LAHOWIND » Just you, me, + the dog.

Cruising with Pets! Oliver’s Experience in the Islands

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Including our rescue poodle, Oliver, on our adventurous two-year sail was a no brainer for us. He joined our family long before the sailboat did, so he gets priority over our little sailing “vacation.” And as such, we always knew we would do whatever it took to include Oliver as we island hopped around the Bahamas and Caribbean.


So, this leads me to one of the most commonly asked questions from some of our blog readers…

Although we’ve posted a few times before (>>here<<) about the process of cruising with a dog (or pet), it seems like several folks really want an update on how the pet import process has actually unfolded for us along the way. You know, they want the lowdown on how crazy difficult or easy peasy the actual check-in process has been with a dog on board.

So here’s a little update on Oliver’s experience thus far…

So far, so good.

The end.

Just kidding you guys.

I realize the pet importation process seems extremely daunting for those newbie pet owner cruisers. Seriously, I felt the same exact way before we left Florida. Honestly though, I’ll tell you we haven’t really had any major issues checking Oliver into any of the countries that asked whether or not we had any pets on board (i.e. Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands).

Before you read any further, make sure you read my first post >>here<< that explains most of the requirements…and then you can find lots of other great boat dog resources over >>here.<<


In the Bahamas, we applied for our pet permit about three months in advance of our arrival in Bimini. We had all of the necessary requirements before applying for the permit, and fedex’d all of the required documentation and our $15 money order over to Nassau in December. Surprisingly, we received our approved permit by efax only a week later. The original was mailed back to us about two weeks after that. Honestly, I probably got a little overzealous in securing our permit and totally could have waited a month or two longer to apply. #overachieverprobs

When we made the crossing from Florida to Bimini, we were in fact asked on the customs and immigration paperwork to indicate whether we were traveling with any pets. So we did. Jereme was also required to present our Bahamian pet permit at checkin. And that was that. There were no extra fees charged at check-in and no additional red tape. In other words, not terribly difficult if you get all your ducks in a row at your local vet back home and square away the necessary paperwork/permitting in advance.


Turks + Caicos

Ahhhh, the Turks and Caicos…our first experience with the don’t ask, don’t tell pet policy. When we rolled into South Side Marina on the main island of Caicos, we were quickly informed by the owner that we should leave Oliver on the boat while Customs and Immigration came to check us in. We sat in the gazebo of the marina and handled all the paperwork, while Oliver chilled in the boat. Literally. It was the first time we had hooked into AC since leaving Florida. What a lucky duck. ;))

Turns out, none of the paperwork we completed technically asked about pets on board, so we didn’t offer up that tidbit of info for the customs guys. This was a bit surprising to me after having studied the legit requirements for importing a dog into the Turks and Caicos. I’m quite certain we had everything we needed (most importantly the Titer certificate), but since they didn’t ask…oh well! And I really don’t feel terribly bad since both times they kinda duped us into overtime charges anyhow. Don’t even ask. I’m still annoyed about that.


Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic was hands down our worst check in experience yet (you can read about all the fees for just Jer and I >>here<<). But only for ourselves, they too did not ask nor obviously care about Oliver coming along for the ride. I’m not even kidding, no more than 15 minutes after Jereme had checked us in, we marched Oliver by the assortment of “official” customs, immigration, navy, you name it, trailers (with all the officials lounging out front of in lawn chairs no less) and no one gave a rat’s you know what that we were bringing a dog into Luperon. It’s shocking really. They wanted a hand out or random “fee” for just about everything else, yet didn’t care about pets. Go figure.

Puerto Rico

Once again, no questions asked. This is technically the United States so I can’t imagine we would have had an issue. Although, I kinda wish they would’ve told us we had to keep Oliver secured on the boat while we were on the island, and then maybe he wouldn’t have contracted the super serious >>Ehrlichiosis<< blood disease. No bueno.

