HOW TO BRING YOUR FAMILY DOG TO SINGAPORE
When moving overseas for an extended period of time or for good, Russian families choose to part with their dog due to a common misconception that it is impossible to bring their four-legged friend to Singapore. Elena Chigasova’s personal experience has proved this wrong.
My husband and I are owners of a three-year-old Bedlington terrier, who is our family member. When we had to relocate to Singapore, we decided not to leave him behind. The whole process was long and complicated. Initially, we posted questions on online theme forums, but were generally discouraged by stories of tedious flights, long quarantine procedures and the difficulties in renting a place in Singapore. These later turned out to be mere speculation, for no expat from the Russian forum had ever brought a dog here. Finally, we decided to send an official request to Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinarian Authority (AVA) and various air carriers.
The procedure for bringing a family dog to Singapore is as follows:
A rice grain-sized capsule is injected under your dog’s skin, which is painless, if a bit discomforting. Every microchip with its own individual umber is registered in an international database and stores a dog’s date of birth, breed, name, colour and owner’s particulars. Microchipping guarantees that the dog will not be mistaken for another, resold or illegally taken out of the country. Should it be lost, a special service will find the dog and return it to its owner.
Initially, we had counted on taking Singapore Airline’s 11-hour direct flight from Moscow to Singapore. However, the carrier has a list of prohibited dog breeds. In my personal opinion, it includes virtually every breed. For instance, no kind of terrier is allowed, not even the toy or Yorkshire terrier. So, we contacted Lufthansa, Emirates, British Airways and Air France, but they all rejected us. As a result, we had to take Thai Airways.
In Russia, the information concerning the carrying of animals by air is inadequate. At the international airport of Sheremetyevo, I was told it was possible to ship my dog by cargo carrier. However, at the cargo terminal, they clarified that it was applicable to dogs owned by organisations only, not individuals like us. The staff at call centres more than once advised us “to leave the doggy to someone and fly without it”.
Notifying Changi Airport in Singapore
This has to be done at least two months in advance to reserve an air-conditioned room for your dog at the quarantine (details below). Otherwise, your pet risks having none at all because there are always lots of animals at the quarantine.
To fly by plane, your dog needs a special cage: a plastic container spacious enough for it to stand, sit, lie down and turn around on its axis. Since we had a 15-hour flight ahead of us, we bought the biggest cage possible. For the dog to feel at ease in its temporary home, you have to make sure it gets used to it first. You may want to put snacks and new toys in the cage daily, as well as its favourite bedding. It is vital to teach your dog to drink when airborne. I ould not recommend using the water container which comes with the cage. Instead, buy one meant for rodents, with a small ball at the tip of the spout.
Health Certificate for a Dog Travelling Overseas
This should be obtained from a state veterinary clinic two days before the flight. In our case, our dog was not examined; instead, the certificate was issued based on its vaccination passport.
Taking the Flight
Arrive at the airport well in advance to weigh the caged dog and have it examined in the veterinary control room. Once there, exchange its health certificate for one in English, which you will later submit to Singapore’s relevant authorities.
At the check-in counter, let the staff know the weight of the caged dog and obtain an invoice. No matter how little luggage you may have, the caged dog is paid in full as excess luggage. The Thai Airways charged us €33 per kg. If your dog and its cage weigh less than 5 kg, you may take it aboard as hand luggage; however, this should be double-checked with each particular airline.
After paying the excess luggage charge at the cashier, come back to pick up your boarding passes and take your dog to the oversized luggage department. Here, the most emotional moment awaits you and your dog because you will be apart until you reach Singapore.
When in the plane, you may want to find out with the flight attendants if your dog has been taken aboard and whether the heating has been turned on in the luggage compartment. However, cabin crew are not obliged to keep you informed.
There is a change of plane during a transit stop in Bangkok. If the waiting time is short, the dog is simply transferred to another plane. We, however, waited for about four hours, so our dog was taken to a transit veterinary station in Bangkok’s airport.
Upon arrival in Singapore, claim your luggage first and then go to a special room next to the lost luggage department. There, produce the English health certificate to the staff. In the meantime, your dog is being transferred to a transit quarantine station where you may visit it.
