Hey, you Londoners, thinking of flying Fido across the Atlantic. About a month ago I brought my constant furry companions Antoinette and Josephine with me from Gatwick to JFK with barely a hitch. Veni, vidi, vici. The hardest part was the prepping, not the flying. Scroll down to see my warts and all, how-to-guide, but first, of course, the action-packed pics!
Bring a friend (human) on the flight so that when you want to get a book from the overhead compartment, snooze or use the loo, there’s someone to assist. I brought my friend Nancy.
Nancy is many things – chic, honest, lively, funny and kind – but I discovered one thing she is not, a dog lover. So there was no napping, reading or visits to the loo. But lots of entertainment.
I was prepared to be turned back at any moment on this canine adventure. But that moment never came. The trip was surreal, wandering through the airport, no other dogs in sight. The only hiccup came when we exited the plane at JFK. Josephine thought she was finally on “hard ground”, dog-not-loving-Nancy screamed in disgust and other passengers followed suit. Apart from that – smooth sailing.
Jumped the queue at check in …
Got frisked at Gatwick …
All clear, thank goodness …
Time for a drink in the lounge …
Listening to Nancy …
Welcome to New York
and Lincoln Center …
Here’s my tried ands tested how to guide:
Vaccines & Pet Passport -The big requirement for the USA and the Pet Passport is that the dogs have a rabies vaccination. My UK vet helped with both the vaccine and the passport, as well as getting the dogs microchipped, a requirement of the passport.
Getting them certified as Emotional Support Animals –
We used Certapet. They were pretty darn wonderful. You fill out a questionnaire and explain your situation and a certified therapist reviews your case. They then determine if your animal can classify as an Emotional Support Animal. Ant and J qualified with flying collars, which meant they could fly at my feet or in my lap or both.
Being ESA also means that I can take them anywhere in the US, as long as I have their Certapet-provided photo I.D.’s. – They’ve been to the Metropolitan Museum, Sant Ambroeus, Grand Central Station, Greenwich, and Astoria, Queens. Michelangelo was a hit.
Finding the right airline –
The major airlines that would allow pets on transatlantic flights would only allow them in the hold. Assistant dogs are treated slightly different than ESA so even when Guide dogs were allowed up front, ESAs were not. Norwegian was the only airline we found that would allow ESA dogs up front with me. And they fly direct to New York City. Their Premium Economy is pretty good, and the staff are very friendly. Try and get a window seat to limit sniffing options.
Where do they go to “go”?
The airport has rest stops but we never went. We just checked in, headed straight to passport control and the lounge. We, or rather they, never used the wee pads for the plane, apart from as flimsy carpets to lie on. Don’t feed or water them before you board.
What to do when you get there?
Remember to declare the dogs at customs. I forgot (are they livestock?) and the Customs official was a little annoyed.
Check guidelines of country, state and city
NY State –
Travel cases – Mool PetCarrier We brought these not exactly roomy pet carriers, but never ended up needing them and threw them out at JFK. Dogs are fine on the leash.
Tips once you’ve hit the city:
Find a vet – I like Dr Cloudman at City Vets on 72nd Street on the Upper West Side. She graduated #1 in her class at Tufts. She was very useful in terms of giving them locally required vaccinations, matching US dog food to their UK variety, assisting with insurance, NYC Dog licenses ,possible dog walkers and boarders.
Central Park rules dictate that dogs can only be off lead before 9am and after 9pm, but in my experience the rules are rarely enforced. Just walk your dogs on the quieter edges of the park. The Great Lawn is full of dogs and their adoring owners. Ditto the dirt path surrounding the reservoir.
After the walk I drop my dogs off at Camp Canine where the receptionist uses a walkie talkie to report their arrival.
Antoinette and Josephine are here, Antoinette and Josephine
The pups can do some arts and crafts with their paws or have a spa treatment or just hang out with friends while I go to the gym.
Camp Canine is open 365 days a year. And so is my gym. No excuses. That’s New York – everything is accessible and easy as long as you have the cash to pay for it. The pugs are like movie stars here. Soon, they’ll be giving out autographs.
Greeting their 20th total stranger of the day …
I wish I could go native as quickly as Ant & J are. But that’s another blog, coming your way soon.