Traveling after farm animals
June 22, 2009 7:48 PM   Subscribe

How do you answer questions about livestock proximity when coming back to the US?

What happens when you answer yes to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Declaration Form questions 11 & 12, ie "Have you or any family members traveling with you been in close proximity of (such as touching or handling) livestock outside the United States?"

I ask this for a friend who will be returning shortly from a trip to
rural Ecuador, where s/he was in close proximity to livestock and
would appropriately answer yes. Has anyone had the experience of answering yes? What happens? Questioning, quaranteening, searching of bags, etc?

Has anyone ever had the experience of lying and answered no?

How would customs officials know to be suspicious of your time spent with livestock?

I fully understand the legal and ethical obligations my friend has
here, but if s/he takes the ethical lowground and says no, what
recourse does the government have?
posted by RajahKing to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total)
Best answer: They will ask a lot of questions, search your bags (sometimes very thoroughly), and likely disinfect the shoes they are wearing (so tell them to wear crappy shoes, they will be dunked in disinfectant). Depending on which airport (Miami for instance) they come back in through, this could take a lot of time and cause headaches.

Is your friend going to be tromping through grazing areas, or is "close proximity" standing a few yards away?

I do research with cattle herds in Central America, so unless this person went stomping through poo piles from infected herds, or hugged a lot of pigs or chickens or something, and in some way could have potentially picked up a pathogen (likely on the shoes), the less-hassle answer is 'no'.

Does the government have any recourse? Not really, that I'm aware of.

How would they be suspicious? If your friend visited an area with highly pathogenic diseases of economic significance to farmers/ranchers, or a quarantine area.

Just my thoughts, not advocating lying.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:08 PM on June 22, 2009

Best answer: I answered 'yes' to the question upon coming back from Honduras @ JFK.

Basically they asked further the nature of my animal contact, for how long, (only horseback riding) and they asked to disinfect my shoes. I told them that my sneakers were so old that they can throw them away and I can get dress shoes from my suitcase. which is what I did. That is all. They were extremely polite about the whole thing.

It might be more invasive for if she was more involved with livestock.

I might add that this is probably one Customs/DHS question that ethically she "should" answer truthfully. I am sure she doesn't want to be the idiot who brings in the next hoof-and-mouth disease, Dutch Elm disease, Medfly, or other agricultural problems like hit.
posted by xetere at 8:31 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I recently came back from a trip to France where I had scratched a friendly horse (gratuitous photo of said horse) on the nose for a minute, as I rode past a fenced pasture on a bike trail. I answered "Yes" on the customs form, in the interest of total honesty & literal interpretation. The customs agent who read through my form inquired matter-of-factly, "And you've been in contact with livestock?" I explained my encounter. He gave me a look of "Are you kidding me?" I replied that I felt like I should be honest. He chuckled and sent me along my merry way.

I imagine their interest in searching/cleaning will vary greatly depending on what "proximity" entails.
posted by knile at 8:36 PM on June 22, 2009

« Older How can I arrange for bulletproof independent...   |   Why are ironing instructions on cotton shirts... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.