and your forms and look everything up in the computer. Eventually you'll be handed a form to fill in with the kind of animals you're bringing, their ages, and where they're going (your address). When everything checks out, you'll get yet another stamped piece of paper.

Stop number 4 is back to stop 2.5. Return the badges, reclaim your license, and they'll make a copy of the form you just got from Customs. Because the cats landed at 1:30 and it's now 7p.m., there is a charge for caring for them in the lounge: 3 cats = Euro 142.80. They take credit cards.

Then you hear the great news that everything is squared away and all they have to do is bring out your pets.

While we were outside a shipment of tropical fish from Colombia was being loaded into a van.  Five trucks from somewhere else came in to be unloaded and I didn't hear any noise from them so I'm assuming they were snakes or tarantulas or more fish. We were warned that they were going to deal with the large shipment first so we'd have to wait outside, but within about 10 minutes a cart came out with our 3 furrballs. Such plaintive mewling, except Tandoori who is generally stoic. When he's not stoic he's grumpy heading towards mad, so I'll take stoic.

Hiding is his favorite activity.
Finally the cats are quiet and napping (except when I sneeze... Falafel always checks up on me when I sneeze). It has all mostly worked out, we're still waiting to hear from the lab about their accreditation (so we don't have to go out immediately and get all their bloodwork done and paid for a second time), but they are settled onto (or under) the couches in warm patches of sunlight. I'm glad we didn't cargo them on the same day we arrived, I truly wouldn't have wanted to do the additional 5+ hours immediately after a red-eye. But the process is not straightforward and no matter the little information we gathered before heading out, it seemed that no one at the Consulate had more than an inkling of what was involved. At one point they said there "might be a fee."

If you're sending pets cargo into Germany separate from your own arrival, bring a credit card, a passport, the waybill, and have a car (borrowed is great) as public transportation will not help you out. Try to have your pets arrive in the morning to avoid the risk of offices closing. One of the issues with the lab was that as the vet here tried calling they found the office in Latvia closed. It was 5:00 by then. Earlier is better as it gives a better chance of ironing out any wrinkles on the spot.

We realized this gap under the oven continued
under the cabinets as well. If a cat went under
we'd never get it out.

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