Pet Shipping From Belize

Here is the update we've all been waiting for... after 5 months of coordinating, our "Marcos Bwai" is finally with us. He made it just in time for our holiday visit back home with friends and family.

Our boy is finally home!

The Process

Once it became apparent that I would not be returning to Belize on schedule I began to investigate ways to have our newly adopted pet shipped to our home base in Canada. I was put in touch with a shipping company who advised that they could have the dog shipped to us no problem. I promptly sent a payment of approx. $400 USD that was requested. After 3 months of emailing this shipper I became frustrated when nothing was happening. He then advised that due to some new international flight policy, a customs broker would be required to book the flight and that I needed to send an addition $350 USD to cover the brokerage fee. Again, I promptly sent the funds that they requested and again, weeks passed and nothing happened. When I pressed the shipper for some action, he then advised that he was unable to find a customs broker. This just seemed just a bit odd.

I contacted a customs broker in Belize with no problem whatsoever and it really made me wonder how it was that a shipping company could not get in touch with one. The brokerage I spoke with advised that they could indeed book the flight for the dog at an additional cost of $700 USD. I was really beginning to feel like something wasn't quite right so I requested a refund from the shipping company, which I have to say was sent out to me promptly.

(I don't think there was anything shady going on with the shipper, just that he did not possess the required knowledge, qualification or capacity to complete my request.)

At this point I changed direction and turned to the staff and volunteers of Saga Humane Society in San Pedro where we adopted Marcus. I thought that they may have dealt with pet shipping in the past when tourists decide to take a new pet home from the island shelter.

My luck changed when I was connected with Ari, one of the volunteers at Saga who immediately set her sights on helping me get my puppy home. She contacted an agent in Belize from the United Airlines' PetSafe program and it wasn't long before we had all the options laid out for us. As it turned out, we did not need the involvement of a customs broker to arrange his flights. It was a simple matter of getting him to the Airline's cargo gate at Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City and making the $600 USD cash payment for his booking at that time. I simply sent a Western Union transfer in the amount of $900 US to Ari to cover a second vet certificate for travel, air transport to Belize City and back via Tropic Air and any other miscellaneous expenses she might incur. I still can't believe that she was kind enough to transport Marcus from San Pedro to BC where he would begin his 2 day journey home.We will be forever indebted for this.

Even from this point however there were setbacks, a hurricane which required his caregivers in SP to board him at Pampered Paws while they evacuated their home. (They have two dogs of their own but they simply let the dogs loose during these storms to fend for themselves. I was not comfortable with my poor little guy being left out in a hurricane thank you very much, I don't care how mild it was.) There was also some delay in having the booking arranged as we had to coordinate my schedule and Ari's with the available flight dates which only go out on Thursdays each week. Then of course there was Thanksgiving that set us back another week and then some last minute indecisiveness on my part about where to have him shipped to... so as those last couple of weeks seemed to drag by I received a few pictures of Marcus from his caregiver in which he just looked so forlorn. She reported that he didn't do much but mope around and look up and down the street for the kids.

Sad bwai :(

As excited as we were when we got the booking date confirmed, we almost didn't believe it was actually going to happen. There had been so many false alarms, dates that were given and then retracted, even with William from Petsafe... our friends and family thought we were nuts. I'd say "The dog is booked for this week" and they would all nod with a low "mhm" under their breath. This happened countless times before he actually arrived.

We decided on flying him into Toronto so for the dog, this meant flying from Belize City to Houston on Thursday where he would overnight and then travel on to Cleveland the next day and from there on to Toronto.

When the glorious day arrived, we piled into the car, along with my son's friend who was just about as excited as we were to see that darn dog I think and we made the long-ish drive to Toronto to meet him. The cargo handler that was used was Swissport and their office was easy enough to find. His flight was scheduled to arrive at 5:30 p.m. so we were there by about 4 p.m. despite the raging snowstorm we had to drive through on the way. I was advised by the Swissport office that it takes about an hour for the cargo documents to reach the office after the flight lands so we didn't need to be there until 6:30. We found a restaurant in the main airport terminal and killed two hours grabbing some dinner. I let the boys roam around for another 30 minutes and then off we went to pick up our dog! (What is it about escalators that appeals to boys so much??)

The flight was about 20 min late arriving so we still had a bit of time to kill in the Swissport waiting area... not pleasant! It was really smelly and old and dirty and so were most of the folks who were coming and going. The counter clerk advised that since our cargo was an international arrival that he was going to have to call in Agriculture Canada to inspect the dog before he could release the customs papers to me for processing. We had to sweat this out for about an hour with the kids getting anxious and worried that there might be some reason they would deny the dog entry to Canada but all went well and we had the customs docs in hand soon enough.

Since it was now 8 pm on a Friday night, the onsite customs office was closed so we were given driving directions to the main office about 20 min away. I found it no problem, took the paperwork in where I had to answer a few general questions about the dog and how he came to be our family pet. We were then given an invoice to pay duty and a customs processing fee which I think was minimal if I recall... approximately $50 CAD.

Finally back to the Swissport office and cargo warehouse for the big reunion! I knew this trip would be stressful for Marcus but I had no idea just how stressful until I finally got to look into his crate and I found him curled up in a smelly ball at the back, cowering when we approached. He didn't appear to recognize us at first; he was just terrified of all the sounds and movement and obviously freezing! He was shivering uncontrollably in there and with the help of a warehouse worker, we actually broke the crate in our haste to get him out. The kids immediately knelt to him and showered him with hugs and kisses. This must have triggered his memory as he seemed to snap out of it a little and responded to them... hesitantly.

During the 7 hr car trip back home he curled up across the kids' laps and slept like a baby. The one thing I noticed though was that he was extremely thirsty for about 24 hrs after his arrival... I thought about asking the airline agent about this as their staff are supposed to feed, water and walk your pet during the trip but then I realized that he was under so much stress that he probably went into shut down mode and didn't eat or drink.


Marcus is doing very well in his new environment! He was back to his old self again after a good rest and some grooming. He started working with a private trainer immediately to reduce the possibility of him developing any (bad) habits in his new home and to ensure his safety as there are cars here that go really fast! After all, part of being a responsible pet owner is proper training.

Breaking my "No livestock in the kitchen" rule... grrr!

He has impressed his trainer with his intelligence and ability to learn very quickly but I think it all goes back to the theory I heard from other owners of rescue dogs... that these island potlickers are grateful and they have a strong sense of loyalty and protection for their new families. He's come a long way from a hungry stray on the beach and couldn't be happier :)

Please consider adopting a Potlicker!

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