This is another post about Marble, the cat I brought with me to New York City and gave to my mom. She’s done quite a bit of traveling and this last trip was hard on her, because she was in the plane for so long, but now she’s adjusting quite nicely. She seems to not mind being in an apartment or mind the noise of the city. Like one of my friends said, she’s a city girl at heart. She grew up in Singapore after all.
She’s still in that ‘adjustment’ period when it comes to my mom’s cat. They haven’t quite become friends yet. Marble doesn’t seem to want anything to do with him, but he’s been really aggressive and we have to keep an eye on him constantly. It seems like every time we turn our backs he’s trying to go after her. I’m sure that will stop after a while, but he’s been the lone king of this apartment for over a year, since his older brother passed away from old age. It’s typical cat behavior, not wanting to concede territory to another cat, but it still seems bizarre, because in human terms it would be like a retiree beating up a 10 year old child brought into his house by a relative. Marble is barely over a year old, so she’s still a young cat.
To that end, she’s taken to staying high up, where that big fat cat can’t reach her. She stays on an armchair next to me, or sits on the shelf over the radiator by the window. She really enjoys that spot because it lets her look out onto the street below. Sometimes she goes onto the balcony and sits on the freezer too.
So far I haven’t done much in the city except random errands, but I’ll definitely start posting some stuff soon. Tomorrow I want to write a bit about the flight from Manila to New York and Narita airport in Tokyo. To end this post, though, I’ll leave you with a not so good photo of the beast of a cat that my mom already had:
Now use the following photo for a size comparison:
Dapper, the cat on the left, is about the same size as Marble.
Meet Marble. Marble was born in Singapore, has lived in the Philippines and is sleeping in an armchair in Manhattan, New York City, in the above picture. She’s an international cat and probably has more Sky Miles than most human beings. She’s also a lucky cat, having started out her life as a stray under a building near the train station in Pasir Ris, Singapore. Now she lives a life of relative luxury on the other side of the world with canned food every day, lots of attention and love and a safe environment.
So, how did she get here? Well, it’s a long story, but first we exported her from Singapore to the Philippines and then when it was time to move on, we exported her again from the Philippines to the US. (If you want to read about how to get your cats from Singapore the Philippines, click here.) Compared to the process of getting Marble from Singapore the Philippines, bringing her to the US was relatively painless.
Just to give you an idea, the requirements set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control, which regulates animal imports) for bringing your pet cat into the US are that the cat has to be in apparent good health and, depending on the state of entry, updated on rabies shots. That’s it. Here’s the exact quote from the CDC’s page on cat importation:
A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of pet cats into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.
Cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.
So, here’s a breakdown on what you’ll need to get your pet cat out of the Philippines:
When you book your flight, do it with a live person and inform them that you’ll be taking a pet cat with you on the flight. This is necessary, because not all planes are equipped to carry live animals. The fee for carrying pet cats is 200 USD each, flat rate. You pay this later. I’m not aware of any limit to the number of cats you can bring at one time, but I’m sure there is one.
Within 10 days of your flight, take your cat to a vet and have her updated on all shots. Depending on what state you go to, your cat may need a rabies shot. Also, regardless of US requirements, the BAI staff asked to see proof of rabies vaccination. Get your cat the other shots he or she should have anyway, because it’s just healthier that way and will help your cat avoid disease and live longer. Depending on what vet you use, costs may vary. Our cat had her rabies shot in Singapore in May, so it was still valid. Her feline leukopenia booster was 750 pesos.
Request a Veterinary Health Certificate. You may need to explain what this is and what it’s for and what it needs to say. The vet we went to didn’t seem to know, which isn’t surprising. Cats aren’t popular pets in the Philippines and I imagine exporting them to other countries by owners is rare. We paid 500 pesos for our Health Certificate at Our Lady of Assumption Dog and Cat Clinic – Antipolo:
Contact Person: Oscar Macenas
Address: Joren Building, Circumferential Road, Marville Park Subdivision, Antipolo, Rizal
Contact Numbers: (02) 697-1896, (02) 697-3378
Accreditation: Philippine Animal Hospital Association (PAHA)
Take your Veterinary Health Certificate (within 3 days of issue!!!) and your cat’s shot record, showing the valid rabies vaccination, to the BAI building on Visaya’s Avenue in Quezon City, Manila. They’ll process your combo export permit / government health certificate in an hour or less. Take the form they give you and go around back of that building (to the left as you exit the door). Go into the building there on your left (there’s only one) and up to the 3rd floor to the records unit. They’ll put a ‘dry seal’ (raised notary seal) on your export permit. All of this is free.
