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Today, we have another Guest Article from Jack Emery.  Jack has written on the site once in the past, and today would like to share with your his recent experiences with Mindanao Bob… no, not me, but the “other” Mindanao Bob! MindanaoBob

There’s a new “Mindanao Bob” in town!

Visa Assistance

We finally pulled the trigger.

Last week we relocated from Arizona to Davao, lock, stock, barrel, and cat.

This isn’t about moving. That would be boring.

This is about the cat. (The cat’s name is Bob, and this is Mindanao, so I guess that makes him “Mindanao Bob II”. )

Some have asked “why are you taking a cat to the Philippines?????”, or “don’t they have cats in the Philippines?????” (“?????” translates roughly to “are you insane?”). I could reply that we’ve had Bob for ten years now, and he’s a member of the family. But a non-cat person will find that answer unconvincing. A cat person would never ask such a question in the first place.

Taking a cat to the Philippines is only slightly more complicated than a Space Shuttle launch:

Step 1: Get the airline’s okey-dokey. Having heard one horror story about six hours spent in Manila airport tracking down a pet checked as baggage, I was determined to have Bob ride in the cabin with us. I could find only two airlines that allow this (for a hefty price): Delta and Korean. We chose Korean, mainly because the Korean flight from LA (via Seoul) arrives in Manila in the daytime, and we had been warned that finding the quarantine officer in Manila airport after hours can be problematic.

Korean Airlines would not make the cat’s reservation until we had our own tickets reserved. With those in hand, I called Korean’s reservations number:

Me: “We are flying to the Philippines on November 17. I want to make arrangements to bring our cat with us in the cabin.”

Korean: “You want to bring your cat?”

Me: “Right. In the cabin. With us.”

Korean: “?????”

Korean: “Do you have an approved cat carrier?”

Me: “Yes.” (Bought a “Teafco” airline approved carrier on Amazon, 85 simoleons and worth every penny. This is the Versailles Palace of pet carriers. If they made them for people, I would live in one.)

Korean: “How much do the cat and the carrier weigh, together?”

Me: (Relying on Amazon’s shipping weight) “The cat is 9 pounds, the carrier is 3.5, so about 12.5 pounds.”

Korean: “I’m sorry, you can’t take the cat in the cabin, the total weight has to be under 5 kilos (11 pounds). ”

Me: “Doh!”

So I waited a few minutes, called back, and spoke to a different agent. (In golf, this is referred to as “taking a Mulligan”.)

Me: “We are flying to the Philippines on November 17. I want to make arrangements to bring our cat with us in the cabin.”

Korean: “You want to bring your cat?”

(Etc.)

Korean: “How much do the cat and the carrier weigh, together?”

Me: “About 10.5 pounds.” (“Diet” cat food, amazing stuff, very fast acting.)

Korean: “Very good, sir. Give me some information and we will submit your request to the home office for approval. You can call back tomorrow and check to see if it is approved.” (It was. )

Step 2: Get a “Veterinary Import Clearance to Import Dogs and Cats” from the Bureau of Animal Industry in Quezon City.This paper expires in 60 days, and I didn’t want to waste part of the 60 days getting it mailed from the Philippines, so we asked a cousin to go to the Bureau office in QC and get the permit, scan it, and email it to us. Cost: 100 pesos, plus a major favor now owed to the cousin for blowing half a day in Manila traffic.

Step 3: Get a vaccination certificate. Bob came from a shelter, so I’m pretty sure he was vaccinated, but if he ever had a certificate it was certainly lost several moves ago, so this required a visit with a veterinarian. The Import Clearance form requires a “valid vaccination certificate against rabies, canine distemper, infectious hepatitis leptospirosis, canine parvovirus, or feline panleucopenia.”

What the Philippine consulate (see Step 6) really seems to want, however, is the health certificate (see Step 4), and a rabies certificate, which is apparently a standard form used by vets when they vaccinate dogs. (Technically, cats are not dogs, a fact which is apparently confusing to people who make up government forms.) Our vet is mainly a horse vet, and didn’t have either form, so we got a signed letter instead, which didn’t quite work (see step 6).

Step 4: Get a health certificate. This has to be dated not more than 30 days prior to arrival in the Philippines. It is filled out and signed by the veterinarian, but it has to be on an APHIS Form 7001 (see Step 5) — no other form will do. This form is “restricted”, sort of like nuclear fissile materials, and can be obtained only by a licensed veterinarian. Our vet had never heard of one, so she had to call APHIS and order one and wait for it to arrive in the mail.

Step 5: Get the health certificate and vaccination certificate certified by USDA/APHIS. The vet’s signoff has to be stamped and validated by the “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (I guess vet impersonation must be a bigger problem than I realized.) Getting the APHIS certification required an appointment and a personal visit to the local USDA/APHIS office. (It may also be possible to do it by mail, if you don’t mind casting your hard-won paperwork upon the bureaucratic waters in the hope that it may actually wend its way back before your plane leaves.)

