It is three days before we embark on a week’s sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, aboard the QM2 with our two dogs, Mylie and Munro. I’m stress eating. I’m drinking too much coffee. We await in anticipation in our Brooklyn Airbnb to receive back the final, signed paperwork from the USDA Office that will allow the dogs to board the ocean liner.

Yesterday the dogs had their last Vet visit for a Health Certificate and Tapeworm treatment (all to be complete one-five days before departure), then we had to courier the paperwork to Albany, NY for the final USDA approvals. We had the option to go to the USDA Office at JFK but when I called them a month ago with questions, they were jerks to me on the phone. So the Vinegar Hill Vet Group offered to help us with the paperwork – they were one of two Vets recommended by Cunard. So far, Dr. Neuman and Assistants, Alex and Pauline have been our Angels.

This morning we were advised from the USDA office that Munro’s Rabies paperwork was inconsistent (there was a four day gap in his second year) and we had two options: 1. to hustle back to the Vet today and get a Rabies booster, then resend all the fees and new/updated paperwork back to the USDA or 2. the USDA Office could sign what they have without the correct Rabies documentation, and Munro would then need the Rabies vaccine upon arrival in the UK and face a 21 day quarantine. So, you guessed it, we chose option 1. To say my stress level is high is an understatement. We can only hope and pray that the paperwork is correct now, and that we get the signed paperwork returned to us on Saturday afternoon (the soonest Fedex had available), for when we sail on Sunday.

[Update: it is about 36 hours before we board the ship. The USDA Office confirmed via email around 12noon today that the paperwork was all good and acceptable, and being processed. But they suggested the Fedex Express Return Label wasn’t so good as it said ‘2 days’ on it. When I had asked the Fedex lady about this yesterday, she assured me it was the fastest way to ship back – how untrue! I’m pissed at her, but hopped on a call with the Fedex help team and sorted it out. Just received a confirmation from USDA agent that she received the new return label and the envelope will go out by 4pm today – keeping our fingers crossed.]

We’ve driven across the continent from Vancouver, Canada to Brooklyn, NY in a rental car for seven days. We’ve allowed for 6 days in Brooklyn with the dogs to get all their paperwork and appointments completed, which we are glad to have researched ahead of time and made sure we had time to take care of things at this end. We are travelling with our dogs for about a year through the USA, UK, Europe and back through Canada. We made the conscious decision to not fly our dogs across the pond, we chose surface instead. One of our dogs, Munro (a 70 lb-er), would not do well in the belly of a plane for 10+ hours, so the QM2 it is.

It’s been a whirlwind of planning and prepping for our year away, and I’ve included a list below of considerations and learnings. When I started researching our pending journey, I only came across a few blogs with experience-based dialogues and articles. I really wanted to read about the meat-n-potatoes of taking the dogs on the QM2.

[Update: the paperwork arrived! We waiting outside the Vet Office (that’s the address I used for the Fedex return packet) from 7:30am+ and around 9:20am the truck came around the corner. I almost jumped the driver when asked if the envelope he had in his hand was for me. I was teary-eyed when we opened it to see the complete paperwork. So now we had the whole day to enjoy before repacking and prepping for our Pet Taxi the next morning to take us to the ship].

In ‘Dogs on the QM2 – Part Two of Four’, I will describe the embarkation process.

In ‘Dogs on the QM2 – Part Three of Four’, I will describe how the dogs did during the journey.
In ‘Dogs on the QM2 – Part Four of Four’, I will describe the disembarkation process and how our dogs did after getting off the ship.

Please note that this information is based on our experience and you should contact your Vet, the USDA and the UK equivalent (DEFRA) for the most current rules and considerations. 

Considerations and Learnings re: Paperwork for you Dog or Dogs on the QM2

  1. As much as Cunard gives you a set of instructions/guidelines for the paperwork, there was missing information about the order of when to get signatures & paperwork & vaccines completed. My best suggestion is to work closely with the Vet on any/all paperwork. The Vet we used in Brooklyn had an existing relationship with the USDA, so I feel it was helpful.
  2. Microchips need to be ISO compatible. The Rabies vaccine needs to be done after your dog is microchipped. Note: we had to get Mylie a new, ISO compatible Microchip, which then meant we needed to get her a new Rabies vaccine.
  3. Tapeworm treatment can only be completed 1-5 days before your departure date. This treatment is tied to the health certificate that you need to get endorsed by an accredited Vet.
  4. The endorsed health certificate must be sent with the Rabies vaccine documentation to the USDA Office, to get their stamp and signature.
    If you send in your form to the USDA you can ask for a 24 hour turnaround time and submit a Prepaid Express Return Label via Fedex. You can only pay for the Prepaid Express Return Label via Fedex if you have a Fedex account. Note: Canadian credit cards are not all recognized in the US Fedex system – my Visa didn’t work, but my MasterCard did (both issued from Canadian banks).
  5. If you send in your paperwork to the USDA you need to include a $38.00 fee as a money order or cheque – no cash. Note: our only option for getting a money order was through the US Post Office, as we didn’t have a US Bank account.