Contact Person: Virgie Tiong or Maynard Lagmy
Address: National Veterinary Quarantine Services, Bureau of Animal Industry, Visayas Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Manila
When you get to the airport, check in as usual at Delta’s ticket counter. They’ll ask to see the documentation, make photocopies, and collect your pet there after you make your payment of 200 USD, which can be made in cash or by credit card. Delta doesn’t accept carry on pets on international flights.
Collect your pet in the baggage claim area at your destination airport.
You won’t see your pet during the flight at all, even if you have a layover. What comfort you will have comes in the form of little cards:
These cards come off of a form that is stuck to the side of your pet cat’s carrier. You’ll be given one by a flight attendant prior to the plane leaving the gate area. If you have a layover, you’ll be given another one before the plane takes off again. My flight was from Manila to Tokyo to New York, so I received two of them. The fact that it comes from the sticker form stuck to the carrier at the check in counter is what gives you the assurance that your pet is in fact on the plane.
If you’re wondering how a cat holds up under a plane for 20 hours, I would tell you that it depends on your cat’s temperament. Each cat is different and some are more skittish than others, but Marble was just fine. She was a little nervous and hid under the blanket I put in there for her, but that was about it. Please do leave a blanket in the carrier. Despite being air conditioned, the plane gets cold. My advice to anyone, though, is to not drug your cat prior to the flight. Besides the fact that it’s not healthy for the cat, if he or she looks dopey or messed up on arrival you may wind up with your cat being quarantined to make sure it’s not sick with some disease.
If you’re flying this exact route, you can collect your cat in JFK’s baggage claim area. Just past the baggage carousels there is a locked door with a key pad. Above it there is a light with a yellow cover. When a pet shows up on a flight, it’s taken to this room and the warning light is turned on to alert the owner that the cat (or dog) is available for pick-up. When I picked up my cat I wasn’t required to show any documentation at all, because Delta had copies that were likely handed over when the cat was unloaded.
I hope this guide gives you some insight into the process of getting your cat from the Philippines to the US! Below is a map showing the location of the BAI office on Visaya’s Avenue. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask and I will answer to the best of my ability.
The process of importing cats from Singapore to the Philippines can seem like a lot of trouble, and it gave us a headache trying to figure out what is, and isn’t, necessary. The embassy website for the Philippines and the website for BAI (when it’s even up) even had some contradicting information. So, I’m writing this guide in the hopes that other people will benefit from my experience.
Picking an Airline
This is one of the most obvious things, but I thought it was worth mentioning because if you’re planning on taking pets from Singapore to the Philippines you only have two options: Singapore Airlines or Philippine Airlines. The budget carriers don’t allow pets at all.
With both Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines, pets are transported in the belly of the plane as cargo. Pets aren’t allowed in the cabin. Don’t worry. My cats unfortunately went through hell prior to take-off, but they made it through just fine and are relaxing on my bed while I type this.
The real decision here comes down to how much money you want to spend. Both airlines will get you to the Philippines. Both airlines will carry your pets. Philippine Airlines is quite a bit cheaper, though.
Picking your Carrier
That’s not my cat at the top of the photo. He’s a cat that lived in our building on the 6th floor somewhere, but came downstairs during the day to lounge around and people-watch. He was checking out my cats, who were in the carriers, just prior to our boarding a taxi for the airport.
When you take your cats on a plane, an IATA certified carrier is required. We used the Ferplast Atlas Deluxe 20 Open Top to ensure that our cats had proper ventilation during the trip. Check out any of Pet Lover’s Centre’s many locations for a wide variety of carriers. Be sure to ask if the carrier is IATA approved before buying it though or you may be disappointed later.
