By Lee & Mariuza Safian
January 10, 2007
In July 2005, our niece brought a six month old miniature Schnauzer to my wife and me. This past December we decided to bring the dog with us when we went to Brazil for the holidays to visit her family. What a mistake! Let me tell you our story of what happened.
We learned that an international health certificate had to be obtained within ten days (December 1st) of our departure. Thus, my wife and I went to the veterinarian exactly ten days before departure to get the international health certificate. The document cost us US$60 and was about six pages long. We knew that we had to get it stamped by the Brazilian consulate, but first we needed to get the form stamped by the US Department of Agriculture. There is only one office in New Jersey, where we live. It is in the southern part of the state, near Trenton, seventy-five miles away from us.
Three days later (December 4th) my wife drove to the Department of Agriculture. Words cannot describe her anger after being told that the veterinarian had neglected to sign the document. She got in her car and drove the seventy-five miles back to the vet. After getting an apology from the doctor, and her signature, my wife drove back to the Agriculture Department. She paid the required US$24 and got the necessary signature on all copies of the International Health certificate. Then my wife drove into New York City to the Brazilian Consulate. She arrived at the consulate at 2 PM. She was told that in order to be processed, this paperwork had to be handed in before 1 PM. She was thus forced to return home.
On December 6th, at 10 AM, with only four days before our departure, I accompanied my wife to New York City so she would not have to park the car in one of the outrageously expensive garages. After handing in the forms, she was instructed to return in four hours to pick up the signed papers. We returned to New Jersey and went out to lunch with some friends. My wife then returned to the city by herself. She got the forms from the consulate, paid for one half hour of parking, and returned home.
On December 10, five days later, we left our home at 6:30 PM to go to Newark Airport. We arrived at approximately 7:30 PM. We checked in our bags and then took our dog, Jake, who was in a travel crate through security. We went to the gate and waited for our flight to be called. At 9:30 PM, our flight began to board. To our amazement, we were told that our dog was too large to go in the cabin, even though we had already paid Continental Airlines $190 roundtrip for a Pet-in-Cabin” fee. The supervisor was summoned. He told my wife that she could carry him on board in a duffle bag. She went scrambling around the airport looking to purchase for such a bag. Finally, she returned with one. However, she was told that it was not suitable. By this time, the plane had almost finished boarding. My wife insisted that I go to Brazil alone, and that she would follow the next day. With tears in her eyes, we parted. She will recount the rest of our nightmare:
After my husband, Lee, left, I melted down in despair. The Continental Airlines’ supervisor told me that the travel agency should have given us all of Continental Airlines’ information and policies before selling us a ticket for the dog. In addition, we should have been told at the baggage check-in that we could not bring the dog in the cabin with us. Furthermore, we should not have been permitted to cross through the metal detector with such a big crate. It turns out that I was supposed to have checked him in at a terminal called Quick Pack four hours before flight time and pay a $276 fee. The supervisor called for a golf style cart to drive me to where this place was. He told me that the company would pay for my cab ride home because of the inconvenience I had suffered as a result of the airline company’s failure to provide accurate information. I was still crying and feeling really depressed because I did not want to miss my mother’s birthday the following day.
Late the next afternoon, I did as the supervisor the day before had instructed me. I checked my dog, Jake, in at the Quick Pack at 7PM. I then went to the other end of the terminal and went through security. I hung around the terminal until my flight boarded at approximately 10PM.
