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60

MAY 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

AFSA NEWS

It’s Flying Cats and Dogs

BY DEBRA BLOME, ASSOCIATE EDITOR

I’ve been a Foreign Service

family member for more than

20 years. I’ve accompanied

my husband to hardship

posts with three children

in tow, running the airport

gauntlet with a stroller, tod-

dlers and more luggage than

any single person should

ever manage. I’ve experi-

enced unaccompanied tours,

medical evacuations and an

ordered departure. And I’ve

been a Community Liaison

Office Coordinator.

So I used to feel ready

to face any challenge the

Foreign Service could throw

at me.

Then I got a dog.

As I prepare now to

move with my husband and

children to our next post, in

Jerusalem, I am discovering

that traveling with a pet on

official orders is a formidable

task.

Although the Overseas

Briefing Center does a valiant

job of pulling together all the

logistical pieces, it is still a

tricky (and expensive!) busi-

ness to take your furry family

members to your onward

assignment. Even the OBC’s

checklist is 14 pages long.

For one thing, the rules

and regulations governing

the shipment of pets differ

from country to country, and

some are downright byzan-

tine in complexity. The rules

governing official travel and

the recent mergers of Ameri-

can air carriers make it even

more complicated.

Ask any Foreign Service

pet owner for a “traveling

with your pet” story, and

you’ll get an earful—or at

least a story that makes you

hope you don’t face the same

troubles.

Here’s one thing I’ve

learned: Plan early, even

before you get assigned. In

the same way that you might

nix a post because you find

the school options unaccept-

able, you may also want to

remove from your

bid list those coun-

tries with restric-

tions on importing

animals that you

find too onerous.

Next, the minute

you are assigned

somewhere, begin

learning as much as

you can about the

process of taking

your pet with you.

Step 1:

Visit the

OBC. The OBC is

part of the Foreign

Service Institute’s

Transition Center

and is open to all

U.S. government

employees, con-

tractors, and family

members assigned

to or returning from

U.S. embassies

and consulates overseas.

More details on the OBC and

its offerings can be found

at

www.bit.ly/StateOBC.

The OBC has post-specific

information on traveling with

pets and even offers a class

on the subject. Resource

Specialist Maureen Johnston,

who wrote “Traveling with

Our Pets” in the May 2012

FSJ

can help you pull all the

pieces together. Also check

AFSA’s pet resources at www.

afsa.org/pets.

Step 2:

Contact your

post’s CLO and GSO Travel

and Transportation offices for

the most up-to-date, specific

information.

Step 3:

Don’t delay. Get

started on the process of

preparing your pet for travel

now. Some countries have

health requirements that can

take months to fulfill. Rabies

titer tests, for example, which

are required in many posts,

can take up to eight weeks to

complete.

Step 4:

Decide how you’ll

travel with your pet and make

reservations. Pets can go in

the cabin with you, if they are

small enough to fit under the

seat and if you reserve early

enough that the airline allows

it (some airlines have restric-

tions on the number of pets

they allow in the cabin at the

same time).

Pets can also go as excess

baggage, though this option

is not as easy as it once was,

and can be difficult if you

The Blomes’ 85-lb Labrador Retriever, Charlie, and his oversized travel kennel.

AFSA/DEBRABLOME