Before starting the export process, you’ll need to make sure your cats have been immunized. They don’t need to have been immunized more than once, so if they don’t have a booster shot that’s ok. When we imported our 3 cats to the Philippines, they had all received their first shots less than a month prior to the flight date. The shot you’ll have to get them is the standard 4-in-1 shot, which contains vaccines for feline rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia, and chlamydia psittaci. There is no specific time frame for when, in relation to your flight, these shots have to be received by your cats. You just have to have them current.
One thing I would like to suggest is that before you head to your nearest vet, do some calling around. Prices vary quite a bit in Singapore for the same veterinary services. You can use the Singapore Veterinary Association site’s list of clinics as a good starting point to find a certified vet for your needs. We lived in the East area of Singapore and found Clinic for Pets to have the cheapest rate on vaccinations, and Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Bedok) Pte Ltd to have the best rate on the rabies vaccinations and Health Certificates. (More on that later in the post).
Philippines Pet Import Permit
Within 60 days prior to your flight you’ll have to request, either in writing or by e-mail, an import permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). The BAI website has been down recently for upgrading and the email address that is listed on the Singapore embassy website is incorrect. We were actually told (after a month of waiting) that the email address listed there is not used and won’t return an invalid email address message to your inbox. To actually get a message to BAI via email you have to use the following email address: email@example.com [Commenter "Allem" alerted me to the fact that the previous email address is no longer valid, and recommended the following: firstname.lastname@example.org]. The point of contact at that email address is either Maynard Lagmay or Virgie Tesoro, both of which were very helpful in sending us our import permit.
The permit is usually mailed I think, but due to our circumstances (the incorrect email address) they helped us out by scanning and e-mailing the import permit to us. When you get it, it should look like this:
The import permit will be valid for 60 days you don’t have to worry about making any payment until you land in the Philippines. As you can see from the example permit above, you’ll be charged 350 PHP on arrival if you have 2 cats or less, or 650 PHP if you have two cats or more.
Singapore Pet Export Permit
Within 30 days prior to your flight, you’ll have to request an export permit from Singapore’s AVA, which will cost you 50 SGD (with multiple cats allowed on one permit). This export permit is independent of the Veterinary Health Certificate and you request it (and should request it) prior to getting your Health Certificates done. Getting the export permit is as simple as filling out an online form, which you can get started on by clicking this link.
Once the page loads, scroll down until you see this:
As indicated in the image above, pick the situation that applies to you. Both options will lead to the same form, but if you’re not a foreigner you’ll have to enter your SingPass to proceed. Getting a SingPass is as simple as going to the CPF Building in Tampines. It takes about 5 minutes and you’ll leave with the SingPass in your hand.
Either way, you’ll be presented with a disclaimer that you’ll have to agree to and then you can begin filling out the form. The form is simple but it can be confusing at times. The same form is used for all situations, as well as importing and exporting, so the key is to just fill out the sections that apply to you and your situation.
Here’s an example on the first page of the form:
On the first page, as an individual exporting personal pets, the bottom details don’t apply. Don’t enter anything into the fields at the bottom of the form will fail in the end. The best thing to remember is that just because it has a red asterisk, it doesn’t mean you have to fill it out if that box doesn’t apply to you.
In the end, you should be presented with a confirmation page (step 7) that looks something like this:
The following day, you can go back to that first page where the green links are and click on “Enquire on my Application’s Status Now”, or just click here. You’ll be required to give the Application Number from the Submission Page, which comes after the Confirmation Page above, so be sure to write that down. It’ll be a long number that starts with a letter, like this one:
In the following screen you’ll be able to see if your permit is processing, approved or denied. Once it’s approved, payment is simple. You follow the link at the beginning of this post to go back to the AVA page with the green links and this time click on “Pay for my New Licence now”, or just click here. The payment is handled by a third party, but the payment should credit instantly. It did for me! They accept NETS and MasterCard. I can’t remember if I saw a Visa logo or not.
After making your payment you’ll be directed to a page where you can download your Export permit for printing.
Health Certificates & Rabies Vaccination
When you’re 7 days out from your flight, you’ll have to take the final steps to ensure your cats are ready to go.
