By Patrick Connelly
I miss my pup. He’s up in the states chasing squirrels like an idiot, a relentless pursuit that will probably never bear fruit. Pets – be it dogs, cats, hamsters, ferrets, and the like – are practically members of the family in the U.S. and Canada. Leaving one behind is a very tough thing to do; thus, when considering moving to Latin America, a major question is “Can my dog/cat/etc come too?” The answer is yes. And depending on the country, the process is quite easy.
Mexico: With hundreds of thousands of visitors from the U.S. and around a million expats and retirees living in the country, Mexico is pretty straightforward in allowing pets across the border.
For dogs the main concern, of course, is rabies. PROOF OF A RECENT RABIES VACCINATION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENT YOU CAN BRING! Do not even attempt to bring Sparky into Mexico without one. Fortunately, they are easy to obtain anywhere in the U.S. This vaccination must be done at least 30 days before entry into Mexico but cannot be older than 1 year. For dogs under 4 months, the animal must be kept at the owner’s residence in Mexico until it is old enough to get a rabies vaccination. Cats and other animals do not need proof of rabies vaccinations.
Also, for all dogs its necessary to get a Certificate of Good Health from your vet. This just says that, well, your pet is healthy, free of any contagious diseases.
With cats the process is a bit easier. All that is needed is a Certificate of Good Health, obtained at any vet’s office in the U.S. At the border your cat will be inspected, and if it is deemed that the animal is unhealthy, you will have to pay for kitty to be treated by a vet in Mexico. But if the cat is healthy, then there are no problems.
Birds are a bit more of a hassle. Some species are restricted by either the Mexican government for importing or the U.S. government for exporting. You may even have to quarantine your bird at one of the U.S. Animal and Health Inspection Service’s center before going to Mexico. It’s best to get in touch with them before planning to take your bird southward. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/
Other animals, such as hamsters, rabbits, ferrets, and other furry critters are allowed into Mexico without much fuss as long as they are in good health. Reptiles and amphibians, however, have restrictions depending on the species; check with http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ for specific information.
Costa Rica: The regulations for bringing pets in is similar to Mexico’s, with a few differences.
Both dogs and cats need proof of a rabies vaccination performed at least 30 days prior to entering Costa Rica, but no more than 1 year old. Failure to have this document will result in a lengthy quarantine and many headaches. They will also need the Certificate of Good Health form saying they are carrying no communicable diseases.
Birds are now allowed into Costa Rica; however, you are not allowed to take them out if you decide to leave. So make sure the move is what you want if you plan on bringing a bird along.
Other pets such as small mammals and reptiles also require the Certificate of Good Health. Some species may be restricted, so it is good to check with http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ first.
Panamà: Compared to Panamà, getting an animal into Mexico or Costa Rica is a breeze. Panamà has more paperwork, more procedures, more headache – but don’t panic, LW is here to help.
For dogs and cats the usual forms – Certificate of Good Health and rabies vaccination – are the first thing you should get done in the U.S. They are the same as the ones in Mex and Costa Rica and have the same time restrictions. Additionally, you need to mail a $30 money order to the Consulate General of Panamà. And, most annoyingly, you need to send a Quarentine For Domestic Animals form to the Minister of Health in Panama. This must be done at least 3 days before the animal’s arrival.
Now here’s the tricky part. Your cat or dog MUST be checked by a Panamanian vet at the Tocumen airport in Panama City, and the vet must be government-authorized. Easy, right? Well yes, except the vets only work from 9am to 3pm and from 7pm to 10pm Monday through Friday. If your plane lands after hours or on the weekend, you either have to keep your pet at the airport until the vets go back to work or arrange for a government vet to meet your plane. You can arrange this with the Ministry of Health, but will have to pay extra.
Birds and reptiles are a real pain to get into Panamà, but not impossible. The first document you need is an import permit, which you get from the National Environmental Authority (ANAM). Next, your bird needs to be vaccinated before arriving in Panamà for the following diseases: New Castle, Tuberculosis, Avian Influenza, Chlamydia, and Salmonella. Proof of these vaccinations must be included in the Certificate of Good Health. Also, the Certificate of Good Health and the import permit must be certified by the Consulate in Panama before your bird arrives.
With such strict deadlines and procedures, it may not be a bad idea getting the help of an attorney in Panamà to assist you in bringing an animal in, especially if its a bird, reptile, or other kind of exotic pet.
Brazil: The land of samba welcomes pets; just make sure the paperwork is in order.
For dogs and cats the first thing you need is the rabies vaccination, which follows the same guidelines as the other countries: no less than 30 days and no more than 1 year since the vaccination. Second is the ubiquitous Certificate of Good Health, obtained in the U.S. However, with Brazil, this certificate needs to be authorized in the U.S. by an APHIS office. Check their website http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ for an office near you and make an appointment (walk-ins aren’t allowed). The APHIS signature costs $24. After this step, take the certificate to a Brazilian Consulate in the U.S: for further authorization, which will require a money order of $20.
After all of the authorizations are complete, your pet is ready to go. You only need two documents: the original rabies vaccination and the double-authorized Certificate of Good Health.
For all other animals an import permit is required, which must be obtained before the animal arrives in Brazil. This form is obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture (Ministério da Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento).
No quarantine facilities exist for pets at Brazilian airports. If there are problems with the paperwork, the pet, be it a dog, cat, or iguana, will be sent back to the U.S. at the owner’s expense or destroyed!!
Do you have additional info on pet travel? Hints or tips? Success or horror stories? We want to hear from you!
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photo provided by jorgenjuul at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jorgenjuul/309794248/