My flight arrived in São Paulo at 10:30 AM, Brazilian time. I was very anxious to get my dog, see my husband, and go to my family’s home. My sister and her husband were waiting for me outside of Customs. I asked airport personnel where I could get my dog. I was told to leave the airport and drive almost two kilometers to a building called “Cargo”. However, I was instructed that first I had to bring all of my documents to a tiny Continental Airlines office, in a six story building. I initially waited in a huge line of people in order to receive a security identification pass. There was only one security guard handing out all of the passes, and it took me at least fifteen minutes just to receive the security badge. Once my sister and I arrived inside a very small Continental office, I was instructed to hire a “forwarding agent” to save me one hour of time. Unfortunately, it would cost US$160/R$350. I refused to pay all that money and decided to deal with the bureaucracy by myself. I was forced to walk back and forth like a puppet, taking Xeroxes of all sorts of forms. I had to go to many different offices to pay numerous fees. At every single place I went, the workers were either on their lunch break, or they were late. My saga had started at 11:30 AM and did not finish until 4:10 PM. I was hungry, angry, and sorry that my fellow Brazilians had to go through this every time they needed public services. They really made my life a Hell. However, I did not care. I refused to pay outrageous fees to a forwarding agent.
When we were ready to return to the USA, things did not get any easier. A suntanned, short haired, and rude female veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture at Guarulhos Airport, (unfortunately, I do not recall her name), refused to answer any of my questions because she said the office was not opened yet. It was not until I showed her a printout of the office hours that I had downloaded from the internet, that she answered my inquiries. The woman told me that she did not care about the Brazilian Consulate’s stamp on my dog’s international health certificate, which attested to his health history. She even mimicked my frustrated tone of voice. (I was shaking with anger and frustration.) After she wrote down what proof I needed to present to her, I had to return to my dog’s veterinarian in São Paulo and get another certificate stating what the lady in the Agriculture Department said I needed. My veterinarian saw no need to repeat shots that my dog had received in the States. She simply wrote down on Jake’s health form that he had received the necessary shots. I was so close to a nervous breakdown that I decided to go to another Department of Agriculture office in the center of São Paulo. I wanted to avoid dealing further with that nasty, impolite, rude and insensitive lady. The person I dealt with at this office could not have been nicer. He said that the person at the other office should have accepted my original documentation. He apologized for her behavior, but said that unfortunately each office acted independently.
Once I got the documents I needed, I called Continental Airline’s office again. They told me that I needed to get a “forwarding agent” in order to complete all of my paperwork. This time I decided to hire an agent. I called the agent referred to me and answered all of his questions so that he could complete the necessary forms. Then, at 2 PM, I brought my dog to a Guarulhos Airport cargo area. I met with the forwarding agent. I gave him all of my original documents. I paid him US$270 for Custom’s fees plus US$160 for his fee.
We took off at 11 PM and landed at Newark Airport at 5:40 PM, (American time) twenty minutes ahead of schedule. While the driver of the car service we had arranged to meet us waited, I walked to Quick Pack on the second floor of the airport terminal to get Jake. I was handed a map and told to pick him up at a cargo terminal right outside the airport. The limousine driver drove around until he finally found building 544, the cargo building. I went inside and had to wait half an hour because the computer system was down. At 7:30 they returned the forms to me and told me to take them to the building next door to the Customs Bureau. It was now 7:55 AM. The limousine driver said he would wait for us, but he had to charge us an additional $30. Of course, we had no choice but to accept. I waited from 8 AM until 8:30 AM for the Customs agent. When he arrived, the agent said he was sorry that I had had to wait, but many people were on vacation. He signed my papers and told me to return to the cargo building to pick up my dog. I finally saw my “baby” at 8:45 AM. I was so relieved to finally see him. He did not show me any affection. He was hungry, and tired, just like my husband and I. He was not himself – playful and happy. No wonder! He had spent almost twenty-two hours in his traveling crate.
Thank goodness, we are now finally back in our home, “safe and sound”. The nightmare has ended. Taking the dog to Brazil cost us close to $1,000 and almost three days of missed vacation time. Never again will we take Jake to Brazil.
Mr. & Mrs. Safian – Wow. What a nightmare! We almost brought our dog to Brazil with us but changed our minds at the last minute when our “10 days” were up before we got all the paper work done. I’m glad we didn’t. I’m sure we would have suffered a similar experience. Thanks for sharing!
