How to bring a pet into Costa Rica, Simplified

Okay, so a while back I was having kittens (pun intended) about bringing Asia into Costa Rica. Mostly because I simply could not seem to get a straight answer from anyone about the proper process. It was driving me batty.

So, to anyone bringing in their (small) dog or cat (this might also work for rabbits, but don’t expect success with gerbils or hamsters or any form of rodent; and it’s a one-way trip for all birds, you can’t take them out again) into Costa Rica, allow me to present the (current) process. It’s really easy.

  1. Check with your government’s agricultural agency (the Ministry of Agriculture in Canada, for example) and find the International Health Certificate. (There is an American equivalent from the Department of Agriculture, but I’m not sure what it’s called.) Print it out.
  2. Go to your vet, and ensure that your cat/dog has all their most recent vaccinations. Get documentation about all of it. It’s important, you’ll need it when you arrive. You’ll also need the vet to fill out the specifics of the aforementioned International Health Certificate, which they also need to sign.
  3. In Canada (I can’t say for certain with the United States), you’ll need to schedule an appointment with the Ministry of Agriculture to have them sign the document as well, and stamp it to make it official. This is necessary — without this form, your pet will not be joining you.
  4. Bring the pet with you on the plane in a carrier that fits under the seat. Not all airlines will do this anymore — Continental Airlines still does. Air Canada does not. This way, you can be assured that the pet is with you when you arrive, and does not go automatically into quarantine.
  5. When you arrive in customs, you need to go to the Agricultura desk (it’s easy to see) and have them look over the papers. Provided you are not bringing the animal in for resale (e.g. it’s not merchandise), it’s a quick stamp, a scribble in the register, and you’re free to go — no duty required.