After the paperwork and necessary shots were completed for our dogs, we had to consider how they were to be transported and what was going to happen to them during the long journey to Uruguay.
We had previously looked into animal shipping companies that can handle all of the paperwork and logistics for you- including providing a crate for the animal and grooming before departure. These are door-to-door services, and as such, have a hefty price tag. We were quoted between $3500-4500 to ship the two dogs separately from us. We decided for that sort of price, we could go through the steps and handle it on our own.
Our first questions for the airline involved the crates: We had two plastic dog crates, one large that can hold both dogs and one small. We would have loved to put both dogs in the larger crate together since they are always together and really quite attached, but it was against airline regulations. Dogs have to be the same breed and under 6 weeks old to be allowed in the same crate for international travel. Our pugs were 8 and 6 years old at the time of our travel to South America, so that plan wouldn't work.
/>We sold our larger crate and went out to look for another small crate that would be more comfortable for a single dog and easier to transport. We found a great Bargain Hound crate that is perfect for airline travel. Not only was the Bargain Hound crate sturdy and a perfect size, it had the following features:
- Lockable wing nuts to secure the top and bottom together (some airlines require this)
- Ventillation holes on all four sides
- Carrying handle
- Enclosed door pegs- some brands have the metal ends of the door latches exposed on the top and bottom of the crate, creating a potential danger for pets and children. The bargain hound crate had this enclosed for safety.
- Zip tie holes to secure the crate door during travel. The agent at the airline check in will do this for you. The bargain hound crate had dedicated holes for the zip ties, our other crate did not.
- Pet travel kit with international travel stickers, water bowl and zip ties
We brought one crate to the airport for a dry run the weekend before our projected departure to make sure all of our questions were answered and there were no unexpected surprises. I highly recommend doing this when you have pets and so much luggage. The airline also appreciated it because they could make a note in our record of our discussions and expect us to take a while upon check in.
We packed the crates with a folded 'mattress' of fleece blankets with a towel as the core. I figured this would keep the dogs warm when leaving MN and the towels would provide some absorbency in case of accidents. It worked perfectly. On top of each crate, I duct-taped a gallon size ziplock bag which contained the dogs leash, two meals worth of food in a smaller ziplock, a few extra zip ties in case the dogs had to be removed, a small water bottle to refill the bowls during transit and another ziplock bag with copies of all the dogs paperwork. The top of each crate also had the international travel information sticker and the dogs name written in permanent marker.
We arrived at the airport the day of our departure to find that the check-in agents were waiting for us. We had our own dedicated line for check-in and it was very much appreciated. The agent asked at check-in if we were interested in a short-check for the dogs and we had never heard of this before. Since we were flying from MN to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, Miami to Montevideo, we could check the dogs for all or only a portion of the journey. Our longest layover was in Miami and since that was almost halfway according to the overall transit time, that would make the most sense for a short check. We could claim the dogs in Miami, walk them and have them out of the crate for a while, then re-check before our flight. We opted to check the dogs all the way through to avoid the stress on their part (and ours) to have to put them back into the crates for another check-in and long flight to Montevideo.
After all of our bags and boxes were weighted and tagged, it was time to take the dogs for a final potty break and get them packed up. After I removed the dogs from the crates, a TSA agent came over to inspect both crates and bedding. I took the dogs to their approved area outside the entry (who knew there was such a distinction?) and came back to find the inspection completed and the agents ready to seal the dog crates. One last kiss to the pups and in they went. The crates were zip-tied, water bowls filled and away the Pugs went.
We all traveled safely and securely- and were reunited in Montevideo. The dogs were happy to see us and anxious for a potty break and food. Thankfully there were no messy dog crates, which I had feared. We hired a truck at the airport to transport us and all of our things to the hotel- and our adventure in Montevideo began...
Next up in the “Dogs in Uruguay” series: Dog culture in Montevideo, licensing and the cost of dog food.