Agility World Championships 2013, my thoughts
It is just a few weeks since I was standing with Team USA in closing ceremonies at the FCI Agility World Championships. The arena was packed with teams and FCI delegates. What is normally an exciting and uplifting ceremony was for me extremely sad. We watched the FCI flag be passed from the Czech Republic back to the FCI and subsequently be passed in a traditional ritual to next years’ hosts of the Agility World Championships. At this point in the event we are usually very excited in anticipation of the discovery process about the next country we hope to visit, wondering what the host city and environment will be like, and curious about the judges we will study for the next year.
The passing of the flag to the South African representative was emotional for me and I assume was for many others as well. For 17 years I have heard discussions about holding the event off the continent. I heard it from our first agility director who always hoped the USA could host the event at some point, and I have always been opposed to the idea. I am a realist. I know that many if not most of the European handlers would not be able to afford the trip to the USA, just like they will struggle to go to South Africa. Without a strong and large European contingent of handlers the event would not be what it is, the most competitive international agility event in the world. It is not that I WANT to trek to Europe every year, but I DO want to go where the largest number of countries and handlers are able to participate.
The trip to SA is a long, grueling and expensive trip for dogs and humans, and for some of the countries it is unreachable. It is unreachable not because of the global disadvantage and the cost, but because quarantine laws exist in South Africa and 9 of this years’ participating countries would need to quarantine their dogs for two weeks on arrival in that country.
Since returning from the 2012 Agility World Championships in the Czech Republic we have discovered the reality of which countries are actually eligible to travel to South Africa for the Agility World Championships 2013 without going through a 2 week Quarantine process. There are only 45 countries in the entire world that are eligible to enter South Africa without quarantine. Of those 45 countries only about 27 of them actively participate in the Agility World Championships. This year many of the teams that were at the 2012 AWC will either need to go through quarantine or skip the 2013 AWC. Those countries are Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Croatia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and San Marino. There are some agility power-houses on that list, as well as countries that only sent one competitor like San Marino and Mexico.
There are at last count approximately 195 countries in the world, and less than 30 active agility countries qualify to travel freely to South Africa. The South African World Championships excludes the real possibility of participation for the majority of the world and many of our friends. It is of course doubtful any handler would be willing to put their dog through the torture of quarantine and unless the requirements are lifted, those countries will obviously not attend. Japan is one of those countries. They have already informed organizers that they will stay home.
The South African agility organizers are working to have the quarantine lifted, maybe it will happen. But many countries have already begun the qualification and competition process to win a place on a team for 2013, so even if quarantine rules are lifted for some countries, it may be too late to prepare to attend the event. In hindsight of course it would have been a good idea to have that kind of South African governmental assistance guaranteed before applying to hold the competition.
Most European handlers are totally unaware of what kind of extreme difficulty and expense it is to travel overseas with a dog. It is something Americans must do in order to be able to participate, but not one we take lightly and not without great difficulty in preparation. It is of course financially challenging, and the paperwork seems like a nightmare at times, but more importantly, there is a risk of your dog’s health. There are many who would never hand their dogs to a cargo department of an airline for a 20 hour ride in a box, but that is just what will need to happen in order to travel to South Africa. A 15 hour flight from the USA to Johannesburg translates to a dog being handed to a cargo department 2 or 3 hours prior, and possibly collecting the dog up to a couple hours after landing and vet checks. That could easily turn a trip into 20 plus hours. This is a very personal decision each handler will need to make with their dogs only after doing all the special research into viability and safety.
Dogs traveling to South Africa must undergo 5 special blood tests in the months before departing for the country, and most dogs will also need rabies titer testing in order to come back to their home country after visiting South Africa. In the USA those blood tests cost approximately $500. The estimates for dog shipping are $2000 to 3000, and even the small and medium dogs that usually travel safely in cabin with their handlers must travel via cargo as South Africa travel requirements do not allow small dogs as excess baggage. It is still unclear if this also might be waived, the fees certainly won’t be waived, but the cabin travel might be a slight possibility. Pair the fees of thousands of dollars for dog shipping, passenger travel, & hotels, and the event costs add up to an astronomical amount.
