If You Do Your Research in Advance, Bringing Your Pets Is Easy

People always ask why we moved five dogs to Ecuador. Especially when four was the limit. I’ll admit, bringing five dogs made us feel more as though we were smuggling contraband than moving our furry friends. But leaving them behind was not an option. After all, they’re family.

A lot of things led my husband, Rowland, and me to move to Cuenca, Ecuador, from the U.S. four years ago. Front and center were the expensive healthcare, the brutal work schedules, and the stifling heat in Florida. We visited Cuenca for a work assignment and fell in love with the spring-like temperature and the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site: its New Cathedral with its stunning baby-blue domes…and the miles of chic restaurants, shops, and bars tucked into Spanish-colonial houses lining the cobblestone streets.

Being outdoorsy people, we were intrigued with the nearby Cajas mountains and excited about taking on new open-air experiences like hiking, fishing, and mountain biking. We worried about moving away from an ocean filled with water sports. But because four rivers run through Cuenca, walking on the multitude of river trails would appease our need for the sound of splashing water.

The economics were a no-brainer. Without the Florida heat, air conditioning would no longer eat up $350 of our monthly income. Also, we wouldn’t need a car, because Cuenca is very walkable, with good public transportation and $3.50 taxi rides to just about anywhere in town. After calculating our monthly outlays, we figured it cost us a minimum of $2,500 a month to live in Florida (without rent), as opposed to $1,500 a month (with rent) in Cuenca. We were sold.

The only obstacle to chucking our jobs and moving was our four dachshunds and our German shepherd. Faced with staying put for years until we whittled our pack down naturally or taking our chances and bringing them, we chose to bring them.

First, Rowland took the two smaller dachshunds to Cuenca and dropped them with pet sitters. He then flew back to Florida to gather up the German shepherd. After a week, he flew back to Cuenca with our 85-pound girl, leaving me in the U.S. to manage the two mid-size dachshunds on my own trip.

The pet visa rules evolve over time, but in Ecuador they’re never so restrictive that they keep pet owners who want to live in Ecuador from bringing their pets along. I’ve seen nay-sayers on blogs post thoughts like “maybe it’s just too complicated to bring my two kitties to Ecuador,” but I strongly disagree.

You do need to research the visa process well in advance of travel and contact the agency back home that handles the paperwork very early on. In my case, I started a good 90 days before we planned to fly to Ecuador.

We worked with a veterinarian friend. He not only helped us with our paperwork, but agreed to be on call during our trip in case our paperwork was delayed or rejected. He was also willing to change document dates if anything expired during the 10-day window when the paperwork is valid (which didn’t happen).

Another key resource is the airline. It can tell you specific requirements for the shipping kennel you must use for your pet. In some cases, it can recommend companies in your city of arrival in Ecuador that will help you with the process.

That process is easier today than when I did it four years ago. But one thing hasn’t changed: Do good, thorough research up front, follow the rules correctly, and you’ll have a pleasant experience bringing your pets to their new home.

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