When I arrived for the appointment with APHIS, it was revealed that the letter certifying the rabies vaccination was inadequate because it did not specify the lot number of the vaccine used. Fortunately, the APHIS guy (who happened to be Filipino, from Manila somewhere) was very helpful and after calling our vet and getting the lot number by telephone he stamped the form.

Step 6: Get the certified certificate authenticated by the Philippine consulate. This can also allegedly be done by mail, and I have corresponded with others who have done it that way. I was reluctant to bet $2,500 of non-refundable plane tickets on getting papers back in two weeks with no glitches, from a consulate that I was never able to get to answer their phone or respond to an email. We needed to go to LA anyway to get my 13A visa issued, so we did the cat papers at the same time. Apart from the unanswered emails and inaccessible phone system, I have only good things to say about the Philippine consulate. Everyone there was courteous and helpful far beyond expectations. We arrived at 9 a.m. and left with the 13A visa and the approved “cat visa” package, complete with red ribbon and gold seal (see picture), by 2 p.m. the same day.

Step 7: Drag the cat through airports, airplanes, security, etc. for 30 hours. I was particularly apprehensive about the security process, which requires removing the cat from the carrier. The carrier goes through the X-ray machine. You have to hand-carry the cat through the metal detector (with cat terrorism on the rise, can’t be too careful I guess). As any cat person knows, a cat who is determined not to be carried somewhere has plenty of sharp and painful ways of getting loose, and I had visions of chasing an angry cat through LAX while being chased in turn by a platoon of angry TSA officers, who would then probably subject both of us to an “enhanced pat-down”. I needn’t have worried; Bob was downright Zen, and even deigned to allow the security ladies in Seoul to pet him.

Step 8: Take the authenticated certified certificate (etc.) to the Quarantine Office. On arrival in Manila, the procedure is simple: take cat and paperwork to the Quarantine Officer, pay a fee, and receive a Notice of Quarantine. The Quarantine Office is in a corner of the large room where the baggage carousels are (see picture). In our case, the fee was P350: a P100 permit fee and a P250 inspection fee. The Notice of Quarantine says that the animal is in quarantine for a month under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture. In practice, as long as the paperwork is in order, the cat is not detained. If our destination had been Manila, Bob would have been free to leave at this point.

Step 9: Take the authenticated (etc.) to the Other Quarantine Office.Since we were headed for Davao, it was off to the domestic terminal, where there is yet another quarantine desk, where one must produce the stack of accumulated paperwork, pay another small fee (P100), and get a permit to transport the pet from Manila to the final destination.

Step 10: Switch the cat to a hard shell carrier, and incur his undying wrath by checking him as luggage. The only domestic travel options I could find were PAL , Cebu Pacific, and Superferry. Personally, I prefer the Superferry, but I wasn’t able to find a way to match their sailing schedule with our flight schedule. PAL and Cebu Pacific were both quite adamant about not allowing cats in the cabin. So we had to bring a hard shell carrier in our checked luggage (the in-cabin carrier is soft, and has to fit under the seat) and transfer Bob to the hard carrier so that he could travel the last hour and a half as luggage. (Cats consider this insulting.) The PAL check-in person was very nice about it; he allowed us to wait until the last possible minute to hand over Bob, and personally hand-carried him to his berth in the baggage compartment. At the Davao end, one of the baggage handlers brought him to us within seconds after we deplaned. No harm done, except to Bob’s ego.

Costs incurred :

Import clearance: P100

Airline approved in-cabin cat carrier: $85

Veterinarian, for vaccinations and certificate: $85

APHIS, for certifying the certificate: $35

Consulate fee for authenticating the certified certificate: $25

Transport on USAir code share, Phoenix to LAX: $100

Transport on Korean, LAX to Manila: $300

Quarantine office fee: P350

Hard shell cat carrier: $21

Domestic quarantine desk fee: P100

Transport on PAL as checked baggage: P1800

TOTAL: “?????”

Bob seems to have adjusted quickly to life as an expat cat. He feels that there are too many dogs here, but he approves of the abundance of fresh seafood, and he likes the attention he gets from the nieces and nephews. He is quite definite that his future plans do not include air travel.