One thing you’ll have to consider is whether or not to get your pet a rabies vaccination. This is one of the points where I got a bit confused, because some sources I read said it was required, and others didn’t. I played it safe and got my cats their rabies vaccinations. Technically, I don’t think it’s required because rabies has been eradicated in Singapore. However, there are rabies in the Philippines and if I was going to put this much effort into bringing them with me, I didn’t want them to get sick and die after arriving safely. The rabies vaccinations cost me 48 SGD apiece.
To get our Health Certificate, we went to Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre in Bedok. The vet will inspect your cat to make sure they don’t have any weird bumps, open wounds, or signs of any infectious diseases. If they appear to be in good shape, she’ll authorize the counter clerk to print up a health certificate, which she’ll sign.
Before she does that, ask her to apply Frontline to your cats and have it annotated on the health certificate. One of the requirements for importing pets into the Philippines is proof that they’ve been treated for parasites. I actually forgot to have her administer dewormer and annotate that as well, but we had some on hand to administer to the cats when we landed at NAIA, in case they asked.
Your journey isn’t over quite yet!
Importing pets to the Philippines from Singapore requires an AVA Veterinary Health Certificate, which is 23 dollars per certificate (with multiple cats allowed on one certificate). Once you have your regular health certificates, you need to scan them and then head back to the AVA’s site to request the AVA certificate. Click that link, scroll down and you’ll see the following:
Filling out this form is similar to filling out the export request form. It also offers the same method of payment. There’s just one catch. You have to pick this one up in person. The AVA Veterinary Health Certificate comes with a special watermark that only certain printers can properly reproduce. An average printer will print the form, but it will have a watermark that says “copy copy copy” in a ring, instead of the proper image. The airline you choose and Customs in the Philippines will require the original.
At some point while filling out this form you’ll see a check box that you either select or de-select to indicate that you’ll pick it up in person.
When you’re ready to go pick up your form, head to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station (EW15 on the Green Line). Exit towards Maxwell Road and you’ll find yourself at an intersection with Maxwell Road crossing just in front of you. Cross the small street just to the left of the MRT exit and follow Maxwell Road. After about one block you’ll see the Ministry of National Development across the street, with a pedestrian crossing leading right to the front doors.
Go up to the second floor, hang a right at the information desk and you’ll walk right into the office. You should leave with a form that looks like this:
Note that the watermark says “copy”, since this is a scanned copy of the original. Pretty cool how it does that!
Presenting Your Paperwork To The Airline Travel Office
No later than two days prior to your flight, you’ll have to present your completed documents to the airline office for validation. I’m not sure if Singapore Airlines has the same stipulation, but this was required by Philippine Airlines. The documents I was required to show were the Import Permit, Export Permit and the AVA Veterinary Health Certificate. The guy also asked me the weight of the cats and the dimensions and the weight of the carriers I was using. Be sure to have that information on hand. I had to waste a lot of time looking up the carrier dimensions and weight on my iPhone because I wasn’t prepared.
After the guy looks over your documents he’ll fax them to the airline office in the airport. Once that’s done you’ll be good to go.
The Philippine Airlines office I went to is located at Parklane Shopping Mall, which is close to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station:
It’s not too hard to find. There’s a Singapore Arts school on the corner of Orchard and Selegie. You just turn up the road and then look for this facade:
The entrance is located between the DBS sign and the McDonald’s sign there on the left. When you enter the mall go down the first hallway on the right and it should be the 2nd or 3rd storefront on your right. They close at 5 PM.
Once you’ve presented your documents to the airline office, you can kick back and relax. The next thing you have to do with your cats is get them ready for their trip on the day of the flight.
When you arrive at the airport and get in line to check-in, an attendant will likely usher you into the Business Class line for prompt handling of your cats. Since the documents are faxed in ahead of you, they’ll be watching for you. The clerk will weigh your cats and perform your usual check-in process, but before giving you your boarding pass you’ll have to go to the excess baggage counter to pay for your cats trip. The rate was 20.50 per kilo when we traveled on May 6th, 2010 and we paid 330 SGD total for three cats and carriers. Once you’ve paid the excess baggage fee you’ll receive your boarding pass and your cats will be wheeled away on a trolley. They won’t be placed on the conveyor belts.
After this, it’s a typical flight.
