When we were planning our move to Costa Rica, one of the most stressful components was how we were going to bring our dog, Dallas, and cat, Zuko, with us. We had never flown with our pets let alone taken them out of the country so we weren't sure of the laws and vaccinations they would need.
Dallas enjoying his new backyard
It took hours of research and coordinating the logistics for me to finally feel comfortable sending them to Costa Rica. To help make your pets move to Costa Rica stress free, read my tips below!
Find the right veterinarian
Your first step when flying your pets is to find a licensed veterinarian near you. If it wasn't for our vet in Dallas, I most likely wouldn't have felt comfortable enough to send our pets to Costa Rica. Your vet should be knowledgeable on preparing animals for international travel and help make this move easy for you.
Your vet needs to fill out the Veterinary Certificate for Costa Rica and provide a Spanish copy as well. If you are traveling from the U.S., the certificate needs to be endorsed by the USDA and you will also need to obtain a USDA health certificate. Your veterinarian should handle all of this for you.
We scheduled an appointment with AirVets in Dallas and after the examination and vaccinations were completed, the vet sent off the documents to be certified. We paid for the form through our vet and two days later they were completed, certified and copied.
One of my biggest worries was if our animals had to be quarantined once we arrived in Costa Rica. However, if you have all of the required vaccinations and forms completed, the quarantine will not be imposed. So what do your cats and dogs need when traveling to Costa Rica?
All pets need to have the rabies vaccination more than 30 days before their arrival and your pets have to enter the country 30 days before it expires. You dogs will also need their distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parvovirus vaccines. Cats need to have vaccines for feline viral rhinotracheitis, panlieukopenia, and feline leukemia. These should already be handled during routine check ups.
In addition, before your cat or dog can enter Costa Rica, they have to be treated for internal and external parasites within two weeks of entering the country. This was administered for our pets at their appointment a week before the flight. Its surprisingly expensive, we spent a total of $600 for both animals vaccinations and health certificate forms so be aware of the costs.
We initially planned on sending Dallas down through cargo due to the hot weather pushing back our departure date. Dallas ended up flying with Ryan but if he would have flown cargo, we would've had to obtain an Import Permit. To receive this permit, you have to contact a customs broker in Costa Rica to get this handled. Check out Costa Rica's embassy website for more info on the permit process.
Preparing for the flight
I was extremely worried for Dallas when we flew down to Costa Rica. He had to fly as a checked "bag" and I've heard several stories of animals not surviving the flight. Dallas is an anxiety time bomb when he is left alone. So four hours in a kennel in an airplane didn't sound like his ticket to paradise.
To get our cat and dog prepared for the flight, we purchased their kennels in advance and made sure to have it meet American Airlines' pet requirements. To help Dallas and Zuko get used to their kennels, we placed the kennels in the house so they could get acquainted. When flying with your pet, the only thing you need to do before the flight is call your airline and add them to your ticket. Once your arrive at the airport they will check all of your documents and there you will pay the fee. For Zuko who was in cabin it was $125 and Dallas cost $200.
Something can always go wrong
Everything was going great. We had both their health certificate forms, we are 100% prepared... and then we checked the weather.
For some unknown reason, Texas decided to have a one day heat wave on the departure date. We crossed our fingers hoping the weather would cool down but to our dismay it only got hotter. Airlines won't fly your checked pet if the temperature is over 85 degrees and the forecast had temperatures up at 96. No dice.
Luckily, American Airlines didn't charge us a fee for moving our flight to the following day. So we took a deep breath and just rolled with the punches.
Check all the details
We arrived at the airport ready to head to Costa Rica but after about an hour, the lady helping us began to shake her head which is never a good sign. Suddenly, a man came from the back and informed us our kennel was too large for the aircraft. My heart sank.
Every aircraft has a different size door which will affect the size of kennel they allow on the flight. I had no idea that the flight we were on wouldn't fit the kennel I bought. American Airlines requires you to buy a kennel that is large enough for the animal to stand up and turn around and the one I purchased was just perfect and any size smaller wouldn't have met those requirements. As the gentlemen began measuring the kennel, he stated it is up to the passenger to find out what aircraft we are flying, then know what size/type the door opening is and then buy the right size kennel or book a different flight. I was never aware of this issue until that day.
After about 20 minutes of measuring and talking with colleagues, he finally gave us the ok to fly even though the kennel was too big. He said that he could figure it out for us. Hallelujah!
So, Ryan and our pets headed off to Costa Rica and we crossed our fingers everything would go well which it did. It was a long day for all of my boys and after a few days of adjusting to their new home, both Dallas and Zuko love it here. Dallas who normally is glued to our side is exploring the backyard and Zuko loves to relax on the porch and watch the bugs/birds fly by.
While it was a bit pricey and we had our share of stressful moments, sending our pets to Costa Rica went better than I could have imagined. Our whole family is enjoying the rainforest and we couldn't be happier!