We chose to fly our dog from Houston via United because:
- United has a 'Pet Safe' program, which may not actually mean anything but is better than other airlines that just say, 'yup, we can ship animals'
- they fly direct from Houston to EZE. Direct flights, while expensive for humans, don't cost extra for dogs.
- Delta also has a pet program, and also has direct flights from the states, but they do not allow members of the public to book flights for pets - you have to go through a pet shipper that has paid off the IPATA. I got two quotes from different pet shippers for this - having them just do the booking. One quote was for $200 another for $400.
- United hadn't yet enlisted police to assault one of its passengers...
- there are crates and then there are crates. Make sure you get a crate that is IPATA-compliant.
- make sure the crate you have is big enough. The guidelines published by the major airlines make it clear the crate needs to be bigger than might seem necessary. Our dog is a 50lbs lab-collie mix, and we ended up having to get a 500-series crate.
- buy it months ahead of time and spend time getting your dog to comfortable in and around it (assuming they're not already crate-trained).
- get a _1 year_ rabies vaccine. Argentina does not recognize the 3-year vaccine commonly done in the states. The vaccination certificate the vet gives you must be signed in _blue_ ink (no, I'm not kidding). This has to be done more than 30 days before the dog's flight.
- less than 10 days before the dog's flight, s/he needs to get a checkup from a USDA APHIS approved vet. They'll give you a form saying the dog is in good health and ready to fly.
- That form needs to be 'endorsed' by the USDA APHIS. This can be done by mail or in person, though there are only 6 locations in the USA. There is one in Austin.
- original paperwork flies with the dog. This is very important and not mentioned on the PetSafe website. Copies are not allowed on either side of the flight. Original paperwork will be needed by both the airline when the dog is checked-in and will be required by Argentina customs on the other side. The documents will be tapped to the top of the kennel.
- United bagged and tapped our dog's leash and a pound of food to the top of the crate. Despite lots of information on what can and cannot be placed inside the crate, they never looked inside.
- United also (illegally) zip-tied the door to our dog's crate shut, and failed to zip tie the top and bottom of the crate together as required.
- the dog must be dropped off at the United cargo area not more than 4 hours and not less than 3 hours before their international flight. United staff allowed my wife to walk our dog around for an hour and a half before they were ready to take him to the plane.
- weather - if it's over 85 F (or below -10 F) at either the origin or destination of the flight, the dog cannot fly. We shipped our dog in April and got relatively lucky, in Houston it was around 80 F at the time.
Take a deep breath. I got to EZE at 11am and had my dog at 4pm. I think this could be done in less than 3 hours if everything went perfectly. You need to talk at minimum to 11 distinct people, of which for me only one spoke English. I speak moderate Spanish... everyone was very nice and helpful, but the amount of paperwork that has to be complied here is truly impressive.
- The dog is picked up at the Terminal de Cargas, which is just down the street from Terminal A, you can get there by walking.
- Your first stop should be the United Cargo office, which is marked as (1) in the attached diagram. This is on the 2nd floor of this building. United will return your dog's official documentation, along with your airway bill. The dog's paperwork will show up in this office some 1-2 hours after the plane lands. United charged some sort of airport or cargo fee - approx. 2500 pesos. This fee was unanticipated. Credit card accepted.
- SENASA office is next, just down the hall on the 2nd floor as well. This is stop (2). They will take the paperwork United gave you, stamp a bunch of stuff, enter stuff in a computer, and charge a 98 peso fee. This fee was anticipated; it's published on their website. Credit card accepted (maybe even required). SENASA will give you more paperwork to carry around.
- Next you need to get security clearance. This is done at (3). They will need to see and copy your passport, the paperwork you have built up so far, and take your photo. They will give you a one-day badge.
- Next it's off to 'particulares.' This is marked by (4). You'll have to go past security into the 'secure' area to get here. Finding the office is a bit tricky; it's down a winding hallway and the office was somewhat of a cluster f*ck with three windows and no signs as to what each one does. You want to start with the window on the left. They will take all of your paperwork and your passport, and send it off to the back room. You'll wait for them to return all your paperwork and add some more, including a nice orange file folder to carry it all around in. This took around 30 minutes.
- Getting closer. Now off to (5), which is the 'D.A.P'. This is tantalizingly close to where your dog is actually stored. They will take the orange folder, stamp and sign some stuff, and add some documentation. It seemed at this point they actually check to make sure the dog is really there.
- Now, 'validaciones' (6) has to do a pass on the orange folder. This is outside the secure area. At this point I also had to do a short interview with somebody; they were super nice and they did a lot of signing and stamping. I also got to do some signing at this point.
- Next (7), the orange folder must go back to 'particulares'. You want the window on the right this time. At this point you'll need to pay another fee (unanticipated). For us it was ~1750 pesos. Credit card accepted.
- Now, the orange folder needs to go back to D.A.P. (8). There are two different people at this office, on opposite sides of the hallway, that you'll need to work with, and you'll need to transfer docs back and forth between them. But - at the end the last person will take your orange folder and will not give it back! In exchange for your orange folder, they will give you three identical receipts, each 1/3 of a page.
- Head to (9). Your dog is here. Give one of three receipts to the person working the crates. They can help you transfer your dog (still in its crate - not allowed out at this point) to the edge of the secure area.
- At the security gate (10) they will require one more of the three receipts you have. At this point, once your dog is on the other side of the security gate, you can let them out. There are taxis available at Terminal A. My taxi required the dog to ride in the crate, which then required I get a big taxi, which, surprise, required an extra fee. It came out to 850 pesos for a ride to El Centro.
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