When you get to NAIA, you’ll probably rush off the plane like we did to catch up to your cats. We got through immigration and customs pretty quickly, but they were already waiting for us at the baggage claim area. The paperwork process at NAIA is extremely painless. They even came out to the claim area to take our paperwork and payment from us. Our cats were never put in a quarantine area and they didn’t make us cart them over to the desk. Everyone seemed really amused to see them.
We paid our 650 PHP and then all 5 of us walked out into the bright Filipino sunshine to start the next chapter in our lives as residents of the Philippines!
Exporting your cat(s) from Singapore to the Philippines can be a long, complicated and very expensive process but it’s also very rewarding. I think we spent upwards of 1200 SGD (including vaccination fees). I encourage anyone who has pets to take them with you when you leave Singapore. Cats aren’t emotionless beasts that should be tossed out on the street after you’re done ‘using’ them. After two years of cat ownership I know that each one of my cats has a very different personality and that each one reacts differently to different situations. If we’re gone for a while, they show that they missed us when we come back. A cat will ‘feel’ it if you abandon it in the street, the same way any other member of the family would. Love them, protect them, and definitely take them with you and they’ll be your faithful companions for many years.
So, the great saga of exporting cats from Singapore is now complete, but it ended in near disaster.
Everything was going great. We got up on time. We got to the airport on time. The Philippine Airlines attendants saw us in the line and pulled us into the business class line to have the cats taken care of. We wound up paying 330 SGD for the cats to get on the plane. The rate was about 20.50 SGD per kilogram.
Then, they were tagged and wheeled away in their carriers. We were assured that they would be taken good care of. I’m not sure where things went wrong, but I think it must have been with the ground crew that loads the planes.
We were already on board and seated when we looked out the window and saw one of those baggage trucks with the cat carriers pulled up alongside the plane. I even took a photo, thinking it was neat that we had such good seats for watching them get put on the plane.
That’s when disaster struck. We saw a guy holding up a broken carrier. The carrier was broken in the middle. I don’t know how they managed to do it, other than to think that maybe they put something too heavy on top of the carrier and it caused it to fall apart. Why would they be putting something heavy on top of a cat carrier that has a live animal in it in the first place?
A guy bolted out of view, presumably chasing Marble.
I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I put all that effort into securing my pet’s passage to the Philippines and she almost ran off into the airport somewhere, to meet who knows what kind of fate. I ran back out of the plane and into the boarding area to ask the women there just what was going on. I told them what the situation was, and that I saw the empty carrier and pressured them to get everything taken care of.
My wife called me on my mobile from her seat in the plane and said that she saw them bringing the carrier back with Marble inside of it. The attendant then talked to someone on her walkie-talkie and confirmed what my wife had said. So, relieved, I went back down the boarding ramp and back to my seat.
That wasn’t the end of the drama though.
There was some banging around under the plane and I started to wonder just what the hell they were doing to my cats. Then, about 5 minutes later they began to unload all of the cargo from the plane. They had broken the carrier again and Marble was running amok under the plane.
I offered to go under the plane myself and secure the carrier because I figured I’d have an easier time of it than they would, but they said that for security reasons they couldn’t let me do that. So, we sat there. Eventually the pilot made an announcement about why we were still sitting there 30 minutes after the plane was supposed to have taken off, and everyone got a good laugh out of it, but I didn’t think it was all that amusing. I was worried about my cat.
At about 11:30 AM, 45 minutes after the plane was supposed to take off, they finally had Marble secured in her carrier, the cargo reloaded and they were closing the plane doors.
I spent the entire flight worrying about how my cats were. After a fiasco like that, I didn’t have much confidence in the airline’s ability to handle my pets properly.
Thankfully, things went incredibly smoothly in Manila. We rushed off the plane to the baggage area, but our cats still beat us to the baggage claim area. It seems like NAIA knows what ‘Priority’ tags mean. It means take care with these animals, and move them along quickly, rather than put heavy stuff on the carrier and crack it open.
By the way, this is what the carrier looked like after the ‘fix’ at Changi Airport:
Anyway, the paperwork was done in a matter of minutes. We didn’t even have to take the cats anywhere. The workers came to us and helped us get through the paperwork while I was pulling our luggage off the carousel. That’s some good service!
