As you start thinking about moving to Costa Rica, your mind might be preoccupied with thoughts of what you’ll do with income, where you’ll live, and how easily you can get by with limited Spanish. But, eventually, your thoughts will come to the possibility of leaving a beloved four-legged family member behind.
Should you cancel the move/trip/vacation to Costa Ricabecause you can’t bring Fido/Spot/Fluffy along?
Don’t dismay, because your family dog, cat or other pet can come with you to live in Costa Rica – if you’re willing to follow the correct procedures and regulations. Here are some tips and resources for bringing the family pet into Costa Rica as you make the move:
So you want to transport your dog down to Costa Rica, but where do you start? If you’re from the U.S., one of the best resources you’ll find that spells out all of the procedures is the United States embassy to Costa Rica’s website.
According to the Costa Rican authorities:
“The dog or cat must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, and endorsed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Veterinary Services (VS) veterinarian.”
You’ll also need a certificate statement from a vet that says, “The dog/cat was examined and found to be healthy and free of any clinical signs of infectious disease.” This should be done within 2 weeks before you leave for Costa Rica.
That includes treatment for ticks and tapeworms. For vaccinations, dogs should be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus, and rabies, while cats need to be vaccinated against rabies.
The rabies vaccination certificate must be included with the health documents and be valid for 1 or 3 years.
Use the International Certificate (APHIS FORM 7001) for Small Animals. Within 14 days of arriving, a licensed vet must complete the pet’s Veterinary Certificate for Costa Rica. You’ll be required to have a copy translated into Spanish.
That form must be endorsed by your state USDA office (if you’re from the US) or local CFIA office (if you’re coming from Canada.)
The animal’s health certificate needs to be stamped by the Costa Rican Consular office but doesn’t need to be signed by a Notary Public. However, don’t make out the certificate in duplicate.
All of this documentation will be carefully reviewed once you arrive in Costa Rica, so make sure it’s correct.
You’ll want to notify veterinary officials at your arrival airport so they’ll be ready to inspect your pet upon landing without a big wait. All dogs and cats must be free from any signs of communicable diseases and in good apparent health. If not, you’ll be ordered to have them inspected further by a Costa Rica veterinarian at your expense.
It’s also not a bad idea to carry a personal letter that documents your pet’s market value.
You’re allowed to bring up to five personal pets into Costa Rica without an import permit.
A blood titer test is not required to enter Costa Rica and there are no banned breeds that cannot enter the country.
If you have a pet other than a dog or cat, like a rabbit, guinea pig, etc., you’ll need an import permit to transport them into Costa Rica.
Unfortunately, exotic pets are not permitted entry to Costa Rica. Make sure the species is not protected under including turtles, parrots, and many others. Consult the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to find out.
Of course, you should carefully research your airline’s specific policies and procedures for transporting pets.
Even if you’re sending your pet along on a different flight or any other class of service, you’ll need to obtain an Import Permit.
While it’s not required, you may consider getting your pet fitted with a microchip before you travel, so it can be found and identified if ever lost in its new environment. Remember that pets will be a little freaked out by their new surroundings, too, and may bolt or get lost, so even if you don’t get them micro chipped, get tags made with your name, new address, and contact info in Spanish and English.
The hot and humid tropical climate may be a big change for you, but it can be an even bigger shock to your pet’s system. So make sure they always have a cool place to take shelter and hang out, especially in the first few weeks, provide lots of water, and help them explore their new environment by taking them on walks every day.
However, keep dogs on the leash at first until they’ve grown accustomed to their new home, as cars (not as merciful as drivers in the US), stray dogs, and even different plants and critters like poisonous frogs could pose a threat.
While most pet supplies and foods can be found in stores in the bigger cities, it may be hard to get familiar things when you’re living in the countryside or smaller coastal towns. So plan on bringing any essentials, and making supply runs as needed when you go to San José or the city.
No matter where you end up relocating in Costa Rica, it’s a good idea to locate your neighborhood veterinarian and bring your pet in just to say hello, meet them and get their contact info/hours of operation, etc. and get the pet’s medical history on file.
If you think this information was helpful, you'll find WAY more of the same in
The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
Enjoy your move to Costa Rica!
Don't miss the #1 resource for moving to Costa Rica and living the dream here.
Download for free here.