Living and working overseas

Shipping pets overseas - A personal 'tail'...

It all started when my wife and I decided we were going to move back to Sweden, her homeland. We were in New Zealand at the time, so that’s about as far away as we could possibly move without leaving the planet.

About 4 months beforehand we’d taken in a couple of kittens from the local animal shelter. They’d grown to become very much part of the family so we decided to take them with us even though we knew it was going to be expensive to ship our pets overseas and they were still young enough to find a new home easily. I’d worked in the airfreight business some years earlier so I was confident of what to expect and what we’d have to pay for transporting animals.

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After some initial Internet research we settled on a company called Dogtainers operating out of Auckland Airport. I’d actually worked with the owner some years before so I thought this would leave us in good hands. How wrong I was.

In the days leading up to my flight I had numerous phone calls with the owners assistant over what was required and what I had to do to ship our pets. My wife had gone on to Sweden before me so I was left to pack up and ship everything, including the cats.

I should have had a good idea of what was to come when I went to pick up the cage the cats would travel in. The assistant failed to meet me as arranged, so the owner provided me with the cage.

It seemed sturdy and spacious and the cats would probably have more room in the cage than I would up in economy class. I took the cage home to get the cats used to it. Some days later I received a phone call from Dogtainers advising me they’d made a mistake and given me the wrong cage. I had to make another visit to their premises to swap the cage over for a much smaller one, which is what they’d quoted on they said. It would cost me $300 more if I wanted the bigger cage. It was already an expensive exercise so I took the smaller cage.

My understanding of the procedure was that the cats would be flying on the same flight that I was on and I’d pick them up at the airport when we landed. As we’d be transiting in Bangkok, the cage would have to be sealed and I wouldn’t get a chance to see them from when we left New Zealand until we landed in Sweden. This seemed reasonable particularly as they’d be looked after with water in Bangkok.

My own instructions were to turn up to Dogtainers office at 9am on the morning of the flight with the cats and with the import permit for the Swedish authorities. This I did, but the person I was supposed to meet didn’t turn up for another 45 minutes (the same guy who was late the last time). By that stage I had already gone to the airport to check-in, so I left the cats and the paperwork with the other Dogtainers employee. When I finally got back to their office I was asked for the Import licence. I showed them what I had but they didn’t recognize it as an import permit as it was in Swedish. They then informed me that the cats wouldn’t be able to travel that day due to the lack of paperwork on my part. Nowhere in all of our correspondence did they tell me the paperwork required by the Swedish authorities had to be in English so the New Zealand authorities could verify them. You would expect a company that only deals with pet transportation would be aware of the regulations.

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