The cats were a little terrified, but when we got into the taxi the quiet and the air conditioning put them right to sleep, all the way to Antipolo.
Stay tuned for more updates on how the cats are adjusting to their new home!
Monday night the AVA health certification was approved, so I immediately got online and made my payment. I didn’t want to run into any hang-ups with my card not working properly in some scanner at a government office. I didn’t have time to take chances.
I did have time to sleep in a bit though. Not intentionally of course, but I’ve been so exhausted from running around preparing for this move and from stress that I just slept for about 12 hours straight that night. When I finally got out of the house it was around 2 PM already. I went directly to Tanjong Pagar to pick up the certification.
I was expecting it to be pretty hard to find. I actually had my iPhone out with the Maps application running. It was kind of ridiculous though because there I was, walking down the street with my face glued to my phone, trying to figure out when I’d be close to the Ministry of National Development building. The thing wasn’t reading quite right because when I looked up, there it was right in front of me.
It’s a pretty massive building that’s hard to miss. I could’ve seen it from the MRT station if I wasn’t so busy trying to use my iPhone’s Maps.
The process of picking up the health certification was painless. I was in and out of the office in about 10 minutes.
It took a little more effort to find the Philippines Airlines office at Parklane Mall. You have to show them your documents at least two days before your flight so they can fax them to the terminal office and, presumably, have proper arrangements made on the aircraft.
I’d never been to, or even heard of, Parklane Mall before so I had looked it up on Google Maps before leaving the house and, once again, I was walking with my face glued to my iPhone screen. And… once again, I was standing there looking at that screen, trying to figure out where I was in relation to the mall when I looked up and was staring at the entrance. In my defense, the entrance to Parklane Mall is kind of hard to pick out from the rest of the storefronts in that area.
The entrance is between the DBS and McDonald’s signs in this picture. Hardly the average mall entrance in Singapore.
Anyhow, I wasn’t quite prepared for what all the agent wanted to know at the office there. He wanted to know the dimensions of the carrier, if it was IATA approved, its weight and the weight of my cats. He wanted to see the credit card I’d used and of course he wanted to see the documentation. He made copies of the export permit, import permit, and AVA health certification.
I wound up leaving their office at 5 minutes to 5 PM, which is when they close, so I made it, but barely.
If I could go back in time and reschedule this all, I would set it up so that my flight was on a Sunday. Having that weekend, a holiday weekend no less, in the middle of the 7 days leading up to our flight, cramped our available time for getting things done for the cats. Everything has to be done within a certain amount of time leading up to the flight. Some of the documents are only good for 7 or 10 days.
Anyway, I’m glad that stress is over. Now we just need to show up at the airport with them in the morning.
The next post you see on this blog will be published from the Philippines. Hopefully I’ll have a happy tale to tell about our cats’ first trip on an airplane. By then I’ll have all the information I need to complete my step-by-step guide on importing cats to the Philippines from Singapore as well. I’ll be publishing that on my ‘Philippines’ blog. You can find the link to it at the bottom of the sidebar. I got it going but haven’t posted much to it yet.
Things are going right on schedule. We had kind of a hang-up on Saturday with taking the cats to the vet because it was a public holiday. I didn’t even realize it! The vet was closed. Someone let me know on Friday night. Coincidentally, it was the person that recognized me from my blog at Teadot. She noticed the blog post and contacted me on Twitter. Apparently, we’d chatted a bit on Plurk before I stopped actively using the service. I guess social media paid off for me this weekend, because it saved me a wasted trip to a closed vet.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The vet we were going to take the cats to wanted 104 per cat for the rabies shot and health certificate, but when we called around we wound up finding a vet that would perform the same service, including an application of Frontline to meet the “treated for external parasites” requirement for import to the Philippines, for only 84 dollars per cat. That’s 60 bucks in savings. Plus, the clinic was closer so we saved on taxi fare too.
I’ll list the places we went in my “roll-up” post on how to import cats to the Philippines from Singapore later, on my Philippines blog.
We really had to get the cats to the vet over the weekend to fit our timeline. Immediately after returning home from the vet, I filled out the online form with AVA to have the certificates converted to AVA certified versions. That included scanning them and uploading them along with the application.
