Bringing my cat into Costa Rica

We’re bringing Asia with us. Not the continent; she’s our cat. We don’t want to part with her. She’s a wonderful pet and truly part of the family. She was our first baby before Mi Niña Pequeña came along. Giving her up is just not an option.

Getting her through the border is the trouble. Mostly because there is no de facto source of information on how this is done properly. What I have found is confusing and very contradictory. For someone who is going to be spending 12 hours with an annoyed kitteh (LOLCat spelling) — she might be stuck in that cage the entire time — I need to know that getting into the country isn’t going to kill her.

Or me.

On three separate pages, I found that it really boils down to needing the following:

  • A pet health certificate (that includes the original rabies vaccination document) provided by my vet, and signed by (in Canada, anyway) the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • A personal letter stating the value of my cat. (Highly debatable, since Asia was a stray, and her “value” was the adoption fee.) I think this is mostly if you went out of country to buy a pet, then came back in.
  • Proof of payment of the Pet Customs Duty. This is related to the previous item (I think), and is not always applicable.
  • A Pet Quarantine Permit issued by the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia (Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Control).

The last one is the catch. Apparently, you can’t get that unless you’re in Costa Rica. But you need the papers from your vet to get the permit. And you can’t get the pet through the border without the permit. Seems very chicken-and-egg in nature (segue: “chicken and egg” is a bad metaphor; the egg came first, long before the chicken evolved).

Colour me worried.

So I did more digging, including calling Javier in Costa Rica to ask him. I figured he’d gone through this with the three gorgeous dogs that he has. Turns out, I was right, but he did it differently, where he shipped the dog in. And the above applies. He had a friend, however, who flew back with a puppy.

Turns out that if you fly with your pet, all you should really need is the documentation from your vet, and signed by the appropriate animal control authority (the Ministry of Agriculture, in my case). Within 10 days of travelling, of course.

All I have to do now is figure out if I can actually get down there with Asia on-board. I suppose in the worst-case scenario, she ends up in a quarantine for a little while. I would really hope to avoid that, though.

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