Pets to Costa Rica

Oh my! Here we go! One of our criteria to select the destination for our sabbatical was that we could bring our furballs with us. So, despite most of our family and friends think we have finally lost our mind, we are taking them with us.

Yes, we are aware that the flight is 12 hours and that the tropics might not be as exciting for them as it is for us. In the end, I cannot imagine neither Kika nor Matilda hanging on a hammock watching the sunset, as I can picture myself. But they are part of the family…right?

So, if you are playing with the idea of bringing your four-footed, furballs of joy with you on the sabbatical, here is a summary of what to think about:

Formal requirements

The formal requirements for the import of dogs and cats to Costa Rica can be found on the website of SENASA. The downloadable document is both in English and in Spanish. Please note that pets coming from the USA need to comply with a specific regulation for cats and dogs from the US.

For animals not coming from the US the regulations to enter Costa Rica with cats or dogs were changed on the 12th of March 2019. According to that document, pets entering the country are required to have:

  1. International Veterinary Certificate (IVC), in Spanish (Otherwise, it needs to be accompanied by an original official translation to Spanish certified by the Competent Authority.  
  2.   Pets need to be vaccinated against rabies
  3.   Dogs need to be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and leptospirosis. 
  4. Cats need to be vaccinated against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia (the usual TRICAT)
  5. Pets need to to be treated EXACTLY fifteen (15) days before the trip with approved products for endo and ectoparasites, ensuring that animals are free of ticks and other external and internal parasites. This shall include the date of treatment, brand name, lot number, and the active ingredient of the product.
  6. Pets need to be examined by a vet before the trip, certifying that the animal is in good condition to travel.
  7. ALL the above information about vaccinations and deworming needs to be included in the International Veterinary Certificate, which needs to be signed and stamped by the vet.

Of course, having all this in time requires some planning. The good news is that if all papers are in place, one can enter the country with the pets without having to go through any form of quarantine.

Some important things to take into account:

  1. Importantly, the International Veterinary Certificate (IVC) is usually emitted by the ministry of agriculture of the country of departure, not by the local vet. So, plan in advance. 
  2. The pet passport is not a valid document to enter CR with your pet.  I was being told by the customs authorities at the airport of San Jose that one will not be able to enter the country with the pet passport only (and without the IVC). But remember to bring it because you will need it to re-enter the EU, and similar may apply to other regions and countries. 
  3. It might sound like overdoing it but apparently, the customs are very picky concerning when the pet was dewormed. I was told twice by SENASA authorities that deworming needs to be exactly 15 days before departure (not 14 and not 16).
  4. You will not be required the results of the blood analysis certifying that the pet does not have rabies to enter Costa Rica BUT you will need it to re-enter the EU with your pet. The blood test only needs to be done once in a lifetime IF you keep the rabies vaccinations active. So, my recommendation is to plan the rabies vaccination  ON TIME to be able to do the blood test BEFORE you leave the EU towards Costa Rica. This way, you know that the blood analysis was conducted by an approved lab at the European Union and thus limit the problems on the return home. Importantly, the blood test cannot be done the same day that the pet takes the vaccine but some weeks/months later. So, plan ahead.

Pets on board

To enter Costa Rica, pets are required to be specifically linked to the passenger in the booking. The Lufthansa personnel indicated that the animals are automatically assigned as passengers luggage when we book a place for them with our booking number. No need to prepare any extra documents in that respect. The space between the legs is big but not huge. This means that the cat box is going to take some space and thus booking a seat with extra-leg space might be an option to consider for such a long flight.

For Matilda, we found this fantastic transport box, which can be extended on both sides. We placed it in the living room a couple of months before the travel with her favorite blanket and she has been using it regularly…so we hope she will travel the 12 hours with certain comfort.

Image result for amazon extendable cat transport

Pets on arrival

The arrival terminal is quite small (only two or three luggage belts). I asked the custom officials about the procedure to enter Costa Rica with the pets. They repeated that the most important issue is that for pets coming from Europe we need an OFFICIAL ZOOSANITARY certificate which is emitted by the country of departure of the animal.

Needless to say that the requirements might change or might be different for different countries so one should take the information in this blog as a complement and not a substitute of the official information.


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