Sunday, July 6, 2008

No So Merry Olde This Time....

One of the reasons I was in New Mexico was to help a friend ship a foster cat to his owners in the U.K. They had been called back to Scotland and had hired a "professional" company at great expense because they said they weren't the cheapest but they were the best. Uh huh. Following the Defra website rules for getting a cat or dog into the U.K., you must first have the animal microchipped, then she or he must be given a Rabies injection, then wait and get a titer which can only be done at one lab in the U.S. having U.K. approval, the one at Kansas State University. Then, no more than 48 and no less than 24 hours before shipping on an approved carrier, a veterinarian must give the cat or dog flea and tick treatment as well as deworming whether they need it or not. The veterinarian must sign off on all paperwork which is then taken by the individual shipping said dog or cat, to the USDA office for their veterinarian to approve the paperwork. The "professional" managed to do the Rabies vaccination before the microchipping. The cat got all the way to England where his owners were to pick him up at Gatwick Airport and was refused entry. The owners were told that the cat would be killed rather than allowed in. A frantic e-mail was sent to my friend asking if poor Victor could be sent back to her to await redoing of all of the above. Another 6 months. Well, of course! This cost the owners another $800. Plus the money from the "professionals" was not only not refunded but there was no apology. The company is part of a larger group of "professionals" but that group is unresponsive as well.

My friend had been reading the Defra website for months to assure that all would go well this time. I read it for weeks. We followed everything to the letter (a little irony there that you'll soon understand) so that Victor could go on the Pet Passport Scheme. Ha, the word "scheme" should have been a clue! Yes, I know it has a different meaning in the U.K. I've been there enough times to be consider bilingual. ;-)

Victor and his paperwork went to the local veterinarian my friend uses and received yet another rabies vaccination. Two in one year which isn't a good thing. After I arrived he had his de-worming, flea and tick treatments and I watched as the veterinarian and his tech carefully went over all the paperwork to ensure that everything was in order. Next on the agenda: we drove to the USDA office where their veterinarians approved all of the paperwork. They said it was in perfect order and signed off on it. So far, so good, right? So we thought....

Victor had his reservation to fly to his owners who were anxiously awaiting his arrival. They'd bought him a new bed. He had been theirs before they had their child and had waited a long time to be reunited with Victor.

My friend made many calls to the receiving person at Gatwick to be reassured that all was well on that end.

Whatever possessed my friend to fax the paperwork to the Defra office in the U.K. I'll never know but thank heavens she did and we didn't put the cat on the plane. They were -- wait for it -- refusing him entrance! Why? Well, it seems that the letter "A" appeared before his microchip number on the Kansas State University form but is not on the microchip itself when the animal is scanned. The "A" is not the Scarlet Letter from Hawthorne's book. No, it stands for Avid, the manufacturer of chip the cat has and would make it easier to know which reader to use. All other numbers match. Everything.

As another friend put it quite succinctly: the cat is being held hostage in the United States by the British Government.

Victor is now 11 years old. A third Rabies vaccination and another 6 months of repeating everything for a third time is not recommended by my friend's veterinarian. Frankly, I wouldn't recommend it, either. Neither would my friend but it was left up to the owners. They sadly agreed. Our hope is that they will adopt a needy cat in Victor's name.

What I do recommend is that if you are thinking of shipping a cat or dog to the U.K. for any purpose whatsoever, that you think twice. We are perfectly capable of reading and following directions. (Two award winning writers so we certainly have that skill!), a series of well-educated and informed veterinarians approved, even the USDA and we couldn't do it. Plus there's the expense. For what? How many dogs have been rejected who were headed to the U.K. to be shown at Crufts? How many dogs and cats are shipped to breeders each year and how many make it into the country? How many are rejected?

The outcome, by the way, is that the owners are heartbroken, as is to be expected. My friend, the owners and I cried on both sides of the Atlantic. This made us sick in every possible way.

I know others who've had similar problems but I foolishly thought that by following their list of rules it could be done. Silly me. I hadn't counted on the whims of bureaucrats.

Victor will live out his days much loved in my friend's home with her cats and dogs. But he's not with his owners who desperately want him. And all because of the letter "A."

1 comment:

Jenny Ruth Yasi said...

wow. What a nightmare! Thanks for the warning. I'm thinking about these things, because we love to sail, and hope to bring our dogs along and then fly them back from wherever we end up. In some cases, the deal is simple, in others, it looks downright impossible!