 

A few words of advice for anyone contemplating doing this

 

  1. Start planning at least three months in advance. There are a lot of details to coordinate. The requirements for getting a “cat visa” can be found on the web sites of the various Philippine consulates in the U.S. (e.g. http://www.philippineconsulatela.org/import%20pets.htm ) and also on the import clearance form [LINK TO SAMPLECLEARANCEFORM.PDF, SEE ATTACHMENT] The application form can be downloaded here: http://www.bai.ph/Shared_folder/MEMOS/2010060003MEMO.pdf. These don’t all say the same things, nor do they spell out all the required steps – that would take all the fun out of it — but they will provide a starting point.
  2. Buy your carrier as far in advance as possible and get the cat used to it. I bought ours several months before the trip, and left it in a place where Bob could “discover” it on his own. By the time we left Phoenix, the carrier had become his favorite napping spot, and whenever I had to take him out of it during the trip, he was eager to get back in.
  3. When making the vet appointment, make sure that the vet has APHIS Form 7001, and has the standard rabies certificate form. If I were doing this again I would probably also choose a vet with the facilities to microchip the cat, just to avoid any possible argument about whether the cat I have brought and the cat in the paperwork are the same cat.
  4. Fly on Korean Airlines, take the cat in the cabin, and make sure to arrive during working hours on a weekday. The Korean checkin clerks and flight attendants seem to be used to people taking pets in the cabin, and know how to deal with it; likewise the security folks at Seoul airport.
  5. Be aware that you will have to remove the cat from the carrier when going through security. Therefore, have a harness on the cat and a leash ready to clip onto it while going through security, so that if the cat does deploy claws and teeth, you can drop him without losing control.
  6. Don’t drug the cat. It isn’t necessary. Very light feeding and water on the day of departure, and an extended litter box visit before leaving. Another uncertainty I had was how to handle the “bathroom” issue, and we took a supply of “incontinent pads” with which to line the bottom of the carrier, but Bob managed the entire 33 hour (door to door) trip without any accidents, even though I gave him a few bites of airline food and a little water along the way.
  7. Be aware that on arrival in Manila, in theory, they can collect duty on the pet, and I know of one case where the duty was calculated based on the transportation charges, and amounted to multiple thousands of pesos. (We were never charged duty, as far as I know.)

Jack Emery

Jack Emery is a guest writer participating on the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine.

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John Miele
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John Miele

Jack: I knew transporting an animal was not fun… All I’ve got to say is you must really like the cat! I think that I would have been tempted to find a new home for a cat, but, as evident, I’m not a cat person.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi John,
Yeah, that was one of the options we explored, and if I’d realized what was involved in bringing him here I probably would have tried harder to find him a new home. Unfortunately all the cat people I know back in the US already have cats, and the non-cat people, well, that wouldn’t work either.
BTW thanks for the article on scams aimed at house helpers — your articles are always a lot of good information!
Jack

sugar
Guest
sugar

Hello. I don’t like cats not even dogs. But looking at photos I see you have lovely cat. There are people who steals imported cats and dogs and would sell it, just be aware of those. Thanks.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi Sugar, Thanks for the warning — that one wouldn’t have occurred to me. Your comment brings up another issue that anyone thinking of bringing a small pet here should consider: the pet is probably going to have less outdoor freedom here. Bob is now a completely indoor cat, which he isn’t wild about — in Arizona, we had an enclosed back yard with a high wall that was safe from dogs, cars, cat thieves (not a big problem in Arizona as far as I know). Here, we don’t have that, and anyway from what I’ve heard it’s a bad… Read more »

Randy W.
Guest
Randy W.

Jack

Good article. Very informative. At least you were transporting a cat. A dog would have been much more difficult to transport because he would not have enjoyed being couped up for 30 hours.

Jack
Guest
Jack

That’s true. I would imagine that a dog would require a different strategy. Rather than trying to take a dog in the cabin, it’s probably better to have it go in the baggage compartment in a bigger carrier, with some food and water. From what I read, cats are happier in a small carrier that more or less just fits them, but I think a dog would need to be able to get up and move around, and on a 30 hour trip would also probably need food, water, and a way to go to the bathroom. Still, I’ve corresponded… Read more »

Cheryll Ann
Guest

I have done the hand carry a dog in cabin a few times USA to Manila, It’s no problem. If dog need sto pooty bring wee wee pad to bathroom. Put on floor out dog on wee wee pad, and you sit on toilet bowl (close lid) and wait for dog to do his business.

rebecca Ferry
Guest
rebecca Ferry

Hi Jack,
Wow! Bob seems really enjoyed his new life in Davao and he’s cute no wonder your nieces and nephews love him…. you must really a cat lover to put so much trouble in bringing him to the Philippines so good for him and for you too…..By the way, Welcome to the Philippines !!

MindanaoBob
Guest

You are right, rebecca, I really do enjoy my life in Dav…. oh… hold it… you’re talking about that darn cat, aren’t you? Never mind…. 😉

Jack
Guest
Jack

Funny, Bob. Thanks for the welcome, Rebecca. I do like cats, but I have to admit bringing Bob to the Phils turned out to be more of an undertaking than I expected.
Jack

rebecca Ferry
Guest
rebecca Ferry

Bob (Mindanao),
Hahahaha!!!! Sorry i forgot to put Mindanao Bob ll on Jack’s cat name but you got to admit he’s really cute right?

