Thursday, August 27, 2015

Trying to Avoid a Cat-astrophe, part 1

We debated the options for getting Aji and Prometheus to Germany. The pressure to get Larry there ASAP coupled with his passport and green card issues made the possibility of traveling together unlikely, and then there were the requirements for the cats.

I had seen the regulations on multiple websites and had even gone to the European Union page to clarify some things for myself. In all cases we would need to gather a bunch of paperwork together that would in essence become their “pet passports” to allow them entry into Germany.

Ok. I had a list, and had booked a pet transport company to help me with the booking and confirming, so this should be no problem, right? And even if there was some paperwork glitch, at most that would mean a short quarantine in Europe, right? Oh so wrong.

The first thing I learned was there was no room for paperwork glitches. That would leave my boys banned from even making it on the plane, stuck stateside while I was on my way to Hamburg. Not an option.

The second thing I learned was that it might have been easier to tame a cow and ship it to Germany as a pet. Seriously.

Hurdle number one: Microchips. Although they are indoor all the time, both cats needed them and once I got over my outdated notion that this would involve putting them under, I booked them for an appointment to get this done, along with…

Hurdle number two: Rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccination needed to be done after the microchip implant and at least 21 days before the boys traveled. Not an issue yet since Larry was still working out his passport and green card issues at the time and we didn’t have a travel date set.

Hurdle number three: Physical exam within 10 days of travel by a USDA-accredited veterinarian. No joke. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t set a travel date until Larry’s situation was settled (and it had to be after the 21-day rabies waiting period), where was I going to find a USDA-accredited vet?

I remembered our veterinarian mentioned they worked with a USDA vet out near the airport. I got the number from them and called. The voicemail message said you’d have better luck sending them an email. I did that. Around this time my pet transport service started to apply the pressure on my vet for the 10-day exam appointment. My vet responded by emailing the USDA office to see if I had an appointment with them.

Now I was thoroughly confused because the email I got back from the USDA reiterated all the steps I already knew about, but said I didn’t need to bring the cats to the appointment with them. But what about the exam?? I looked back through my growing collection of emails and lists and had a moment of clarity. The USDA office was only involved for…

Hurdle number four: endorsement of the paperwork for travel.

So I needed to find a USDA-accredited vet--not someone in the actual USDA office--to do the exam and fill out the travel certificate and the complicated 8-page health assurance documentation. Since none of this had been clarified by anyone in any of my desperate emails or phone calls of the past week, I decided to turn outside the immediate situation for help.

I emailed the USDA office in Sacramento asking for assistance in finding a USDA-accredited vet to do the exam. I explained the situation and that I had not gotten information from the San Francisco office in this regard. If I had to, I was willing to drive up there with the boys as a walk-in. Here was the response I got:

“The San Francisco office number is 650-876-9358.
Call a local vet office and ask if they have an accredited veterinarian with the USDA.  If so I can verify that they are by their name (not the clinics name).
Send me the name of the vet and I will verify just to make sure.”

Um, so you’re checking the names against a list but you can’t provide me with a list? 

I felt like I was stuck in some absurdist film or, more likely, being spoofed on the modern equivalent of “Candid Camera.” But what else could I do? I got to work.

Next up: Trying to Avoid a Cat-astrophe Part 2

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