The event is a year away but most countries need to make decisions NOW on whether to have their tryouts events, whether they can afford to send a team, if anyone is willing to personally pay the funds to go, and many more unanswered questions. The organizers are asking which countries are coming and the countries are asking to know ahead of time about the costs.
If more agility handlers and their country’s delegates had known of the quarantine restrictions in advance would the outcome be different? Does it really make sense to have the event in a location where so few countries in the world are free from quarantine restrictions? Is it possible that many of the supporters of the Agility World Championships being held in South Africa were uninformed and made decisions without hard facts and specific details?
For at least few years we have known that the event was scheduled for South Africa, it is just that none of us believed it would really happen. Throughout the month prior to the 2012 Championships I looked forward with trepidation to the final announcement of the locale of AWC 2013. My thoughts were that I would feel sorry for the South African organizers that have gone through so much effort to bring the event to their country if the FCI decided to take it from them. At the same time that is just what I hoped would happen; that the organization would really take into consideration all the problems involved and that South Africa would gracefully withdraw.
Since 1996 I have made 16 trips across the Atlantic to the Agility World Championships and 5 to the European Open. 11 of those trips I traveled with my own competition dog. I understand way too well many of the difficulties that the teams face in preparing to attend the event in South Africa, but as complicated as it is to travel to Europe from North or South America or the far east, it will be that and much more to prepare for a trip with a dog to South Africa. As much as I would love to have a holiday in the beautiful city of Johannesburg on the exotic continent of Africa, I do not relish the effort it would be to travel with a team of dogs to that continent and that country.
I truly don’t believe anything will stop the Agility World Championships now from being held in South Africa. I fervently hope that in the future much greater consideration is given to where the event is held so that it is at least reachable by a majority of the World’s agility handlers and dogs. Yes, we do want the event to be a WORLD Championship, and I hope that it can eventually be held at times out of Central Europe, but there are other countries around the world that would have been willing to host that do not have such stringent quarantine laws, and that are more easily accessible to more of the worlds’ agility handlers.
My history with the AKC Agility World Team
Early in 1996 I received a call Sharon Anderson the AKC Agility Director. She invited me to be on the AKC/FCI Agility World team with my border collie Scud. I said “YES!” on the spot, and 17 years later AKC Agility and participating in the FCI Agility World Championships, and the FCI European Open as well as local and Nationals events is a huge part of my life each year.
I was on the AKC/USA team for 4 years with Scud, finishing 6th in 1999 in Dortmund. In 2000 I took a year off of competing, but still traveled with the team as a supporter. My border collie Riot made the team the next three years (2001, 2, 3) and we had some spectacular runs and I have many incredible memories. Riot and I won the Individual Agility class in 2002 at the Agility World Championships, and were second in 2001.
In 2005 I assisted AKC /USA Coach Dan Dege, and in 2006 I took over as head coach. This year, 2012, was my 7th year coaching the team. In 17 years I only missed traveling with the team one time (2003). For 5 of the last 6 years I have also traveled to the European Open and competed with my border collie Ace. That is 22 European trips and lots of familiarity with overseas dog travel for both myself and my dogs.
This hasn’t been my first post supporting the SA AWC 2013, and I have a feeling it won’t be the last.
It’s a World Championship, not a European Championship. It’s fair and indicative of the global nature of this event that it is being taken off mainland Europe for once.
Yes, it will be more expensive than just loading dogs in an RV and driving across a couple of countries. But guess what, the rest of the non-european world does just that! The South African team has always managed somehow, guess it’s time to share that financial burden?
The quarantine issue is perhaps the most thorny one, but I’m sure the South Africans will sort it out in time. As for the paperwork and blood tests required, try taking a dog from most African countries into Europe!
What I’m seeing is a lot of people who’ve gotten so pampered with “around the corner” world champs that they’re terrified of the change the SA AWC will force them into. People scream and kick, but this AWC will have a good turnout; people will just adapt.
These world champs are drawing exactly the same bad forecasts that the 2010 Fifa World Cup earned… and yet SA pulled it off better than many other countries. I say, let’s drop the prejudices and give the South Africans a chance!
Which country are you from?