MindanaoBob
Guest

Of course, rebecca! I am a cat lover, without a qualm. We have 3 cats, and our 4th cat recently died. I was just teasing you…

Rex Davao
Guest
Rex Davao

Sir Bob,

ha ha ha! She’s talking to “MindanaoBob II”.

🙂

brian
Guest
brian

Holy Cow …er cat!! Sure beats my solution….’click’ ‘ click’…”Pull”!!!

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi Brian,
I’m going to take a wild guess here and surmise that you are not a cat person — ?
Jack

jonathan
Guest
jonathan

Get that chip implanted, you’re in the Philippines now. You don’t want your cat to stuffed into street siopao.

JUST KIDDING! 🙂

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi Jonathan,
I knew there had to be some reason why I don’t care much for siopao . . . .
Jack

Dan
Guest
Dan

Jack..Bob is very pretty…he has a lot of Siamese Blood in him and did you know that The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognized breeds of Oriental cat.They say that the exact origins of the breed are unknown, but they do say it is believed to be from Southeast Asia, and is said to be descended from the sacred temple cats of Siam (now Thailand).So..Bob should love it there…and by the looks of it he is spoiled…hahaha…we had 3 of them kind of cats when I was a kid..a prue bread Siamese is kind of Tempo a mento… Read more »

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi Dan,
I think you’re probably right about the siamese blood. As far as “cat tampo” is concerned, I’m pretty sure all cats do that. Bob is ten years old now, though, which is getting old for a cat, so mostly he’s pretty mellow.
Jack

macky
Guest

I kinda understand what you (and Bob) went through. I flew in my westie terrier (SF > Manila > Davao) just around 4 months ago. I’ll spare you the details, but like your pet, mine has also adjusted quite well. He’s been getting top vet care here too (w/ California vet experience).

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi Macky, yeah, you know what I’m talking about then. Glad your dog has adjusted well. I kind of feel sorry for a lot of the dogs here, a lot of people seem to keep them in cages or tied up on short chains. And one thing that surprised me a lot here — in the subdivision where we are, a lot of people (including me) walk around for exercise, but I have never seen anyone walking a dog. One of the things I like about cats is they’re pretty self-entertaining, you don’t really have to worry about exercising them.… Read more »

macky
Guest

I know what you mean about pet care here. It can be quite sad, but I have many friends who take good care of theirs too, which is a nice group to be surrounded with. On dog walking, I hear you. Not a lot. Davao being a less modern city is a bit behind to proper pet care as Cebu & Manila (where there are even posh malls that allow dogs). Davao is a small town trying to be a big city & still has much to learn. But using how the city was 2 decades ago as a point… Read more »

Jack
Guest
Jack

Cats are definitely easier. I tried taking my brother in law’s dog with me (on a leash) when I went for my walk yesterday, and the biggest problem with it is that every house you pass has at least one dog, and they all start barking. Makes for kind of a noisy walk.

Cheryll Ann
Guest

Macky, LOL LOL! ARen’t you glad I prepared you for that traumatic experience? ROTFL!

Aklan Heat
Guest
Aklan Heat

Jack, Great article. Very impressed on how you handled and done it smoothly and arrived with it successfully to Davao with that special cat Bob. Planning in advance is what made it a success story. “I wished I was Bob the cat getting all that adventure heading for the Philippines.” LOL! On a serious note, this is such a fine story that should be shared to everybody who adores cats and the likes and should be read by them and surely get a positive reaction. Jack, if I were you you might consider submitting it and be published in those… Read more »

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi Aklan,
Thanks for the kind words. Moving here with pets seems to be a recurrent question on the message boards, so I hope the information will be helpful to those who are trying to figure out how to do it. Ma’ayon Pasko back from Bob. This is also my first time to be here over Christmas, we’re all enjoying the carolers and all.
Jack

maria
Guest
maria

hi jack
my husband and i dont have cats but we do have dogs. we are runners and i would certainly try to take our dogs with us if we moved. they are our trained and obedient family members.

Jack
Guest
Jack

I’m sure it can be done, I’ve corresponded with people who have brought their dogs. There are some active runners groups here in Davao, I’ve only ever been to one of their outings and didn’t see anyone with dogs, but it seems like a natural thing to do. As for “trained and obedient family member” — Bob is definitely a family member, but “trained and obedient” — not so much.

Tony
Guest
Tony

Jack, You lied! Lauching the shuttle can’t be near this complicated!

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hi Tony,
well, I didn’t want to discourage anyone from trying it . . .
Jack

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