Move to a new country can be exciting for the whole family, including the furry members. The process can also come with so many questions. Relocating a pet is not only about getting into the plane, it means finding a new vet and understanding how it is to have a pet in Costa Rica.
We hope this little guide helps you answer some of the questions that may arise.
First things first, the paperwork and flight.
Planning is your best friend when it comes to travel with your pet. A licensed veterinary would need to issue a health certificate endorsed by the APHIS within a 2-week period of the date of departure. The animal should be treated and vaccinated with no more than 30 days and no less than 10 days from the departure date. Having a proper plan with clear dates for traveling and visiting your preferred vet is key to accomplish your goal. For the vaccination requirements and other details please visit the US Embassy website.
Please consider that besides the above-mentioned paperwork, the airlines have specific policies for the transportation of animals. It is extremely important to get in contact with the airline ahead of time.
A good option is to hire a transportation company that will guide you through all the process. In your hometown, you may find different providers for this service or you can find a Pet Shipper on the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. In case you want to use a Costa Rican company, Pet Lounge is a business with great service and extensive experience.
Having a pet in Costa Rica
You have your dreamed house in Costa Rica waiting for you, you have researched about where the kids will be attending school and how is to live in this beautiful country, but what if Fido gets sick or what I am going to feed him?
Costa Rica started to have a more conscious pet-friendly culture around 10 years ago. Some areas like Tamarindo in Guanacaste have a large community of foreigners resulting in a pet-friendly lifestyle. You will find a large number of restaurants or businesses that will allow your pet companion.
Even though the law states that dogs must be always on a leash, you can see dogs running happy and free in all beaches in Costa Rica. If you own a friendly dog, the beach would be a great place to make new friends.
It is easy to find a certified Vet close to every town in Costa Rica. We always recommend trying 2 or 3 first, just to choose which one inspires trust to you and your family. It is also important to double-check the license status in the Colegio de Veterinarios. Online you can easily check your vets name and his or her status: activos or active is ok, suspendidos or suspended is not ok, and expulsados or expelled meaning that their license has been permanently suspended, is definitely not ok.
Regarding food and nutrition for your dog or cat, the truth is that Costa Rica has a long way to go. There is not a big concern in the population about feeding quality food to pets, and neither we have an association in charge of certifying pet food. The good news is that you will still find good quality – AAFCO recommended food options like California Natural or Blue Buffalo. We would still recommend to carefully check the ingredient list of the food before making a choice.
If you are a dog or cat lover you will enjoy living in Costa Rica, especially in rural areas where long walks without the noise of traffic are possible. Once or twice per year Costa Ricas dog lovers get together on an event called PerroCross, a recreational cross-country race that you will certainly enjoy. There is no need to be an athlete as they have 2K, 4K, 8K, Kids2K, Seniors2K and 8k relay race.
There is also plenty of animal associations you can become a member, or volunteer in any of the animal shelters across the country like: Territorio de Zaguates, Rescate Animal, Animales de Ass, among others.