Importing a dog: airports and dogs

Available dog release area in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Available dog release area in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Importing a dog from Europe – part 4. Airports and dogs.

Read the previous post about importing a dog from Europe: part 2 – doberman puppy cost.

I was flying with a 3 months old puppy from Poland to California with a connection in Paris, France. It is difficult to believe that in our modern world airports and dogs are still incompatible.

After the hassle of checking in is behind (read my article “Mistakes to avoid when traveling with dogs internationally“), you remain with your dog (and the crate) until it’s about 30 minutes before departure.

They recommend not to feed or give much water to the dog before the flight. My flight was very early in the morning, my puppy was hungry and sleepy. I had to kill over an hour before my flight, trying to keep my puppy awake and comfortable. The plan was to make him tired, so he’ll sleep on the plane.

Most airports don’t have any lawn or designated pet areas. Warsaw airport was no different. I was marching with my puppy up and down in the airport, stepping outside occasionally in case he needs to pee.

About 30 minutes before departure, I brought my puppy for check in at the cargo department. They scanned the crate without the dog. You are allowed to leave food and water inside the crate for the trip and some food in extra compartment of the crate (which came in handy later). The puppy then is left in the crate; they checked if the door was looked securely, and wheel the crate to the plane. At this point I was running to the security point.

Arriving to Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport – was a nightmare for us. French airline requires all pass through travelers with dogs to book a long connection and to claim all your luggage. My puppy arrived on a carousel among other luggage. If I wouldn’t be by the carousel to catch it – the crate would have rolled over, not to mention bouncing and sliding on the carousel spilled the remaining water inside the crate.

Though it was only a short flight (Warsaw – Paris), my 3 months old puppy was crying for a pee. With all my luggage and a crate I rushed to the nearest bathroom and occupied a handicapped stall. I kept a few diaper pads in my carry-on. I can’t tell you how glad I was I packed them for the trip. I let my puppy out on the bathroom floor and a river of pee pored on a diaper pad. One pad was totally soaked. I used another one to wipe the floor.

Prior to the trip I read online that Charles de Gaulle Airport is a dog friendly airport with dedicated pet release areas. Perhaps it’s true, but their pet release area is only at a certain terminal Not the one I was in. Going from one terminal to another with a cart is not permitted – you can bring only carry-on suitcase. There is no storage area to leave your luggage and a crate – you must accompany your luggage at all times. How do we suppose to carry our luggage, crate and a pet to a terminal with a pet release area? The time we had before our upcoming check-in extortion for the California flight, we spent by the doors of the baggage claim area (see the photo above).

Being outdoor cheered up my puppy a little, though not for long. Marching on the sidewalk isn’t much fun for a dog, never mind a puppy. Corners of the walkway and the walkway itself were covered in dry urine. The smell was awful and disgusting! I obviously wasn’t the first traveler with a dog desperate for a fresh air for my pet.

Checking-in for the next flight didn’t go smooth either. They decided that my crate wasn’t secure enough and suggested I have to buy a new one, that complies with their Air France guidelines. The same crate was secure enough to fly from Poland to Paris on the same airline. Read my article “Mistakes to avoid when traveling with dogs internationally” about crate requirements.

And finally arriving home to San Francisco had a few more challenges. First of all – passport control line was huge. I spent at least an hour in line and could hear my puppy crying on the other side of passport control. I really should have gone up at the front of the line, but I didn’t. The crate with the dog was already waiting at the designated area. My puppy was crying and desperately wanted to get out, but I had to wait for my luggage. Turns out agricultural control pulled out my suitcase because I was carrying an opened bag of dog food. At that point I was ready to give up my entire suitcase, but they only removed that dog food and I rush out the door. The minute the puppy was out of the crate you would never say he had been through so much stress. He peed like a race horse and was so happy! We named him Argo.

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