Sailing-Blog-Cruising-Caribbean-Puerto-Rico-La-Parguera-Cayo-Enriquee-Dolphin-Photos-Sailboat-LAHOWIND-eIMG_4127 Sailing-Blog-Cruising-Caribbean-Puerto-Rico-Marina-Pescaderia-Puerto-Real-Sailboat-Boat-Life-LAHOWIND-eIMG_3336

U.S. Virgin Islands

Once again, no “pet on board” questions asked. No problems here.

British Virgin Islands

We screwed up here. Kinda sorta. But let me start at the beginning.

Once again, I knew we had all the necessary requirements squared away for Oliver to enter the BVIs. Most importantly, he has the Titer/FAVN Blood Series certificate. Following the instructions provided on the BVI government website, I applied for Oliver’s pet permit in advance of our arrival. Specifically around Thanksgiving when we were still in Salinas, Puerto Rico and planning on arriving in BVI by December or January. The permit application process was simple. I completed this form linked online and emailed it to the address along with one PDF attachment of all of Oliver’s pertinent medical records as required (international health certificate – USDA endorsed, Titer/FAVN certificate, Rabies Certificate, and Vaccination History). Literally, within the hour I had the approved permit sitting in my inbox.

When we rolled into Soper’s Hole, Tortola in January to check-in, we weren’t sure whether or not we would be asked about pets on board. Our experience thus far had led us to believe that maybe they wouldn’t even ask and that we wouldn’t need to show our approved permit (which we only had electronically).


They did ask, and better yet, we were supposed to have called the vet on the island approximately one hour before arriving. Whoopsie! I guess I missed that part on the instructions. The Customs folks phoned the vet for us and Jereme waited about an hour for him to come down to the Customs and Immigration office. Once he arrived, he informed Jereme that we were under duress (whatever that means) and thus required to pay an extra $100 fee. WTH?!?! The usual pet fee is $10. At that point though we really had no choice, and begrudgingly paid the $100. Ugh, lesson learned. The hard way. Make sure you call the vet before arriving!


^^I would stick my tongue out at those jokers too!^^

The sad part about all these unaccounted for (and pretty much made up on the spot) charges is that the vet never even asked to see Oliver to check him in. And literally pocketed the cash. So sad.

Anyhoo, with all of our experiences thus far, I still recommend turning to your local veterinarian in advance of your departure to help guide you through the process. For us, it helped to search out a vet that had experience with international pet travel. We quickly learned we would need to microchip Oliver for identification, administer a rabies booster and additional vaccinations, and request an International Health Certificate. We also went ahead and took the steps to apply for a Titer Certificate (more extensive Rabies testing), as well as a USDA Endorsed International Health Certificate — both required in several of the “stricter” Caribbean countries.

Getting all the necessary vaccinations and documentation squared away in advance and having our ducks in a row prior to setting sail made the process a breeze!

Pretty much. ;)))

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

GUS CORTESFebruary 26, 2015 - 5:40 am


Skelton CrewFebruary 26, 2015 - 2:09 pm

Thanks for the info, it’s nice to hear first hand (recent) experiences!! So far our vet is willing to work with us but is by no means well versed in cruising with pets. I’m guessing that the “this certificate is valid for 30 days after issuance” statement on the bottom of the health cert has not been a problem when outside the 30 day validity?? Thanks again, cheers! ~Jackie

SandyFebruary 27, 2015 - 11:25 pm

Re’ good books, have you read “The Art of Racing in the Rain”? As a dog lover u will love it. Also ” On the Wind and a Prayer ” by Paul Koestner (available only on Amazon). Hope to run into you one of these days.

LAHOWINDFebruary 28, 2015 - 6:21 pm

Hi Jackie! I got one that was not dated so I wouldn’t have to worry. Any chance you can get that from your vet? Otherwise, get it as close as humanly possible to when you leave the U.S.

Skelton CrewMarch 2, 2015 - 2:30 pm

I’ll have to look into an undated option, not sure if we can get that. I plan to send it off to the Bahamas before we leave MI so the certificate will be current (and the Bahamian pet permit is good for a year). We may have to get another while in FL but I really hope not! Thanks for the tips! :)

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