The quarantine is a must for every pet arriving in Singapore, and lasts for 30 days. The dog is given a rabies shot, in addition to the one it had received in its country of origin, and observed for 30 days. If a dog proves to be healthy, it is returned to its owner, but should the veterinarian suspect it has rabies, the quarantine will be prolonged.
In the quarantine station, there are dogs of all kinds waiting for their masters, with their muzzles glued to the window. We went into our dog’s room – it was freezing in there, and the poor thing was lying on a plastic support. We asked the staff to give us back his cage with his toys and bedding and handed him some cookies but the dog was suffering from prostration and obviously did not understand what was going on.
We visited our dog every afternoon and had 15 minutes to walk him each time. The time slot has to be booked two days in advance and the walking timetable is pretty tight because the dogs mustn’t run into each other either in the corridors or outside. It was easier for owners with two dogs, who shared a room and could be walked together. If you have no time to come and walk your dog daily, hire a professional pet mover who will do it for you for a fee.
Every morning, the dogs are walked by a quarantine staff member, who noted down their wellbeing on a list on the wall of each dog’s room – whether they refused food or water. Water is changed regularly and feedings take place at precise hours. You can bring our own food for your dog. The quarantine staff is very caring: they genuinely love animals and tend to grow attached to them. In the reception area, there are displays with photos and thank you postcards from satisfied pet owners.
At 5.55 p.m. the PA system announces that the station is closing and everyone has to leave the premises. This is the most heart-rending moment, and you tend to ignore it. The dogs start rushing about, wailing, jumping and pressing their noses against the windows. But do not get upset or alarmed, for from our observation, the quarantine period will erased from your dog’s memory in a fortnight upon release.
You can visit your pet in the quarantine from Monday to Friday from 4 pm to 6 pm and Saturday from 2 m to 6 pm. For more information, visit: www.ava.gov.sg/
While your dog is in quarantine, find a place to live in Singapore. This is because for a dog to be released to you, you will need to submit a pet license, which can only be applied for online or at the AVA office after a housing lease is signed. Tell your realtor and potential landlords about your dog. My personal experience shows that it does not scare them off: the landlord would simply ask for a deposit as a guarantee against possible property damage incurred by your dog. At the end of your pet’s 30-day confinement, show the license at the quarantine station and bring your dog to your new home. By Elena Chigasova
Tips for Keeping Dogs in Singapore
- Traveling by public transport with your is not allowed, but there is a special taxi service for trips with pets. However, standard taxis will not normally reject carrying your dog, provided you have informed the operator about it when booking a taxi.
- Singapore is a very clean city. Dog owners here are obliged by law to pick up their dogs’ faeces from the streets. Special non-transparent plastic bags may be bought at any pet shop.
- When walking your dog, keep it on a leash at all times and prevent it from going near passersby because certain religions do not allow the touching of dogs, and all religions in Singapore are respected.
- There are special entertainment centres for dogs in Singapore, where they can play leash-free with each other.
- Due to Singapore’s hot and humid climate, dogs are prone to developing skin conditions. Local vets advise showering your dog once a week or every fortnight. Once a month, dogs have to be treated against insects.
“Designer” Canines are in Vogue in Singapore
In Singapore, mixed-breed dogs are growing in popularity. The reasons behind it are their somewhat bizarre but cute appearances and ability to not shed fur easily. The most well-known and sought-after cross-breed in Singapore is the Labradoodle (Labrador and poodle), which costs up to S$8,000. The hybrid originated in Australia in the 1970s, where Labradoodles were bred as guide dogs for allergy sufferers because they shed much less fur than Labradors, in addition to having a pleasant nature like poodles and an incredible intellect.
The once-mongrels-today-“designer”-dogs have no less fanciful names than their looks. There is the goldendoodle (a cross between the golden retriever and poodle), the peki-pom (Pekingese and Pomeranian), papshund (Papillion and dachshund), shih-chi (shih-tzu and Chihuahua) and Shetland spitz (Shetland sheepdog and Japanese spitz), among others.