Trouble in Mexico

I write this letter in the hopes that it will reach as many people as possible and perhaps a little change will come of it. Pet owner BEWARE, things are not as they seem when you are trying to do the best for your pet.

Due to my husband's and my work, these coming months we will be on the road a lot. Not having family nearby, the best we could do was send our beloved dog (we have no children) to the care of my parents who are retired and living in Mexico. My husband and I scoured the interned and checked out all the main airlines’ web sites regarding sending pets as cargo.  We called Northwest, United, AA and Mexicana to get further information.  Mexicana was the only airline that offered a direct flight from Chicago (our nearest large airport) to Guadalajara, it transferred me to its cargo division where I was told the following:

  1. The price cannot be told to me exactly since it will depend on the weight of the dog and its kennel and the size by volume, the closest approximation she could give me was around $111.00 plus 10 to 40 dollars more for paperwork fees.
  2. Call 24 hours ahead to make sure he can fit in the flight and the weather is going to be good.
  3. Have a Health Certificate form the Vet and a Certificate of Acclimation.
  4. He cannot fly on a Saturday because there are no officials present at the port of arrival to take care of the paperwork so it must be on a weekday.

Having fulfilled all these requirements the day of travel arrived (01/16/06) and I showed up with my dog, its kennel and the papers. I also included papers that showed my dog's origin is from Mexico since we got him while living there.

When it came time to pay, Juan, the Aeromexpress /Swissport employee then told me they did not accept anything else but cash. I was not told this beforehand. After a frantic race to find the nearest ATM, I rush back with the money.  The total is 351.88 and the ATM only hands out cash in multiples of 20.00.  Now Juan tells me they have no change. How is this possible is all you accept is cash? Reluctantly he searches about for change, hands me my blue receipt with its number and tells me all is well.

Meanwhile in Mexico my father calls the offices as soon as I have confirmed that my dog was placed in the Mexicana 811 flight and asks what will he need to pick up our dog.  He is told all he needs is the receipt number and an ID.

Upon my dog's arrival when my father went to pick him up he was told the following:

  1. There is no one to do the paperwork to release our dog. It must be done between 9-1pm (the flight arrives at 6:20pm).
  2. Since my dog was sent by cargo he is now considered merchandise, and since my father does not have a merchandise permit he will have to pay fees that will total about 5,000pesos (roughly $500).

Now my pet is stuck in a kennel in the cargo area of the airport. The best my father could do was get allowed to take him for a walk so he could do his business, give him food and water and then he had to leave him there over night for more than 12 hours (until 9am, assuming the paperwork person shows up on time and works on him first is diligent about it).

Not one of these things was mentioned by Mexicana or its cargo department, Aeromexpress. Now, if your business is cargo, you're a Mexican company and travel daily from Chicago to Mexico it is not stupid to assume that you KNOW HOW CUSTOMS works! If you know there is no one on Saturday you obviously know that no one will be there after 1pm.  If I am there, in your office paying to send my dog by cargo, you OBVIOUSLY know that there will be more fees. My only concern is the welfare of my pet.  Having known this I would have paid about the same to fly there myself and have him on the plane as my luggage (that is how he came to the states in the first place and I only paid about $100).  I would have visited my father and most importantly: my dog would never have been left in a kennel overnight. This lack of concern or interest on the part of someone who runs a business is unacceptable. This information regarding fees of $500 is not something that you shrug off and then say “well, that's the law”  if it is the law then you know it, publish it and tell it ahead of time. In addition, the AEROMEXPRESS receipt had no 1-800 numbers anywhere on it.  Nowhere for me to call from the US or for my father to call in Mexico. The websites offered little help and the only number I was given took me straight to an answering machine.

To all future travelers or if you ever need to ship your dog, be aware that corruption is how they get their money. If you don't know it before hand then they get you in that mode of desperation and you will pay.  The blame will be passed on from one place to the next, you will play the “hold” game (getting to sit on the phone for an eternity) and at last they will arrive at the conclusion that it is CUSTOMS and there is nothing they can do about it. Don't be fooled; they know this is how it works and it is their (Mexicana and its cargo department Aeromexpress) obligation to let you know about the customs laws. Imagine it the other way around, you send you dog to the US using American Airlines cargo and package (or UPS or FEDEX), something goes wrong and they claim they have no knowledge of how US Customs laws apply… Right…

This is not so much about getting robbed and that feeling of idiocy and helplessness that accompanies this situation.  This is about me and my husband trying to do what is best for out dog, a healthy, happy and balanced dog that has no anxieties and has never been caged.  Now my dog sits in a cargo warehouse in a kennel and all I can do is hope some employee is not teasing him, scaring him and that he can be taken out of there before he is traumatized and changed into a different and scared dog who wonders why I abandoned him.

For all the pre planning and phone calling and research I made, I feel I deserve to have received a little more information from Mexicana and Aeromexpress regarding how shipping a dog to Mexico can best be done and at what cost.  There is a large difference from somewhere around $111-160 to a total of  $852! And what better way to get it than from a desperate pet owner.

Name withheld

Follow up:
The update is that my father was finally able to get my dog 24hrs later.  What saved my dog is that he is neutered since they insisted this was merchandise. I got faxed copies of all receipts; my father was told which office to use (so they can all get a cut of the money) even though my mother, through some vet. friends had found a better one, if they were to use another one then they'd surely figure out ways to make delays and keep the dog longer.  The warehouse where my dog was kept did not have ANY facilities (no grassy area nearby or temp control or anything) and it was my father both times who asked to be let in to let my dog out and to water and feed him.  They never did a thing yet they charged us for "kenneling" him!

Truly all I want out of this is for the Airline and Cargo dept. to change their information on the website, and also have their employees disclose this information to future clients. More importantly, if they have animal shipping they need to have a number to call on the paper given to the client so he/she can track it!

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