I'm sure everyone who's followed along remembers my post about getting all of your paperwork in line. If not, just know that I stated a couple of times that no matter how prepared you think you are, you're never prepared enough.
Read below the jump for an exquisite example of just that. Also, a minor rant.
For those of you who don't know, I'm currently planning on bringing my two cats with me into the country. A lot of people think it's absurd, but let me explain. Those two cats are like my children. I've had them for years, and I'm planning on sticking around in Korea for at least three years. Three years without my children is just cruel. End of story.
However, I know that bringing animals into another country is a hassle. Each and every country requires something different. Some want proof of vaccination, some want microchipping, some require a six month quarantine.
So after months of research, I had everything ironed out. The cats needed to be microchipped. Done. The cats needed to have proof of a valid and current rabies vaccination. Done. The cats needed a certificate of good health before boarding the plane. Done.
Everything seemed to be working smoothly. One last step was getting the health certificate, and that had to be issued within ten days of flying. No problem there. I'm on a 20 day vacation to do the goodbyes here in the States, and figured that I would have plenty of time to run to a local vet, get the certificate, and be ready to go.
Well, at the last minute, something changed. I don't know exactly when, but it wasn't long ago. Probably at the start of the year.
Animals entering South Korea now need to be microchipped, be in good health, AND have a rabies blood test that verifies their immunity levels.
Alright, so I add that to the list of things to get before we fly. Unfortunately, what no one tells you is that the rabies titer test takes 3-4 weeks to run. Two weeks if you pay to STAT it. And no one told me this until, oh, just now. Five days before we fly.
At this point, there are a handful of options. We can get rid of the cats. One of them, I've found a loving home for, and that's ok. The other one is not an option. We are very, very attached. Since I can't have kids, he's my child.
Another option is to just take them into the country and let them go through the ten day quarantine that it takes for the South Korean officials to run that same titer test.
We could also have the test run, not STAT it, and have someone hold onto the cats until we can afford to courier them. Then we're looking at about $3000 worth of charges, plus getting the health certificate reissued.
At this point, we have pretty much settled on just letting the cats run through quarantine. It's ten days, it won't be that bad, and we'll only pay for the rabies titer test in SK.
But then, another snag. Asiana airlines has suddenly decided that despite all of our paperwork, we can't fly our cats in the cabin. Why, you ask? Because we have them listed as Emotional Support Animals with the American Disability Association. According to Asiana, cats aren't true ESA animals, so they can't fly in the cabin. And they can't fly in cargo because its' too cold.
On top of this, four days before flying, they are also telling us that if we each have an animal, we have to fly in separate parts of the plane. They won't say why, they just say that it's policy. What's interesting is that this wasn't brought up at all during the several phone calls and emails that we've had. I've been in contact with them for a month and this is literally the first I've heard of this. It's also not on their website.
My husband and I are currently battling Asiana Airlines on these two points. One, that the cats are legally ESA animals and have to be allowed in the cabin because of the Air Carrier Access Act and the American Disability Association. And two, that there is not a policy in effect or that we were made aware of, so they can't make us sit apart for this flight.
I'll update this post later for those who are interested in the situation, as it might affect other teachers who are considering bringing their animals with them overseas. Also, I'm going to include all of the CURRENT regulations for getting an animal into South Korea for those are interested, along with the sources for this information.
UPDATE: After lots of back and forth with Asiana Airlines, our cats were passed through as ESA animals. There was lots of seriousness on both sides, and we weren't willing to budge. Finally, a couple of the wonderful team members in Los Angeles were able to convince corporate to allow our animals on.
We almost hit a snag once we were checking into our flight with Asiana, where there seemed to be a bit of miscommunication. Apparently, someone mentioned that the animals were supposed to have some sort of formal identification as service animals. As ESAs, however, they don't have that. They just have some simple paperwork. We were able to get everything settled after mentioning multiple times that we worked with the home office in Seoul.
As far as import regulations, there will be a forthcoming update on that as well, seeing as the Asiana check in desk was surprised when we mentioned quarantine. They seemed to think that as long as the animals had their vaccinations, they would be good to go. I'll let you know once we get through customs on the result of that situation.
For now, my cats are international travelers!
Update 2: My cats are currently in quarantine. They did, in fact, require the titer test. It's going to cost us about 285,000 Won to have the tests run, plus boarding. And that's per cat. We'll see what happens when.
South Korean Animal Import Regulations
Import of cats and dogs aged 90 days or older- A microchip implant and a rabies-neutralizing antibody test result (0.5 IU/ml or higher) are mandatory for cats and dogs aged 90 days or older originating from countries that are not rabies-free. The rabies-neutralizing antibody test must be administered by an internationally approved laboratory or by the competent authority of the exporting country within 24 months prior to boarding.
* For a list of internationally approved laboratories for rabies antibody tests, visit :http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/approval_en.htm
- Upon arrival to Korea, a health certificate issued by the vetarinary authority of the exporting country confirming the animal's microchip number and the result of the rabies antibody test must be submitted to the animal quarantine officer.
- A cat or dog whose accompanying documentation has been verified and whose health has been confirmed through a clinical examination at the port of entry may be released on the day of arrival. However, an animal without a microchip or whose microchip number is not the same as that on the certificate, as well as an animal that has not received a rabies-neutralizing antibody test or whose rabies-neutralizing antibody titer is 0.5 IU/㎖ or lower, may be quarantined for an extended period of time to have a microchip implanted or to undergo a rabies antibody test, all at the owner's expense.
Source for Import Information
Source for Quarantine Information
Information for the Air Carrier Access Act, which details information on flying with registered Emotional Support Animals.
Writer, Photographer, Dream-Seeker