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Bringing Pets

Last Updated: Jan 11, 2012

cat kitten pets
 - Costa Rica

Bringing dogs and cats to Costa Rica is a relatively simple process. There is no quarantine period if they are brought in as luggage, but animals imported as freight may be subject to customs charges and hold times. In most cases, you will present your pet’s paperwork and breeze right through customs.

Always review an airline’s pet policies before purchasing your ticket. Some airlines have strict weight limits for in-cabin pets, minimum and maximum outdoor temperatures for animals checked as baggage, and other policies, such as only allowing animals on nonstop flights. Adhere to the airline’s procedures: though they may seem arbitrary, they were developed to protect your pet’s safety. If you’re having trouble finding a carrier to accommodate your pet, check out Delta and Continental, two airlines known for their special pet-friendly programs.

Birds, snakes, horses and other “exotic” or agricultural animals may be subject to additional restrictions. If you have specific questions regarding import of your pet(s), please contact the Costa Rican embassy and your local veterinarian. 

In order to enter Costa Rica with your pet, you will need the following documents:

1. A pet health certificate, which must be issued within 10 days of travel to Costa Rica.

2. For dogs, proof of vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus (DHLPP), corona virus, parainfluenza, and rabies is required. For cats, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia (FVRCP), and rabies are required. Note: Vaccines, except for rabies, must be administered within 30 days of departure to Costa Rica. Rabies vaccines must be given more than 30 days but less than 12 months prior to travel to Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government does not recognize the three-year rabies vaccine.

3. As of January 2008, Costa Rica is allowing the import of birds. However, birds may never be exported under any circumstances, so you should be absolutely sure of your intentions to remain in Costa Rica before importing your avian companion. Parrots require an import permit and proof of ownership for more than six months. Additionally, the parrot’s veterinary certificate must state that the animal comes from an area free of ornithosis, psittacosis, salmonella, or any other contagious disease. 

4. For registered, purebred animals, you must provide a personal letter stating the pet's market value or a document that proves it, such as a purchase receipt.

5. Proof of payment of your Pet Customs Duty (if applicable).

6. A pet quarantine permit issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Control (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia, aka MAG) in Costa Rica. In general, the quarantine permit is only necessary if you ship an animal in as cargo; if the pet arrives with you as carry-on or checked luggage, the permit should not be necessary. However, always check the latest requirements with the Costa Rican embassy nearest you.

Pet Quarantine Permit

The quarantine permit must be issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Control (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia). It costs $22.00 per pet. You can file for this permit prior to your pet's arrival through a Custom Agency, or in person if you are already in Costa Rica, or through a third party that represents you.

The government of Costa Rica has appointed an organization called Ventanilla Unica to issue permits associated with importing plants, animals, substances, food, machinery, and others. The Ventanilla Unica is located at 40th Street, between 1st and 3rd Avenue in San Jose, inside The Center of Foreign Trade (Centro de Comercio Exterior). Tel: 2256-7111.

It takes 72 hours to issue the quarantine permit. You need to bring your pet's health certificate, proof of payment of visual examination conducted by Customs. A fee of $1.00 plus proof of payment of your pet's Customs Duties (if applicable) is required. This quarantine permit allows you to take your pet with you wherever you go in Costa Rica.

Once you get this permit, you need to take it to Customs or to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Control's Customs Animal Shelter in San Jose.

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