Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Never Underestimate The Bureaucracy

For our previous trips to Mexico, Canada, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Haiti, the only documentation Xingxing needed was a little pink slip, signed by our veterinarian. One copy was sent to the USDA office in Albuquerque, New Mexico (we don't have a USDA office in Arizona) and I was given a copy to show at the border.

Italy is a different matter. The form for Italy is six pages long. And it has to be stamped, signed and sealed by the USDA. This means it has to be sent to Albuquerque, approved, and then sent back to Scottsdale.  And you have to do all of this within seven days of traveling.

Not a problem, our veterinarian said. We fill out the form, fax it to Albuquerque, they send it back because some little thing is wrong with it, we fix it and then you overnight it to Albuquerque, they stamp it and then they overnight it back to you. Today is Wednesday. So they get tomorrow, send it back to you and you get it on Friday. You're not leaving until Monday, so you should be okay.

But Albuquerque didn't like our form. During that grueling Wednesday it was faxed to them four times, and each time, it was rejected. This was wrong. That was unclear. Something that had been crossed out because it didn't apply to Xingxing had to be initialed in a certain way. They wouldn't just say, We need this, this and this. They did it piecemeal, item by item. By the time we were done, I had less than half an hour to get it to Fedex -- and then Fedex refused to sell me the necessary return label, because I didn't have an account with them! By the time we made it to UPS we had only minutes to spare ... But we made it.

Albuquerque wasn't impressed. Maybe they'd get to it on Thursday, but maybe they wouldn't.  What was I going to do? We couldn't go without the proper papers. Perhaps I'd have to fly to Albuquerque on Friday and pick them up in person. I fretted, helpless. Late Thursday afternoon, I got a phone call from Albuquerque. The paperwork was completed and the documents were on their way back to Scottsdale. They finally arrived on Friday afternoon.

Why should it have to be so hard? Why can't Americans have Pet Passports, the way they do in Europe? For that matter, why isn't there a USDA office in Arizona? They don't even have agriculture in New Mexico!

Xingxing wasn't at all stressed by any of it. But he knew something was amiss and did the only thing a Shih Tzu can do to make things better -- snuggled close, and kissed me every chance he got.

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