Bringing Pets to Costa Rica
Those of you who refuse to relocate anywhere without your faithful I companions will be pleased to know that there is
no legal problem bringing them to Costa Rica. You will, of course, have certain amour paperwork.
You begin the process with a visit to your local veterinarian for a complete examination of your pet to make sure that your
companion it. From all infectious and/or contagious diseases and that all vaccinations are up to date against rabies,
distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and leptospirosis. The rabies shots should be at least thirty days but less than one year old at
time of departure. The examination report will identify he pets name, breed, sex, and color, as well as
the owners name
address. This health certificate must he signed by a licensed veterinarian.
The papers are supposed to be good for ten days after issue by the consulate, but customs people say thirty days is okay.
Many travelers report that they werent even asked for papers when they arrived in Costa Rica, but it makes
sense to shoot for the ten-day deadline if possible. I have a friend who doesnt bother with papers going in either direction;
she just tucks her toy poodle into her large handbag and marches aboard the airplane. That;s taking a chance, but she
claims that if theres a problem she has a thirty-day grace period to straighten things out. (Presumably, little Fifi could be
incarcerated in a doggy jail in the meantime.) I highly recommend getting all the proper documents, with precisely crossed is
and correctly dotted it or whatever.
Some unusual animals especially endangered species require special papers, from both the U.S. and Costa Rican
governments. Another friends son insisted on bringing his pet Tasmanian Monitor Lizard (or some such thing), and although
she had the proper papers, the freaked-out customs inspectors at the San Jose airport refused to allow the large reptile to
enter until a veterinarian certified that it wasnt venomous.
Yet another friend wanted to bring Oliver. Her daughters blue-and- gold macaw into the country (akin to carrying coal to
Newcastle). After three months of paperwork in both the United States and Costa Rica, paying fees and duty
and such, Pam made a special trip back to the States only to spend a lot more time cutting through red tape. The only
hassles I ran into were in the States she said. When I arrived in Costa Rica, the customs guy peeked into the
large carrier glanced at my paperwork, and sent me on my merry way, never asking to see the health certificate or
declaration papers that cost me so much time, effort, and worry
Once you have your pets papers, you still have to figure out how to get the animal to Costa Rica. I find it
difficult to give advice in this area because airlines keep changing their policies. Some airlines (and maybe all) are currently
refusing to carry pets in the cargo holds in summer because of possible heat danger to the animals. Some airlines are
refusing to accept animals, period; others are more pet-friendly. The last I heard, Delta was the most friendly, still allowing
small animals to be carried into the passenger cabins (although they could balk at accepting a large Tasmanian reptile). With
the current uncertainty about rules and regulations, you will need to check individual airlines to find the right carrier. I will try
to post current info on my Web page for the book update (www.discoverypress.com/update).
To leave the country, your pet needs an exit permit, just like human residentes. For this you will need a health
certificate from a Costa Rican veterinarian (well actually you dont need it; your pet does). The vet usually accepts your
original papers as valid and fills out the proper Costa Rican exit permit without having to personally inspect the animal. The
vet can do all the paperwork, obtain the proper stamps, and pay fees. Some people arrange this by fax; the vet or an
assistant then meets them at the airport with the necessary permits. Call your vet or contact the
Departamento de Zoonosis, Ministerio de Salud, Apartado 10123, San
Jose; (506) 2230333, extension 331
Costa Ricans love their pets, but they tend not to keep them on leashes or in their yards, as most North Americans do. So
be careful; your free-wandering pooch or kitty could be at the not-so-tender mercies of the big watchdogs that swagger
about the neighborhood, always ready to bully. The worst offenders and most dangerous are often not Tico
dogs but gringo-owned rottweillers and Dobermans allowed running free. I know of one set of gringo-
owned dogs that not only killed a dozen other pooches but became bold enough to attack humans. A Tica
died from her injuries before the animals were finally chained.
Contrary to the situation in some Latin American countries, pet food is readily available at most Costa
Rican supermarkets and sometime r the local pulperia. Veterinarians are numerous, with at least a dozen
practicing in the San Jose area. Some will even make house calls. Actually, few villages are without a
veterinarian, but most of the village vets specialize in treating large animals such as horses and cattle. They have little
Taking care of pets and some dont like to be bothered with them. Those vets with small-animal practices are often
reluctant to travel IC 40 kilometers to your beach village home just to give a distemper shot Fido or to neuter Miss Pussycat.
Expats sometimes bring their pets together and have aveterinarian party. They will have a dozen animals ready for the vet
to work on when he arrives for his monthly visit. While party guests enjoy themselves, eating bocas and sipping
cocktails, while the unfortunate animalitos are experiencing the business end of needles and possibly losing
some precious parts of their anatomy.
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