So, after this I still have to go pick up the certificates from the AVA, which will hopefully be available by tomorrow afternoon, and then take them to the Philippines Airlines office to present to the customer service officers there. They require that you show them the paperwork before they allow you to board their planes with pets. I suppose it’s a good policy, but it adds a bit more stress. The health certificates have to be obtained within 7 days of arrival at your destination and you have to show it to the PAL office no later than two days before the flight. It creates a sort of time-crunch that we’ll hopefully get over without issue.
As for the cats themselves, this trip was a little less traumatizing for them I think. On their last trip to the vet we were in a much noisier area, with a lot of traffic and then to cap things off we got caught in one of Singapore’s flash rainstorms that left us pretty drenched. They did panic a bit when a dog the size of Marmaduke came into the vet, but I don’t blame them. That thing kinda worried me too. I’m sure it outweighed me by about 30 pounds. It was HUGE.
It’s almost time to go and rather than winding down, things are winding up, especially our stress level. There are only a few things left to do, in regards to the cats, but it’s still troublesome.
On the 28th, the carriers showed up as scheduled, which was a relief. It’d be time consuming to try to get a refund and then go elsewhere. The cats don’t seem to mind them. In fact, as soon as I put them in the room, they wanted to investigate. I read that it’s best to let your cats get comfortable with the carriers so they’re more at ease during the trip.
So, what’s left? Tomorrow I have to take the cats to get their rabies shots and health certificates. Immediately afterwards I need to file those health certificates along with an application to have them converted to AVA health certificates. Those should be ready to pick up on Monday. Immediately after picking them up I have to go to the Philippines Airlines office and present the documentation to them. They won’t let the cats on the plane without me performing that step first. They want to verify the documents and make sure everything’s legal.
My stack of paperwork involving the flight and these cats is growing…
Another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. I was having an issue getting the export permit from Singapore because I couldn’t get the AVA’s site to work. It was a mix of problems that started with the site being horrible in terms of navigation and ease of use. It was harder than it should’ve been to find the information I needed and then to find the form.
The form itself was the next problem. The AVA has sacrificed ease of use for practicality and merged the export and import permit for both personal and business use into one form. To further complicate matters, many items that don’t pertain to people looking to export personal pets are marked with a red asterisk, inviting you to try to fill in the box with some sort of data since you assume it’s required. Then, when the data is erroneous, you’re not allowed to proceed. It took me a few phone calls and some waiting to get past that hang-up.
Once I knew what was going on it was no problem to get the form filled out and submitted. That was Friday. Today I checked the form status and saw that it was approved so I was then able to make payment through the AVA’s site. Once I did that the download link was unlocked for me. I downloaded the export permit in pdf form and then printed it out.
So now we have the import permit, export permit, tickets for Philippine Airlines, and the cats have had their first round of vaccinations. Next up is a return to the vet sometime between the 29th and the 3rd for rabies vaccinations and the health certificate. I may get them the 1 month boosters while we’re there as well to save hassle later. I don’t know if that’s possible though because I’m not sure if there might be a reaction between all the vaccines. Guess I’ll ask the expert when I get there.
I’ll also have to give them all a dip in flea & tick treatment shampoo and get my wife to cram a dewormer pill down their throats. She’s much better at it than I am. They always spit it out when I try to do it, but they don’t give her any trouble.
We’re still waiting on the replacement cages to show up on the 28th as well.
Relocating pets is a serious pain in the butt and requires a lot of double-checking to make sure things are done, but it’ll be worth it when they’re all sitting at the window staring out at the Philippine and enjoying the space and privileges they’ll have in their new home.
Total to go: approximately 500 SGD (I realize that’s higher than before, but I must have miscounted somewhere. 300ish for rabies & health certificates and about 200 for airline shipping, rough guesses.)
Well, we’ve encountered two hang-ups. One isn’t so bad and one is making me want to claw my face off from frustration.
I received the airline certified cat carriers this afternoon but there was a problem. They were smaller than what I’d thought when I originally bought them. They looked roomy and more than adequate when I was in the store, but when I put one down and stuck Dapper in it, it was obvious that it was not going to be appropriate, or even acceptable by the airline. Dapper could barely fit inside, couldn’t turn around and couldn’t even stand up. Maybe it’s because she’s so fat, but regardless, I had to jump in the shower and take them back to the store for an exchange to the next bigger size.
