If you are considering bringing your pets with you to Costa Rica, there are some important documents, rules and regulations that you should be aware of.
For dogs, cats and other small pets you need to prove to both the airlines and Costa Rican customs officers that your animal is without disease. Make sure your animals vaccinations are up to date, and schedule an exam with your veterinarian a couple weeks before your departure date. Have the vet fill out a health certificate stating that the animal is disease-free and has been vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and rabies. The rabies vaccination should be more than 30 days but less than a year old, and is needed only for animals that are four months old or older.
If coming from the United States, dogs and cats entering Costa Rica must have a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, and endorsed by a Veterinary Service (VS) veterinarian. The examination for the certificate must be conducted within the two weeks prior to travel to Costa Rica. The Health Certificate does NOT need to be signed by a Notary Public, nor does it have to be authenticated by the Consulate of Costa Rica.
Canadian residents visiting or moving to Costa Rica with their pets also require an International Health Certificate completed and signed by a veterinarian, and certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, stating that the pet has all of the required vaccinations. (Please note that the certificate must not be more than three months old.) Once signed and certified, this document must be sent to the General Consulate of Costa Rica in Ottawa for legal purposes. The certification fee is $40 and can be deposited in their bank account. You need to enclose the original as well as a copy of the receipts with the documents.
Once you have arrived in Costa Rica, the customs officer will do a mandatory visual inspection of your pet), and double check the health certificate and authorization from the Costa Rican Health Ministry. Many people claim that they were not asked for documents; however it is best not to take the risk. If everything seems fine you may pass through, although finding a pet-friendly taxi is certainly not an easy task.
If the official decides your pet looks ill or seems infected with disease, or if you are missing any documents, the animal will either be temporarily released to your care or kept in a state kennel for up to 30 days. In the meantime you will have to work out an arrangement either to have the animal shipped back, arrange for the necessary paperwork, or have your animal cared for at a local veterinary hospital.
~ Stephanie Casanova