While it was seemingly more complicated this round, the experience felt a little bit more manageable. Perhaps it’s because we have gone through it before and can sort of anticipate the things to come. Nevertheless, clearing each stage was always a relief and felt like a great weight off the shoulders.
Not surprisingly, the most paperwork we had to do was for the Singapore side, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Singapore has been rabies free since 1953! I am certain that we want to keep it that way! For the American side, the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) basically required us to adhere to whatever the destination country needed. There was no additional work for that end. Here, I shall mention that the USDA-APHIS website seems to have changed and is now more informative and easier to navigate compared to 4 years ago. I really appreciated that the site had a dropdown box of all the countries that one could possibly export your pet to, that then led you to the official documents and circulars of that country for pet owners to download. While it was not difficult for me to get information from AVA myself, I appreciated the fact that the USDA-APHIS were helpful enough to link me to the required information. Good to know too that they had the very latest information as well! (I counterchecked the circulars!)
Kudos also go to AVA for improving how information was communicated. I really liked this step by step chart, which gave me a high level view of all the tasks I needed to complete over the months and weeks leading up to Rusty’s journey home.
6, 5, 4 Months To Go
AVA has different importing rules for pets coming in from different countries, hence it is important for pet owners to check which of the 4 categories your pet belongs too. Animals coming in from the US (except Guam & Hawaii) come under Category C which typically has pets being quarantined for 30 days (Category C2). However, with additional vaccinations and blood work done, that can be reduced to just 10 days (Category C1). It was a no-brainer for us to gun for the 10 day quarantine period. However, it did mean more precision planning on our part to make sure that we hit the key milestones and requirements. Hence our planning started 6 months ago in December 2016 where Rusty went for his first rabies shot. A month later (January 2017), he went for a blood test to test his rabies antibody levels and then a month after (February 2017), he took his second rabies shot when he passed his antibody test.
3 Months To Go
We booked a quarantine space for Rusty at the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station (SAQS) right at about the time we booked our plane tickets home. I remember H & J (Otto’s pawrents) telling me many years ago that the SAQS could run out of space, so it was important to book a space for Rusty once we knew our flight itinerary. Each pet has their own room though pets from the same family can share the same room. The SAQS offered air-conditioned and fan-only rooms for us to choose from, with the air-conditioned rooms costing about $10 more each day. We ended up choosing the air-conditioned room because we thought Rusty might not be able to adjust to the tropical heat of Singapore so quickly. Thank goodness we did because it turned out to be a great idea not just for him but for us too! Pawrents are allowed to visit their pets during quarantine. Since pets cannot interact with each other at SAQS, we spent almost all of the time sitting in the tiny room that Rusty was in during our visits. Imagine if there was no air-conditioning, we would have melted!
1 Month To Go
This was the time where we had to get a Singapore pet license for Rusty as well as an import license to formally register his arrival to Singapore as a Singapore pet! Note that the import license is only valid for 30 days upon application. So no point doing it too early. We just needed to make sure also that our arrival date to Singapore was within the validity period. The import license is one of many key documents to pass to the authorities.
We also informed AVA’s border control that we were arriving so that someone was around to inspect Rusty when we landed. Important thing to note here is that the border control only opens till 10.30pm each day and is closed on Sundays and Public Holidays! This affected how we planned and booked our travel itinerary, kiasu us took into account plane delays, possible strikes (we traveled near Labor Day, May 1st) etc to make sure we arrived on an appropriate day and time.
7 Days To Go
As part of the requirement, we brought Rusty to the vet a week before we flew. The vet verified his microchip number, checked his overall health and administered oral and topical medications to prevent ticks and other parasites.
Our vets from Bramer Animal Hospital were super professional, efficient and helpful! They must have done so many pet exports before that they knew exactly how to help and advice us. The very detailed health form/certificate that we had to provide to AVA was also impeccably filled and printed out when we arrived for our appointment. We just had to check that all was in order, get it signed by the vet and we were ready to go in a few short moments. It was also thanks to Bramer Animal Hospital that we found out that we didn’t have to drive to Wisconsin (I thought that was the nearest one) to get our forms authenticated by USDA-APHIS! There was an office in Des Plaines, Illinois, only a 30min drive away! The authentication was a requirement by AVA. There was no need to bring along the dog for this step.
Love to AVA
By now, you must think I have a super human brain for being able to remember all these deadlines and intricate processes to bring Rusty home. While the husband and I did go through a whiteboard process to visualize everything :D, we did have a lot of help from the AVA site. AVA provided a very very handy pet calculator that helps pets owners track every step and requirement according to timelines, as long as you know the date that your pet will land in Singapore. How cool is that?! The only bad thing I have to say is that I had to go to several different sites to apply for different licenses, book quarantine space and appointments. If there was an integrated system where everything could be seen at a glance, it would be perfect.
We spent probably $1,000, including airfare, different fees, vet visits, blood tests, vaccinations, quarantine costs to bring Rusty back to Singapore. But having him home safe and sound with us is priceless!
Planning to write more about the plane journey as well as the quarantine experience! Stay tuned if interested. 😀