What to do to bring your dog or cat to live in Costa Rica

Pets - airline travel for dogs

Pet - travel to Costa RicaYou have bought your dream house in Costa Rica; or, you’ve secured the ideal rental while you check out the country as a place to live. You are checking your packing list for the big move to Costa Rica – what about Fido or Fluffy?

A lot of people who move to Costa Rica bring their pets. While it is not as easy as simply putting your dog or cat on an airline, it is straightforward to bring your pet to Costa Rica when you move.

Guidelines given here are for bringing dogs and cats from the United States to Costa Rica. Check this link for other animals from the USA, and with your embassy or governing organization for animals for other countries. Many people choose to use a pet moving service, which handles the work for you.

What to do in the USA to bring your pet to Costa Rica

Timing is crucial. Your pet’s health certificate is only valid for 10 days before departure, and many airlines only let you make reservations 13 days or less for your pet to fly. You should have two or three extra copies of all documents. The governing authority for animals leaving, or entering, the USA is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

  • Your dog or cat must have up-to-date vaccinations against rabies and leptospirosis to enter Costa Rica. You must have certificates of the vaccinations from the veterinarian.
  • Your dog or cat must be examined by a USDA accredited veterinarian, who must fill out Federal APHIS Form 7001 declaring that your pet is healthy. The health certificate is only valid for 10 days. In many cases, the health certificate must be endorsed by the local USDA Veterinary Services office (check with the USDA for the office nearest to your home). Fees to the USDA for endorsement range from $38 to $121 per animal.
  • If your pet is being transported as cargo, and not on the same flight as you, an import permit also is required.

Pets - dog and cat travelFlying with your dog or cat

  • U.S. airlines that transport pets to Costa Rica include Delta, United and American Airlines. Each airline has very specific requirements for transporting pets both inside the airline cabin, and as “checked baggage” or “cargo”; check with the airline for their regulations and fees.
  • Animals may not be tranquilized or drugged, or muzzled, for their safety while flying.

Costa Rica requirements for importing pets

  • In Costa Rica, if your pet travels as “checked baggage” or “cargo,” you must use an import company to clear customs.
  • To make the customs process as easy as possible, the import company needs this information before you fly: copy of the passport (or legal ID) of the person sending the animal, copy of the passport (or legal ID) of the person receiving the animal in Costa Rica along with their contact phone numbers and address in Costa Rica, copy of the animal’s valid health certificate and vaccinations, copy of the animal’s flight reservation.
  • Keep in mind that the airport customs office in Costa Rica only works Monday to Friday during normal business hours. If your pet arrives in Costa Rica on a Saturday or Sunday, you’ll be waiting until Monday to pick him up; or if your flight arrives late at night, you will have to wait until the next day. The process to clear customs takes several hours, so plan accordingly.

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Article by Shannon Farley

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