Now that you’re done with all the paperwork and your pup has been trained and prepped, it is time for the big journey! Here, I talk about everything we wish we knew about the US departure and Taiwan arrival, things that would have given us peace of mind or saved us time.
If you are traveling alone, I highly recommend you bring friends or family to help. Even if you have one travel companion, additional hands will be very helpful when you’re handling a dog, a hard case crate, and all your luggage!
This was probably the most stressful and heart wrenching part of the experience, dropping off your pup to the largely unseen and unknown world of cargo processing and travel. Here is a quick guideline to what we did/found helpful while getting ready for the day.
Well ahead of departure:
- Confirm with the airline what documents they require and when. They shouldn’t require any documents you haven’t already prepared for Taiwan’s BAPHIQ, but confirm anyway and see if you need to send them anything ahead of time. Bring photocopies of your passport just in case they need it in Taiwan.
- Confirm where the dog check-in and drop-off will be. Some airlines have specific pet check-in counters (i.e., United’s PetSafe counter is in the cargo building, separate and a drive away from the passenger building), while others use the same check-in counters as people (i.e., EVA air checks in pets together with their people).
Weeks before departure:
- If your airline allows an article of clothing inside the crate, a week or so before the flight, choose a piece of clothing you don’t mind getting destroyed, and wear it everyday when you go to bed (or during the day, whatever you like!) to get your scent on it. Don’t wash it!
- If your airline allows an anxiety jacket and you are planning to use one, make sure that your dog is used to it and enjoys it by now.
- If you are planning to use an anxiety supplement such as CBD, make sure you have tried it beforehand and it works as intended on your pup.
Days before departure:
- One day before the flight, consider “carb loading” / feeding your dog more food than usual – since your dog will not be fed during the flight if flying cargo.
- Make sure the water container of choice is working and the pup still knows how to use it.
- Do not make any major changes to your dog’s diet or activities. Upset stomach on a flight is the worst, especially if they won’t have access to a potty for a long time!
24 hours before departure:
- Contact Taiwan’s Animal Quarantine Section of Hsinchu branch to remind them of your upcoming Taiwan arrival via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 886-3-3982431.
- Spend some quality time with your pup doing his/her favorite physical and mental stimulation activity. We normally take Lion to his favorite dog park, and let him stay there for 2 hours (yes, he has that much energy!).
- Because a full stomach can lead to discomfort and motion sickness during a flight, make sure your pup has his/her last meal at least 4-5 hours before the flight time. You can continue to offer water up until you drop them off, but we usually offer Lion his last water bowl around 4-5 hours before the flight since he suffers from motion sickness.
- Right before you get to the airport, take your pup on one last long relief walk before the long flight.
- Plan to arrive at least 3 hours ahead of your flight.
- Make sure the water container is filled, and it is zip tied securely to the crate door. We learned this the hard way – we didn’t use zip ties for Lion’s first flight, and his 2 water bowls which we thought were perfectly secure either broke off or spilled all the water.
- After the crate door is closed, make sure you zip tie the crate door yourself, or you watch closely as the airline staff does it. Many staff don’t know the crates well enough, and tying it incorrectly could lead to the door opening when and where it should not – and potentially terrible things happening.
- Most importantly: Speak up if something sounds wrong! A few times, the airline staff told us that we couldn’t do something that we knew was allowed based on the airline pet flying handbook (which was emailed to us). For example, that we couldn’t use our bed and water container. I had to show them the handbook and “speak to the manager” in order to prove my point. Had I not made a big deal out of it, Lion would have had to travel without a bed (on the hard floor of the crate) and without the water container he is used to.
You will need to pay for your dog’s transportation to the quarantine facility in CASH, so make sure you bring some NT$ with you from the US, exchange some at the foreign exchange counter counter right before immigration at Taoyuan Airport or take some money out at an airport ATM. Make sure you get cash before you head over to pick up your dog. If your dog is being quarantined in the Guanyin (Northern Taiwan) facility, the transportation fee will be NT$600 (as of January 2019). If your dog is being quarantined in Zhongxin (Taizhong) facility, the transportation fee will be NT$2,000 (as of January 2019).
After clearing immigration at Taoyuan Airport, grab a luggage cart and head over to your airlines’ customer service counter at the baggage level. Let them know that you are picking up your dog, and provide them with your passport and boarding pass. After getting your dog, do NOT open the crate or cut the zip ties securing the crate door. Immediately load them onto the luggage cart, and push them over to Animal & Plant Quarantine counter – which is right by Baggage Carousel 6.
Animal & Plant Quarantine staff should be expecting you and your dog from all the prep work you have completed. Fill out the Animal Declaration form that is provided on the table, and provide all the paperwork outlined in your Import Permit. At this point, they will open the crate and scan your dog’s microchip to make sure it matches all the documentation. This is very important! Make sure they are the ones opening the crate OR that they have given you permission to open the crate under their supervision.
While they look through your paperwork and make copies, you will be allowed to walk your dog around the baggage collection area – and I highly recommend you do so! This will be the only time you’ll be able to interact with your dog outside of the crate, until your quarantine visit. Make sure you offer your dog some water (since they are likely dehydrated from the flight), treats/food if you want, and lots of hugs and kisses.
Once all the paperwork has been looked over, photocopied, and returned to you (take your time and double check that you get everything back!), you will need to put your dog back into the crate so that he/she can be transported to the quarantine facility. This part broke my heart, because Lion was crying to not be put back into the crate he was in for 16 hours 🙁
The quarantine staff will escort you through customs, making a stop at a bank counter to pay for your dog’s transportation fee to the quarantine facility in cash (NT$600 for Guanyin, and NT$2,000 for Zhongxin). Once you exit customs, you will bring your dog to a separate Animal Quarantine and Inspection room in the arrivals hall – and leave your dog in the locked room along with other animals awaiting transport to the quarantine center. Heavy hearted, you can now go home and count down the days til your pup’s return.
Cost: Cash payment of NT$600 (US$20) transportation fee to Guanyin, or NT$2,000 (US$65) transportation fee to Zhongxin.
Now tell us… How was your experience at the airport with your pet?
Please note that the information here is accurate for healthy pet dogs traveling as your checked luggage in cargo, on the same flight as you, from the US (excluding Hawaii and Guam) to Taiwan as of January 2019. There may be changes at any point, and we cannot guarantee that this stays updated. We highly recommend you double check all the linked resources to make sure you are following the latest protocols.