When I went up there I was a little worried about how the whole thing would go. I’d never tried to exchange anything in Singapore before and while it would be an easy swap process in the US, you never know when it comes to Singapore retailers. Thankfully, this standard of exchange is in use here in Singapore as well. I just had to show that the carriers were still in new condition, with the packaging on them, and present the receipt and it was a quick process to request a “top-up” to the next size.
So, I was able to bring home one carrier in the next higher size and I’ll have to wait until next week to get the other two. I imagine it’ll take 7 days again, which means I’ll get them on the 28th, just in time to take them to the vet on the 29th for their rabies shots and health certificates. I’m glad I bought those other cages when I did, leaving myself room for fixing this sort of mistake. I’m also glad that the people at PetLover’s were pleasant and quick to help me out with the exchange!
That was the easy fix problem. The next problem is the one that has me banging my head against my desk. Well, not literally, but I want to.
Part of the process of getting my cats out of Singapore is requesting an export permit from the AVA. Getting an import permit from the Philippines BAI was as simple as sending an e-mail with the details of the cats, the shipping method and date of arrival. There was a slight hang-up due to technical issues but once we contacted them we had it back on the same day by e-mail. The AVA is proving to be much, much more difficult.
When you go to their site there are clear links for export permits for personal pets, and it indicates that you can fill out a form online for two day processing of your request. The problem here is that all of the links point to an online form that seems to be geared towards businesses. There is no personal form that I can find. The form we keep getting directed to requests some business identification number and another number I don’t recall right now, but either way, you can’t progress past the first page of the request form without filling those in. We obviously don’t have them, and the average person wouldn’t have them either. I keep getting the feeling that I’m looking at the wrong form, but no matter how many links I click I always wind up on that one. My wife tried with the same results.
So, tomorrow I’m going to have to call up the AVA and figure out what the deal is. I hope they don’t tell me something that’s going to make me throw my phone through the wall. This process has already been stressful enough, both on my wife and I, and on my wallet.
This whole process has been a real lesson in how difficult an international move really is. Before this, any time I’d ever moved I’d had it all arranged by the military. Well, except for my coming to Singapore in the first place, but when I did that I gave away my furniture, electronics, and anything I couldn’t immediately use to my family, packed a few suitcases and hopped on a plane. I suppose this wouldn’t be too much different, except for there being two of us now, if not for our cats, but we aren’t about to abandon them either.
Anyhow, the “top-up” on the carriers wasn’t free, so here’s the update:
Last week I went to the pet store in White Sands and found IATA certified Ferstar travel carriers that will meet our needs. They were a bit pricey at 75 bucks apiece, but since they’re airline certified I know we’ll be able to use them multiple times in the future, since the Philippines isn’t a destination so much as another stopping point to learn and enjoy life. I opted for home delivery both because it was free and because they didn’t have 3 carriers on hand. They had to order them from their warehouse. A few days later I got a call saying that the carriers would take a bit longer to come in because they had to be ordered from overseas. That’s a little troubling, since I don’t have a lot of time to play around with anymore. They’re supposed to arrive tomorrow, so here’s hoping it pans out alright. When we get them in, I’ll be sure to throw up some photos of the carriers and point out some of the details.
Beyond that, I called up Philippine Airlines to discuss having the cats transported along with us. The procedures are fairly simple. You book your tickets and then within two days prior to the flight you have to go down to their office to provide them with a copy of the export permit, import permit and health certificate.
If you’re wondering, cats (and other pets) can’t ride on the budget carriers. You have to take one of the full fledged airlines and the only two offering the service between the Singapore and the Philippines are Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines. The difference in ticket prices between SIA and PAL was about 400 SGD, so we went with the cheaper option.
Total cost of the carriers: 213 SGD (after PetLovers members discount of 5%)
Total difference in cost between premium airline tickets and budget tickets: roughly 400 SGD
Total ‘Damages’ So Far: 713 SGD (approximately)
Total to go: 380 SGD (approximately)
Stay tuned for more updates! Also, I’ll later be compiling all of the details into a more refined post for a good walk through on how to bring cats from Singapore to the Philippines.