One of the main deal breakers to our crazy dream of setting sail and cruising through the Caribbean was whether or not we could bring our poodle, Oliver, with us.
…If he can’t go, then neither can we!
So, aside from figuring out how the hell to make this dream happen not only for ourselves, we also had to figure out what all it takes to cruise with a dog on board.
Okay, so you might be thinking… “what’s the big deal? they’ll have to potty train him to go on the boat.” Well, yes, that is true; however, we are slightly more concerned with things like navigating through all the sticky red tape and legalities of importing/exporting a pet into many different countries as we island hop through the caribbean.
When you arrive at an island by sailboat (as opposed to, let’s say, a plane), you are still required to clear customs (customs officials may board your boat or you may have to visit the closest customs office). This means, Oliver will have to clear customs too, and meet all the super specific rules and regulations of importing a pet in each individual country. Oh, and all of these rules are pretty much clear as mud.
Here’s a little sampling of what all Oliver will need (depending on the country in question)…
- Government/International Health Certificate (APHIS Form 7001 only veterinarians who are accredited with the USDA are authorized to sign Health Certificates for international travel — make sure to inquire with your vet if they are in fact accredited with the USDA before beginning this whole process.)
- USDA Endorsed Health Certificate (again APHIS Form 7001 – with the bottom left area completed by the USDA)
- Rabies Certificate
- Titer Certificate (the result of the FAVN – Rabies Blood Serum test for pet travel to rabies-free countries. This can only be performed in 2 places in the world — with only one of those in the U.S. at Kansas State University. As such, you can imagine that it takes a little time to get the results/certificate.)
It would be great if all that meant we had to do was make sure we had the items listed above completed and on board at every stop along our journey. But of course, it’s never that easy!
Each country ALSO has varying requirements as it pertains to when these health certificates are dated; whether or not your pet needs to be examined by a vet from that specific country; whether you have proper documentation and certificates from the previously visited countries; whether you performed treatment for parasites only days before entering a country, etc. etc. etc.
As you can see, the importing process becomes very convoluted. We are still very much in the process of figuring it all out (have I mentioned we’ve never actually done this before), and I’m sure we will have major hurdles to jump along the way, but for now we are (at the very least) headed in the right direction.
The Process for Us (so far)…
Early on in this pet-importing process, we decided to switch vets. We knew we needed a vet that was more understanding and willing to help us navigate this crazy maze. We turned to Dr. Stacey at Animal Oasis here in Naples, Florida. Let me just tell you, she and her staff are amazing! At Oliver’s first ever vet appointment, she quickly realized that his original micro-chip (implanted when he was still at the County shelter) could no longer be found (no other vet had even bothered to check). Dr. Stacey’s team scanned extensively (believe me!) for the old chip, and found nothing! So we had to start out this process by having to re-microchip Oliver, and therefore administer a new rabies booster shot.
A month later, we drew the required blood to send away to Kansas State University for the FAVN Blood Serum Test + Titer Certificate. This process typically takes around 4 weeks or so. They do offer a STAT Service for an additional fee that speeds up the process to about three weeks. We are currently awaiting the results of Oliver’s FAVN Rabies Blood Serum Test.
Once we have the results of the FAVN test, we will be sending them along with the rabies and health certificates to the Florida USDA office to obtain Oliver’s USDA Endorsed Health Certificate. But we will do this right before we are ready to leave (and it will require a final vet visit for a freshly dated certificate).
In the meantime, we will be mailing off for our Bahamas permit this week so that we will have it in hand once we are ready to sail south. All the Bahamas permit requires is this form, a $15 money order, and a copy of the international health certificate and rabies certificate. *I’ll be sure to post an update once we fully complete this process because it sounds easy, so we’ll see. (12/20/2013 Update: We FedEx’d the required documents and $15 money order to Nassau. The package arrived on a Monday, and we had an eFax with Oliver’s Bahamas permit by Tuesday afternoon. Talk about efficient! Whoa!)
After that, I think we will have just about everything we *should* need in terms of pet health documentation. So, keep your fingers crossed that Oliver clears customs at all the countries we visit. We will be sure to post updates as we enter/exit new countries.
Here are a few resources we’ve found SUPER helpful in figuring this whole process out:
- Caribbean Compass – Cruising the Eastern Caribbean with Your Dog
- Kristina Stanley’s Blog – Sailing with Dogs
- Sail Charbonneau – Taking Pets to the Bahamas
- All at Sea – Cruising with Pets Onboard in the Caribbean
- USDA’s Preparation of Animals Traveling Internationally
And, next up on our “Oliver TO-DO list,” includes getting his medicine cabinet in check (Oliver is known to be issue-prone, so to speak). 😉 Then, we’ll tackle dog-sailing-gear, pet food/treats, other supplies like grooming, etc.
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