Can I bring my pets to Costa Rica?

Many foreigners relocate in Costa Rica and bring their pets along with them! Some of them even go back and forth many times during the year between their former country and Costa Rica!

Bringing dogs and cats to Costa Rica is a relatively simple process. There is no quarantine period if they are brought in as luggage, but animals imported as freight may be subject to customs charges and hold times. In most cases, you will present your pet’s paperwork and breeze right through customs.

Always review an airline’s pet policies before purchasing your ticket. Some airlines have strict weight limits for in-cabin pets, minimum and maximum outdoor temperatures for animals checked as baggage, and other policies, such as only allowing animals on nonstop flights. Adhere to the airline’s procedures: though they may seem arbitrary, they were developed to protect your pet’s safety. If you’re having trouble finding a carrier to accommodate your pet, check out Delta and Continental, two airlines known for their special pet-friendly programs.

Birds, snakes, horses and other “exotic” or agricultural animals may be subject to additional restrictions. If you have specific questions regarding import of your pet(s), please contact the Costa Rican embassy and your local veterinarian.

If you have to travel out of Costa Rica, Costa Ricans overall, are huge animal lovers, and most of your maids, friends and/or caretakers will treat them like family.

In order to enter Costa Rica with your pet, you will need the following documents:

1. A pet health certificate, which must be issued within 10 days of travel to Costa Rica.

2. For dogs, proof of vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus (DHLPP), corona virus, parainfluenza, and rabies is required. For cats, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia (FVRCP), and rabies are required. Note: Vaccines, except for rabies, must be administered within 30 days of departure to Costa Rica. Rabies vaccines must be given more than 30 days but less than 12 months prior to travel to Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government does not recognize the three-year rabies vaccine.

3. As of January 2008, Costa Rica is allowing the import of birds. However, birds may never be exported under any circumstances, so you should be absolutely sure of your intentions to remain in Costa Rica before importing your avian companion. Parrots require an import permit and proof of ownership for more than six months. Additionally, the parrot’s veterinary certificate must state that the animal comes from an area free of ornithosis, psittacosis, salmonella, or any other contagious disease.

4. For registered, purebred animals, you must provide a personal letter stating the pet’s market value or a document that proves it, such as a purchase receipt.

5. Proof of payment of your Pet Customs Duty (if applicable).

6. A pet quarantine permit issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Control (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia, aka MAG) in Costa Rica. In general, the quarantine permit is only necessary if you ship an animal in as cargo; if the pet arrives with you as carry-on or checked luggage, the permit should not be necessary. However, always check the latest requirements with the Costa Rican embassy nearest you.

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