Zimbabwe, SA’s friendly neighbors
I think we need to show some compassion to the Europeans rather than vilifying them. I have been a member of the management side of Agility Team Canada for the last 3 years. Canada, like South Africa and every other country who travels far to Europe for FCI Nationals, has an infrastructure in place to get the national team onto the world stage. Having South Africa as the location means more planning and more fund raising BUT we have the policies and established practices to make that happen. This is not the case with many European countries.
The Canadian management team has already had one meeting where we discussed possible timelines and potential fundraising goals. We have also looked at potential travel routes. There is no direct flight from anywhere in Canada to Johannesburg. So, we could spend one day travelling from various locations in Canada (we are a big place!) to New York and then another very long day of travel to South Africa. Another option is a day of travel from various locations in Canada to meet in Europe and stay for a couple of day with perhaps team practices involved. Then a day of travel from Europe to South Africa with a couple of days to acclimate before competition and then reverse the process to return home. Lots of paperwork involved to get the dogs into Europe as well as the paperwork to get into South Africa and return again. We haven’t decided on anything yet.
So for the teams with an infrastructure to get the planning and organizing done – which is starting now to be ready for October – anything is possible. Expense seems to be the biggest obstacle. We have to keep in mind that not everyone who competes at the worlds is a professional dog trainer who can take a couple of weeks off for travel.
So I wish the South African organizing team well. I hope the European teams are able to get their management teams organized and operational in order to get everything done for the competitors so the competitors have only to worry about the big event. It is a big, big job.
Thanks for the very interesting article. I would like to say, though, that if we got to that point, that’s because we have always been leaving the agility FCI commission completely free to do what they liked.
There have been lots of wrong decisions made by the FCI agility commission during the years, that created troubles to competitors and dogs or disparities between different dogs/handler, and we never stopped or corrected them ( and I’m not speaking about making a revolution or what — simply politely but firmly saying “sorry, we ask you to reconsider your decision because of this and that reason” ), always thinking “they will sure change their mind as soon as they’ll realize they’re wrong”, “we will find a solution” and so on.
Eventually, we ended up with this, and if it’s true that agility commission should be taking the best decision possible and they have been extremely stupid choosing so ( world championship in south africa I mean ), I personally think that it’s partly our fault too.
Thank you for your thoughts. I agree that this was a poorly thought out decision on the part of the FCI. The quarantine requirements alone make it unacceptable. I hope we can send a US team, and believe we should be able to do so given enough effort, but it won’t be the same with the competition so reduced. Still, for the sake of our US competitors who work so hard, I hope they can at least have the option to consider if it’s worth it to them.
I also hope that the next year it’s in a more reasonable place. While I’m in no danger of making the world team, I’d like to think I’d at least have the option of taking my dog to tryouts. I was hoping he’d be ready for that by 2014.
A point of information regarding travel to the US from South Africa: When I moved myself and my dogs from Johannesburg to the US in late 2009, the cost of travel for two twenty pound dogs was approximately $3,200 for a one way trip. It may cost more at this time. The test costs were additional. Beyond the blood tests, the USDA (US Dep of Agriculture) requires all dogs have a screwworm test prior to entry after being in South Africa, a test which must be conducted within five days of arrival in the US. As I did not want them in an SAA custody for over 24 hours — 3+ hours prior to flight, 17 hour flight and then 3+ hours at US immigration, I chose to fly to Europe on KLM, then onward to Atlanta. The dogs flew to Amsterdam on a 10 to 12 hour flight, spent the following day so they were not dehydrated or cramped. KLM’s regulations require larger crates so the dogs can move during the flights. The dogs then flew to the US for another long flight. KLM kept me informed by text message and phone as to the dogs’ well-being. They were out of my sight for over two days. They were quite jetlagged when we were finally re-united.
I do think going through Europe is a better way to get to South Africa even though it takes a full day longer. At least the dogs are only in a crate for the main flight for 12 to 15 hours not 20. Thanks for sharing your travel story. NJG
Sharon, unfortunately you are totally incorrect. There are special rules for dogs traveling to South Africa. On the direct flights from the USA, like on Delta, all dogs, including the tiny ones, must go in a crate down below. All dogs are listed as “cargo”. There is a minimum of $1500 (#400 crate) for any dog, even a tiny one.
The $500 estimate for blood tests is not for titers, that is for the 5 blood tests that South Africa requires you do at least 30 days before departure. The costs are for lab work and veterinary costs to draw blood and send to the lab for each of the five tests.
