When Diah Miñoza Jackson married her American husband Xavier in early 2019, she was already aware of what was coming next: migrating with her pets. After all, furbabies Tootie (an aspin) and Chimi (a shih tzu) were already the loves of Diah’s lives even before becoming Mrs. Jackson. To be clear, though, Tootie and Chimi aren’t just ordinary pets — they’re Diah’s emotional support animals (ESA).
“I planned all of these a year ago, way back in 2019! Sa Japan pa kami sana titira at the time for three years pero hindi natuloy yun, kaya nag-migrate na lang kami sa U.S. Wala talaga ako balak iwanan sina Tootie and Chimi from the very start, dadalhin ko talaga sila kahit saang bansa ako pumunta kaya 2019 pa lang pinagplanuhan ko na lahat,” explained Diah, who was with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for seven years prior to the big move. She left the army to migrate to the U.S. in October, furbabies in tow. There, she would finally start a new life with Xavier and their two ESAs.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because Diah, Chimi, and Tootie recently went viral online after Philippine Star released a video report about the heartwarming migration story. Netizens praised Diah for the move — a feat on its own considering it was right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Migrating with pets and emotional support animals: Early preparation may make it an easy process
Despite the seemingly daunting task, Diah maintains a positive outlook on what they went through. For this radiant newlywed, it was nothing she couldn’t handle. She charges the easy breezy experience to early action and a ton of research! It also helped that Tootie and Chimi are ESAs that are medically certified to help people cope with anxiety and depression.
If there’s anything that Diah learned after successfully migrating with pets, it’s that every country has a different set of requirements for pet travel. That said, careful planning is key to successful pet travel!
“For me the processing was easy, kasi 2019 pa lang nag-research na ako ng kailangan namin na documents, kaya pag dating ng 2020, alam ko na gagawin lahat. So kung complete naman lahat ng vaccines ng pets kahit ten days before the flight, sapat na yun for U.S. Sa ibang bansa like Japan, mas mahaba time preparation ng documents, so magkakaiba lahat ng preparation and requirements ng bawat bansa.”
Talk to government agencies and your intended airlines
One of the reasons why Diah’s story struck so many people is the fact that Filipino migrants aren’t always able to bring their pets with them to another country. Although it really helped that Tootie and Chimi are certified ESAs, Diah stresses that pet owners should not abuse this special consideration. After all, ESAs are often part of mental health recovery, which should be taken seriously.
Diah has a top tip for Pinoys looking to migrate emotional support animals: “Visit BAI [Bureau of Animal Industry] or call them about the requirements. Magkakaiba ng policy ang bawat country about ESA, so check the country destination, check the airlines as well.”
According to the Philippine Star report, Diah, Tootie, and Chimi boarded a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight to Los Angeles. Since the two dogs are ESAs, PAL didn’t charge them for their seats. Diah recounts how they were accommodated by PAL staff with extra blankets and seats, which made travelling with Tootie and Chimi all the more comfortable and hassle-free.
Consider having a pet passport made
Another thing that helped Diah make the migration process with Tootie and Chimi more seamless is the PETDENTITY pet passport, which is a document that compiles everything you will need for pet travel: description of pet, details of pet ownership, vaccination records, and official travel papers.
Although not officially a required document for travelling with animals, the pet passport is a growing trend that eases the process of migrating with pets. It originated in the European Union and other countries followed suit upon seeing its merits.
Also read: Did You Know You Can Apply for Your Pet’s Passport in the Philippines?
On making more memories
Travelling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, enduring a 13-hour flight to America, and getting all requirements pinned down; Diah, Chimi, and Tootie have been through a lot together. And that’s only the beginning of their adventure!
“I just want to make more memories with these two dogs and give them the life na deserve nila, kasi every dog deserves a good life,” expressed Diah, who has already made a Facebook page for her furbabies.
Like The Adventure of Tootie & Chimi on Facebook and follow this little family’s new life abroad!