No matter how excited you are about your new home, moving is disruptive, even with careful planning and attention to the details. Spouses can support each other and work as a team and parents can reassure children; family pets aren’t quite so easy. Think about the last time you went on vacation and pulled out your bags—our dog becomes depressed when he sees the suitcases come out—and you’ll have an idea how confused your faithful friends can become.
Moving your pets to Costa Rica requires advance planning. Even if you hire professional pet movers, you’ll still have a few things to do. Horses, snakes, reptiles and other “exotic” pets have different requirements and may require import permits. Costa Rica now allows you to bring your bird, but your bird will become a permanent resident—Costa Rica will not allow bird exports under any circumstances. For registered, purebred animals, you’ll also need a letter or purchase receipt indicating market value.
You’ll need an international health certificate (APHIS FORM 7001, in duplicate—a Spanish translation may also be a good idea) from your vet stating your pet is healthy and shows no clinical signs of infectious disease, with a rabies vaccination certificate and record of all other shots. Dogs need current vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies. Cats need vaccinations for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia (FVRCP) and rabies. Your veterinarian must do the exam within two weeks of your departure. Except for rabies, all other vaccinations must be done within the last 30 days. Costa Rica requires rabies vaccinations to have been given more than 30 days and less than a year before arrival. The rabies vaccination certificate must accompany the health certificate.
A veterinarian from the U.S.D.A.’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services area office must endorse the health certificate. Visit Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and select “Travel with my pet” on the right side, to find an office near you.
Although not required, you may want to microchip your pets. Health certificates don’t have to be notarized or stamped by the Costa Rican consular office. Blood titer tests (for the level of blood antibodies) aren’t required. Check with your airline for its requirements for your pets; each one has different policies. If it’s required, you’ll need proof that you’ve paid the Pet Customs Duty.
If your pets accompany you as checked baggage, you don’t need a pet quarantine permit; do double check with Costa Rican embassy or consular officials near you for any recent changes. If you don’t accompany your pets, if they come later or on a different flight, you’ll need an import permit from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia. In addition, officials may quarantine your pet up to 24 hours for more paperwork and inspections.
It’s very important you meet all requirements or your pets will be returned or euthanatized. Our experienced HRG staff can help you find pet relocation experts.
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