I do so wish it was as easy and inexpensive as you write.
Whoa–some text from #1 got accidentally deleted. It should say:
1) If you are flying with your dog, and the (dog + bag) are Istanbul (a 12-14 hr. flight), this is currently $150.
I’m not in the league to compete at the World Championships, but I have lived on several continents and eagerly follow FCI agility. I was happy to see the 2013 WC finally will move out of Europe, since over half of the 85 or so FCI member countries are not even in Europe.
I can understand your point of view about the hassle, of going to SA but I think you are making this more complicated than it really is.
I’m an American who has lived in 5 countries with my dogs, on 3 continents. I have taken dogs and cats on over 25 international flights. I have taken my dogs with me on the plane from Istanbul > Chicago > Istanbul for as little excuse as taking them to a local agility class while in Chicago for business. They are frequently crated for 15 hours (one time for 18 hours), and I’ve never even had a case of a dog soiling its crate. I do make an effort to coordinate meals and flight times, and to take overnight flights. The dogs arrive completely fine and are ready to walk into a ring the very next day to do agility or obedience, or to appear on TV.
I think you might be confusing “cargo shipping,” with shipping a dog in the cargo compartment of a passenger plane.
Also, you say that small/medium dogs that travel in the cabin are considered “excess baggage,” which “isn’t allowed” on trips to SA. However, dogs in the cabin are never billed as “excess baggage”–that nomenclature pertains the large dogs riding in the cargo hold near the luggage.
To clarify, there are three methods of shipping:
1) If you are flying with your dog and the (dog + bag) are Istanbul (a 12-14 hr. flight), this is currently $150.
2) If you are flying with your dog and the dog is > 20 lb, it flies on the same flight you do, but in the cargo area near the luggage. There is a special compressed room just for pets, with light, heat and A/C. For the Chicago > Istanbul flight, this is $250.
3) Flying a dog as “cargo” on a cargo plane is a very unusual thing to do. The only time I’ve done this is when I sent my dogs to the UK in 1999, when the 6 mos. quarantine law was still in effect. The dogs had to fly on a cargo plane and be met by a quarantine official, who drove them to the quarantine facility. In 1999, I believe this was around $300 per dog from Chicago > London. This has likely gone up a bit.
I believe that all, or nearly all, competitors would be able to fly with their dogs, whether the dog goes into quarantine or not. The owner would have to get a hotel near the quarantine kennel to be able to visit, and I realize that not everybody can take 3 weeks off work, but there’s plenty of things to see in SA during the down time…
And while quarantine was inconvenient and expensive to do for 6 months, I certainly wouldn’t categorize it as “torture.” Each dog had a spacious indoor temperature-controlled room of 12′ x 12′ and all-day access to a similarly-sized outdoor pen overlooking beautiful sheep fields and countryside. There was one employee for every ten dogs, and they got daily visits and play sessions with the staff. I could visit any time I wanted (including daily) and was allowed to bring anything I wanted. I carpeted their rooms and brought in a few pieces of old furniture. So, no, quarantine does not equal “torture.” In the case of the short 2-week quarantine in SA, it would be easy to even bring in an agility jump and do exercises in the kennel.
I do totally agree with you on the expense. I’ve never had to do blood tests or titers to go to any country where I’ve taken dogs. I’m shocked and surprised at the $500 to get into SA, when the only thing you need to return to the USA from ANYWHERE is proof of rabies (and cats don’t even need that). Also, it will be pretty pricey to do quarantine and get hotels for 2 weeks. So I hope there is an exception made so none of the dogs have to go through quarantine.
However, it turns out, I hope it’s easier than you think now!
One more comment of yours to reply to
” The owner would have to get a hotel near the quarantine kennel to be able to visit, and I realize that not everybody can take 3 weeks off work, but there’s plenty of things to see in SA during the down time…””
Three weeks off work, sightseeing? Most handlers can’t afford even to buy an airline ticket to get there. And I would NEVER under any circumstance willingly put my dog in quarantine even for two days. My dog Riot would have slit her own wrists to be in a kennel without me, and Ace is so nervous I am sure he would bite someone. Honestly. NEVER. Not for any amount of money or glory would I do quarantine. NJG