like a dog
By Marisa de Silva
is the strange saga of a dog that travelled halfway around the world
and then came back to Colombo. It began when Maheeka Ariyapperuma
who was migrating to New Zealand determined not to be parted from
her beloved pet 'Jennifer Jackson' (better known as JJ), decided
to send the little Daschund ahead to Auckland, New Zealand, where
her sister lives.
On the recommendation
of a friend, she approached a well-known freight -forwarding company
and discussed the possibility of transporting JJ to New Zealand,
with one of the company's executives. In reply to Maheeka's query
of whether the company had air freighted animals before, he assured
her that they had handled many such cases.
asked for the address of other customers who had sent their dogs
to Wellington, he had said they did not keep such records and hence
could not give her this information.
whether they needed the Quarantine Certificate issued in Singapore
and the Import Permit issued by the Government of New Zealand, two
vital documents required when air freighting an animal to that country
from Sri Lanka, he had replied that a Quarantine Certificate was
only needed if they were sending the dog through Singapore and not
if it was going through either Kuala Lampur or Bangkok.
much about the procedure, Maheeka and her mother trusted the cargo
company to attend to the formalities and ensure the safe transportation
of their beloved pet.
Passing the pup
The manager of the airline which brought the dog back said
the airline had absorbed the total Rs. 200,000 cost of the
return of the dog. When questioned on the procedure when importing
a dog, he said that he had checked with the freight forwarding
company and had been assured that all the documentation was
intact, therefore they had left it at that.
company’s manager said they had not yet received any
letter of complaint from Maheeka thus could not look into
the matter any further. As for the incident itself, he explained
that they had sent a copy of the TACT rules, explaining the
rules and regulations of freighting an animal, which states
that the shipper should handle the Import Permit part of the
did not work out as smoothly as they had expected.
Maheeka was instructed to purchase a cage for JJ in keeping with
airline requirements at a pet-shop in Nawala. The cage, which cost
Rs. 21,000, was duly purchased regardless of the price as it was
essential for transporting the dog. Add to this the airline charge
of Rs. 26,838 and the handling charges of the freight-forwarding
company of Rs. 14,587, and their total expenditure came to Rs. 62,425.
A hefty sum for one little dog but one they were willing to spend
for their pet.
Veterinary Health Certificate issued by the local Government Veterinary
Surgeon and the Chief Animal Quarantine Officer, the Veterinary
Health Certificate issued by the Pet Vet Clinic and JJ's dog book
too, were all produced before the local customs officers, as these
documents were required to permit the freight of the dog.
the company executive all Maheeka's sister had to do was to show
the airway bills at the other end to ensure the release of the dog
from the New Zealand Customs.
This is where
the story took an unexpected and almost tragic turn. On JJ's arrival
in Auckland, where Maheeka's sister was waiting, the Customs officers
refused to release the dog as the necessary documentation was not
provided. The dog had to be 'put down', they said.
After much begging
and pleading on Maheeka's sister's part, they agreed to give JJ
five days’ grace. Meanwhile, the dog was to be kept in the
New Zealand quarantine quarters, with Maheeka's sister being allowed
to visit only for two hours a day. As it is the middle of winter
in Auckland and the kennels had cement floors, JJ had according
to Maheeka's sister, been cold and traumatised.
sisters spent as much as Rs.10,000 on telephone calls, trying to
figure a way out of the mess. Maheeka then contacted the freight-forwarding
company’s manager, who assured them that they would have their
money back and all expenses paid for the return of JJ.
formalities completed, JJ was finally on his way back home. But
the messy business was not over yet as Maheeka was informed by the
company that she would in fact have to pay another Rs. 148,000 to
meet all costs of JJ's return. If she didn't send a fax confirming
her agreement to pay up, they would have JJ offloaded in Kuala Lumpur.
her mother's insistence consulted a lawyer and on his advice did
not send any fax. Instead, she made an entry with Police HQ in Fort,
which took down her full statement and also informed the Slave Island,
Katunayake and Airport Police.
Finally it was
a desperate dash to the airport, together with her mother and a
senior army official who was a close family friend, to retrieve
JJ. On arriving at the airport at 12.35 a.m. on Tuesday, they were
guided straight to the cargo section where they eventually found
JJ in her cage, looking half dead, famished and parched.
After much argument
with company officials over who should bear the cost of the dog's
return airfare, the airline had come to their rescue and agreed
that it would bear the cost of the dog's return. Maheeka eventually
got her dog back, paying Rs.1170 for the animal to be released to
JJ is now recovering from her ordeal.