Tuesday, November 08, 2011

But What About the Cat?

Nautical Kitty
Nautical Kitty
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Getting Dulcinea into New Zealand has proven at least as frustratingly difficult as hysterical reports in the cruising blogosphere made it out to be. Despite (or maybe because of) a recent major overhaul of the process to import a cat or dog into the country, the amount of work we have undertaken to bring our pet on this journey has almost made me wish we had left her in Seattle with our friend Greg permanently.

Disclaimer: I am not an import/export specialist. I am not an employee for New Zealand MAF BioSecurity. Do not take anything I write here as The Word on importing your pet. Go to the web site yourself.

The timeline and requirements provided by MAF BioSecurity are pretty confusing, but you can parse them out if you are very careful. The bottom line is that the animal needs a microchip, rabies and rabies titre test, and all sorts of either less serious shots and tests which owners generally administer in any case. All this work needs to be done before you leave North America. The following are the gotchas that got us:

Microchip Type – New Zealand insists that you use an ISO standard microchip. Unfortunately, this standard is relatively new and still not standard, if you know what I mean. Particularly in the United States, many vets administer microchips that do not follow this precise standard. Wiki has a great article if you want to read about how this nonsense all came about and why many American cats and dogs are now running around with multiple chips in their ass. In short, make sure your pet has a 15-digit microchip number and that the chip is scanned and appears on absolutely every scrape of paper relating to your animal.

USDA Stamp - An American animal needs to be USDA approved… sort of like a chunk of beef. You can have your local vet (or any vet for that matter) actually complete all the work. However, you need to then send your paperwork to the nearest USDA veterinary to get a USDA stamp for the application. This stamps isn’t actually a stamp but more like a notary embossment. If you plan to send your paperwork to MAF via PDF or fax, use a soft pencil to darken the stamp so it appears on copies.

Timing is Everything -- Mexico and probably every Central and South American country are decidedly not on the “good country” list. These countries are either uncontrolled for rabies or New Zealand has no idea and is taking it for granted that rabies is in every dog, cat, squirrel, and toddler. You do not want any of those countries on your itinerary within 6 months of your arrival in New Zealand. If it’s a question of sitting off the coastline in the teeth of a 40 knot gale and 5 metre seas for that critical extra day to make it 6 months, I would suck it up and stay off shore. Do not worry about any of the South Pacific islands as apparently they are all on the “good country” list. Actually, this one didn’t get us, but it could have. We were in Mexico 6 months and 2 days prior to our arrival. As it was, it has still been an issue we have had to explain over and over and over again.

Ship Log -- Even though there is no requirement written ANYWHERE that you must do so, BioSecurity is requesting a ship log for every vessel we have spoken to which includes a record of “every berth since leaving the USA.” Now there are several problems with this request.

1) Did I mention that this is not a requirement? It falls into some vague elastic clause which translates as ‘whatever BioSecurity feels like asking for’.

2) Most ship logs are effectively illegible to anyone but intimate family members since folks write in them at all hours, all sea conditions, and in their own cryptic familial short hand.

3) “every berth” What is a berth in this context? Anchorages? Mooring balls? Docks? I’m not clear that they understand that most boats don’t actually touch land for the 6 months between North America and New Zealand. We were in precisely zero “berths” as I think of them – a dock in a marina.

4) “since leaving the USA” Really? Some boats are arriving here after kicking around the Caribbean for a few years, passing through the Canal, and then heading off. Some of have been up in the South Pacific for years. And the law actually specifies the aforementioned 6 month interest in the pet’s location.

I think that the new rules are causing MAF BioSecurity to develop new policy and procedures for private yachts. That is not a bad thing, obviously, and it will surely settle down and be documented in future years. This year, however, it’s a little awkward. Georgia J actually copied their ship log. I pushed back a bit and delivered a summary of all our country entry and exits as well as the brief times tied up to check in to Tonga or take on fuel. I think all vessels arriving with an animal should just pre-emptively supply this information in as easy to use a format as possible. It makes complete sense that they’ll want to know where the animal could have been exposed to diseases since leaving the vets in North America. It makes no sense for them to be wasting time pouring over our insanely detailed descriptions of location, weather conditions, whale sightings and sail changes.

Worms and Fleas -- First, let me state unequivocally that New Zealand hosts some of the most aggressive fleas on the planet. We have friends whose own pets are testimony to the power of Kiwi fleas. To protect this uniquely nasty and pernicious local population, your own animal must be absolutely flea free on arrival in New Zealand. If it is not, the vet at the quarantine facility will make sure it is by bathing it in a toxic soup. If evidence of fleas are found, the process is repeated 14 days later. Same goes for worms. The 14 days is the kicker. If your animal arrived completely parasite free, there would be only a single treatment and the pet released in 10 days. Since every day in a quarantine facility is buckets of money. It behoves you to try to deworm and de-flea your pet before making landfall… perhaps in your copious free time as you sit at Minerva Reef waiting for a good weather window.

* * *
We still do not have Dulcinea, though we are currently scheduled to pick her up on Saturday.* I’ll believe that we are clear of this process when I can hear her scratching her table post in the middle of the night. On an up side, at appears our marina has a firm “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on liveaboards with pets. We’ll keep her boat-bound for the first two weeks, after which we’ll start letting her out at night to prowl a bit. We hope to train her to stay on the boat during the day, out in the evenings.

We have friends to thank – Greg and Deb – for helping us through this incredibly challenging process. Had it not been for Greg in particular, I think we would have had to shave her and pretend I had borne a mutant baby somewhere along the trip. He assures me that it will all be worth it when she’s settled back on Don Quixote. The girls and DrC agree. Next time we import a pet, however, I’m going to make them do the paperwork.

Next Post: Exploring: Whangarei and Marsden Cove, NZ
* We picked Dulci up. She's settling into her marina life, purring a lot, spending most of her time curled up on the bed in our room, and has only managed to fall off the dock once. Literally stretched and rolled herself off the dock... backwards.

1 comment:

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