In the week before leaving DC, one of the last pains in my ass was trying to get proper paper work for Hobbs the cat.
Little did I know, that despite my best efforts to obey the law, I would soon participate in my most severe violation of import procedures since Sarah Fogarty dropped a big bottle of Kahlua all over the floor of the Houston Airport and pretended not to notice as we hightailed it through the customs line.
I expected some paperwork would be needed, and sure enough there is an International Pet Health Certificate that you need to have with you on the plane. That wasn’t too bad, the friendly people at Friendship Animal Hospital were more than happy to take my $300 for the medical visit and filling out the form. So far, so good.
Hobbs the cat — scofflaw
Then the vet pointed out that the certificate needed to be certified by a state veterinarian. In the US, the Department of Agriculture handles that. Now I know what you’re thinking, “No problem. The USDA is headquartered in DC. They have a huge 10,000 person office building down on the Mall just about 5 miles away from where Brent lives.” Yes, that’s all correct. However, the nearest person who can officially certify an International Pet Health Certificate? That would be in Annapolis, MD, about an hour away.
OK, I’m not thrilled, but I’m a law-abiding citizen and that’s why I gave myself plenty of leeway. In the middle of all the other crap that was going on, I fit in a trip to Annapolis, get the stamp, and check another item off the move list.
But of course that’s not all. As the vet is telling me that I need to drive to Annapolis, I also read the Tanzania Pet Import Certificate for the first time. Colleen did the legwork in Tanzany to get it. That took weeks of processing and then to be hand carried back to me in the states. You would think that in such a process, they’d have some kind of standard time period, say a month, for you to arrive. Nope. Turns out they issued it on January 28 and it expired on February 9.
So I call Colleen and she get’s her guy on it and they get an extension issued in time for the flight. She scans it and sends me a copy so that I can print it out and have it with me in case someone notices. She brings the form with her to pick me up so that we can have her come in with it in case the print out isn’t enough.
Well, I try a couple of ways, but don’t manage to get it printed out before I get on the plane. (As an interesting conceptual exercise, ask Bob Bachle sometime about the difference between “having a printer” and “having a printer that is connected and prints.”) So as we get on the plane, I’m not worried but it is on my mind that we may have an issue when we hit customs in Tanzany.
En route, United asks us for the international health certificate and Swiss Air asks for it to. They couldn’t care less about the State Certified Veterinarian stamp.
When we landed in Tanzany, I get all of our bags piled up on one baggage cart, sling Hobbs across my shoulder in her carry on bag and then begin pushing toward the exit and customs. We get to the customs area and there are three lines: two with about five inspectors hanging around with bored looks on their faces and one labeled “Nothing to Declare.” I push my cart toward the lines. The inspectors look at me. I look at them. I head left. Hobbs keeps her mouth shut. Nothing to declare.