I am so sorry for all the hassle that you two and Jake went through. I got tears in my eyes when I read your story. I have a dog and I imagine how you felt worrying and missing Jake and how Jake felt missing you in that dehumanized environment, being treated like ‘cargo’. Hopefully now he’s got back his playful and lovely way that all happy and loved dogs have.
I went through a similar situation when I moved from England to Brazil and sent all my personal belongings by ship. It was a huge, very heavy box and I thought it could be cheaper sending by ship. What a mistake. The collection in Brazil was a nightmare. It lasted 5 days all that bureaucracy and the contact with nasty and impolite people, going back and forth enormous distances. I spent loads of money with the stay, fees, papers, forwarding agent, fuel and time. In the stage which seemed to be the last one it was found out that my CPF had been mistyped. I had to go back to the beginning. Thank goodness I didn’t have PMT and a gun, otherwise I could kill.
I understand completely your feelings and I wish I was there with you to offer my support.
I read this article and would like to let these people know that if they had planned and got to know everything they needed before going to SP they wouldn’t have had so many problems. I have friends that travel to Brazil with their pets and they don’t have any problems at all. If you want to carry your pet with you, yes you have to spend money and PLAN it. It is nobody’s fault that the agents were on vaccation, or that they have to pay for a parking garage in NYC. Come on! Give me a break. If you want luxury you have to pay for it.
I was very surprised to read this article as we brought over our dog and cat to Brazil and had absolutely no problem whatsoever! The people in the article simply left their travel arrangements far too late! It takes months of preparations and phone calls to the various agencies (embassies, vets, airlines, airports and pet travel agents!) involved to get an accurate picture of what to do. Our animals went in the cargo hold and came out this end just like any other piece of luggage. Their papers were checked by the state vet and we walked out the airport without any problems or delays.
Perhaps because our pets are well travelled we are used to the inevitable circus that surrounds it? I am surprised that “Jake” did not have to go into quarantine on arrival in the USA. Brazil seems to be a black hole to the rest of the world! There is talk of restricting animal travel in the future which I hope is not to our detriment! If anyone has any information with regards to exporting animals – that would be interesting to read (-:
Yes, it was an expensive and time consuming exercise to bring our animals with us – but the benefits far out way the costs! It was no more frustrating than trying to get our own papers organised and at least they don’t need a CPF number!
The headline on this article shocked me so I read with interest as I am intending to bring my 2 dogs to Recife later this year.
It appears most of the problems this couple endured were of a bureaucratic nature in both the US and Brasil, quelle suprise!! However it also appears that the dog’s entry into São Paulo was the least problematic part of the whole procedure.
I would be very grateful to hear of any other cases so that I may prepare myself for the nightmare ahead. Thankfully my ‘girls’ will only be making a one-way journey from the UK to Recife.
Is it better to leave everything to the shipping experts and endure the extra cost ?
What a typical Brazilian experience, anybody who has been here for a bit expects such ‘adventures’!
Another issue dog owners should be aware of, is climate at your entry port. I live in Brazil and take my dog back to the USA at Christmas and also did this ONE summertime, only. This is my American Airline experience, but I imagine other airlines have the same or similar policy. Let’s say you have to change planes once you are in the USA. When you arrive at Guarulhos (São Paulo), 4 hours early to start the dog checkin process, they will call your entry point. If the weather is too cold (45F or colder), you cant take your dog! This happened to me with a Dallas connection at Christmas, so now I go through Miami.
One summer I was returning to Brazil and was not allowed to take my dog back because at 7:30pm, it was 90F on the airstrip in Dallas. My dog stayed in the USA for 6 months with my daughter until it could return to Brazil at Christmas time. I had a letter from my vet, both times, giving authorization that the dog could fly regardless of temperature.
Another consideration. American Airlines wont let dogs fly in the cabin on international flights. AA national flights accept dogs in proper pet cloth carriers, IF they can fit under the seat.
Hint: Always ask airline representatives about pet rules, but always confirm on-line rules, too. Print out your findings in case the counter representative isnt up on pet rules.