Transporting our Beloved Pets with the airlines

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When we told our relatives that we intended to bring our canine and feline companions with us to France they thought we were crazy. If they didn’t come, we would miss and worry about them terribly, and our Shih Tzu would not be able to enjoy morning/evening walks like he could in the more moderate winters of France.

I felt that if we did our research and prepared well, transport risks and adjustment difficulties for their first trip abroad could be minimized. Basically I had two transportation issues to address: How and who? Our cat could travel in the aircraft cabin, but our dog had to go in checked baggage or cargo. I came to the conclusion after searching the internet, that air cargo would be safer, although it was much more expensive than checked baggage. On top of that there was no direct flight to Paris from Winnipeg, a stop was needed in Toronto or Montreal. We opted to fly cargo with West Jet using a Boeing aircraft from Winnipeg to Toronto, and then Live Cargo with Air Canada using a Boeing aircraft to Paris. Before booking our own air tickets, we researched the airlines’ pet transportation policies and found that some regional jets don’t heat the cargo hold in the winter, and other airlines have banned Shih Tzu’s, who are snub-nosed.

Getting the correct travel certificates for our pets had snags as well. Embassy web pages were not up to date, and our own veterinarian was unaware of changes at the end of December 2014 to EU health certificate documents. I contacted the Canada Food and Inspection Agency office in our city which sent me the proper forms, and answered all questions that I had.
Our dog was required to have food and drink attachments for his kennel. Common ones that I looked at had a metal sucking rod that I knew my dog would never figure out how to use, so I surfed the internet and purchased spill-proof food and water plastic dishes with rims that hook onto the cage.

I must say that one challenge of shipping your pet via cargo is that you have to drop your pet off and then pick them up at the airline cargo building at your departure and arrival airports. This wasn’t an issue in Toronto, but at CDG it certainly was! The taxi driver had a difficult time finding the building, even with the address that I provided, as signs were non-existent. On arrival at the Air Canada cargo building, feeling totally stressed out, I was informed that a 60 € fee was payable only by credit card. This paper was then to be taken over to the customs office (no sign on the building again) and approved, then taken back to the Air Canada cargo. Once we had picked up our very-happy-to-see-us dog, we had to dig in our luggage to find nail clippers, as we needed to cut the ties from all four corners of the cage. An essential item to remember to pack in your luggage and keep handy to retrieve!

To ease our pets’ discomfort and adjustment difficulties in France, we packed their dry food, treats, toothpaste and shampoo from home in our luggage. All in all they came through this experience unscathed and are happily exploring their new surroundings!

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