Tips on Flying Pets From the States to West Africa

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My two chiens mean the world to me. I happen to think they’re pretty adorable.

Sending the dogs to and from Dakar was by FAR the most stressful part of our African adventure. None of our belongings mattered compared to these two. Here is some brief information of how we brought them along, just so you can hear it from another pet owner. Consult with your airline and their cargo company and ask a million questions, since information often changes.

The best direct flight for pets from D.C. to Dakar is with South African Airways. Dogs are sent as cargo, but are kept in a climate-controlled area. Caution: if you’re flying in the summer months, still be careful. I was annoyingly persistent with the SAA cargo team and insisted on knowing where my dogs would be when. A dear friend in Dakar experienced the loss of her dog when her plane unexpectedly sat on the tarmac in D.C. for three hours in the hot summer sun. “Climate-controlled” might not mean at all times. Ask questions and be assertive and avoid flying your pets during the hot months if at all possible.

It’s not cheap to send pets here. Greta and Perry cost $1,700 on the way down and $1,200 on the way back (unsure why the price changed for the return flight). Costs with South African are calculated by volume weight. Try to let customs in Dakar know ahead of time that you are bringing two live animals. We weren’t aware of this and waited THREE HOURS to claim our dogs at the Dakar airport. Not fun, but because Senegal isn’t a strict country, we were allowed to take them out of their crates for potty breaks and give them water.

Health entrance requirements for pets coming to Senegal are relatively lax. Have a valid rabies certificate, microchip and vaccination record and you should be ok. Again, check current regulations before you fly. For returning to the States, you’ll need a rabies certificate issued more than 30 days but less than one year before your flight, and a simple health certificate issued within 10 days of travel. Dr. Serigne Cisse is the preferred vet in Dakar, at least for the pet owners I know. He does all routine vet services and got us the travel paperwork we needed.

Keep copies of everything and take it in your carry-on luggage. Be prepared to pay a few thousand CFA to get your dogs through customs in Dakar. Ask questions and don’t worry about being “that guy” at the airport. Your pets are worth it.

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