Friday, June 15, 2007

Expats and Their Expets : Expatriating to the Caribbean with Your Pet

Chester aka "Not Worth Much"
Want to escape to the Caribbean AND take your beloved dog, cat or turtle?

This usually can be done, but nothing is easy when you are dealing with island life. Be prepared for a challenge!

Unfortunately, there is no uniformity of pet policies between the island nations of the Caribbean. Some allow pets in as long as they have documentation of shots. Others, like Jamaica, only accept animals born and raised in the U.K. Even guide dogs on Jamaica must be U.K. dogs!


Each island has its own rules and requirements, some more stringent than others.

It is important to check directly with the government of the country you plan to enter before taking a pet with you. Policies can change- an unpleasant surprise might await if you fail to do the necessary homework! Proper documentation of your pet’s health history and vaccination record must be on the forms that country requires. Island bureaucrats really like their forms.

That being said, it is not always the island government that messes with your buddy’s immigration plans.

When I planned to move to Dominica with my husband and Chester the Pug, I assumed we should be able to take a dog with us when we fly, right?

After all, my brother had flown his Poodle all over the world with him. But no, not a Puggie in the tropics.

No airline would take our “free” rescued dog from Puerto Rico to Dominica. They have rules about snub nose dogs and ambient temperatures. Some Caribbean airlines do not carry animals at all, no matter the temperature.

This policy is probably a sound one since most airlines do not air condition their cargo holds. Animals are thrown in with luggage and handled by baggage handlers on most airlines.

They can be left sweltering on the tarmac when delays occur: Not pet friendly environments. And Pug dogs are known to be easily stressed by heat.


Continental Airlines has carved out a niche catering to pet lovers. Hiring designated handlers for their living cargo, the animals are not left unattended. Plus, they have special areas that are climate controlled! So, we had no concern flying Continental with our pooch as far as Puerto Rico. But Continental didn’t fly into Dominica.

For a free dog, “Chesta” (as he is called by island folk) cost us a lot when we had to charter a plane to get him to the island. Of course, it wasn’t a fancy plane; in fact it was a relic from some earlier aviation era. Still, chartering a plane seemed mighty fancy to our Midwestern sensibilities.

We discussed leaving our boy behind but realized that amid such life upheaval we really needed the comfort of having our pet with us. Also, because he looks very different from island dogs, our furry friend has made it easy for us to meet and chat with people everywhere we go.

Children often recognize him as Frank from the movie “Men in Black”. One child shyly approached us, “Can he talk like the dog in the movie?” We still chuckle about this, and these experiences make us glad we brought Mr. Pug.

One advantage of using a charter was that it allowed us to bring a lot of extra luggage to the island, which was handy since we were making a permanent move.

When we landed on Dominica, the customs man looked at “Chesta” and remarked, “He’s not worth much”.

We did not have to pay duty on our expensive free dog. This may not be the case for you, if your beastie looks more valuable than ours.

Dominica requires pets entering to have complete health and vaccination documentation prior to entry. Our vet at home coordinated with the veterinarians on the island to make sure Chester's "papers" for entry were in order. We felt lucky that Dominica does not require immigrant critters with proper documentation to be quarantined. Some Caribbean nations will place your companion in a tropical Ellis Island for up to six months (at your expense). I am very grateful I never had to visit my best friend in doggie jail.


I have an expat friend from Switzerland who wanted to move her turtle with her to Dominica. She was given her pet as a small child and when, in her fifties, she planned to retire in Dominica she wanted her turtle to retire with her.

Checking with all the airlines, none would accept such an exotic pet and she had to leave her life-long friend behind in Switzerland. There is still grief when she speaks of her old buddy.

Be aware that the usual pet products you buy at home may not be available on your island.
Pet emigration and pet immigration

We brought a years supply of heartworm and flea and tick prevention, and have ordered replacements from up North as it runs out. Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes abound in the tropics, so be sure to bring prevention for your pets.

After struggling to find a commercial food Chesta would eat, he now eats a homemade diet, which is probably better for him than store bought products anyway. I know he likes it better. And it is less expensive to feed him lovely chicken, or fresh tuna, and rice than to ship in Science Diet.


So, be prepared to research in depth about your island’s animal import policies (you can start with our handy links).

But also check carefully the rules of the carrier you plan to use to move your pet. We found different airline employees have different answers to the same question. Finding the “final answer” may take considerable time, so start early in your planning to move with your pets.

In spite of all the hassles, I am very glad we brought our beast with us. He is a link to our old life, and a joy in our new Caribbean Life! Expat life would not be the same without our Expet.

Chester and I hope to see you “down island” with us soon.

In order to help you in your research I have set out below some references that may help you with your research.

Embassy of Barbados
(202) 939-9200
2144 Wyoming Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
The following guidelines must be followed when importing any animal into Barbados:
• An import permit must be obtained from the Chief Veterinary Officer before the importation of all animals, reptiles and birds.
• A Veterinary Officer must examine the animal before it is allowed to leave the customs area.
• Dogs and cats must be free of any communicable disease. These animals may be imported by permit directly from the UK, Ireland, Jamaica, St.Kitts - Nevis, Antigua, St.Lucia and St.Vincent.
• Cats and dogs originating from all other countries must undergo 6 months quarantine in Britain after which time an import permit can be secured.
• For further inquiries, contact Veterinary Services at

Tel: (246) 427-5073 or Fax: (246) 420-8444 .

Immigration of pets BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Embassy of BVI
3100 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 588-6500
Fax: (202) 588-7870

Pets entering the BVI are subject to the same restrictions and applicable six-month quarantine period as those pets entering the U.K.
Pets will not be admitted without prior clearance. For regulations on pets entering the Territory, write well in advance to the Chief Agricultural Officer, Road Town, Tortola, B.V.I., tel: (284) 495-2451 or call the Humane Society of the B.V.I, tel: (284) 494-2284.

Immigration of pets CAYMAN ISLANDS
Domestic pets entering Cuba must have a full set of vaccinations as defined by your veterinarian. The rabies vaccine is especially recommended, as are shots for distemper and hepatitis. All pets entering Cuba must have a certificate of good health signed by a veterinarian and dated within 10 days of the animal’s arrival in Cuba. It is not necessary that a State official sign the certificate. Your veterinarian’s signature is sufficient. Upon arrival in Cuba, a Cuban veterinarian at the airport will certify that your pet has received the proper vaccinations and that you have a health certificate. Cuba imposes a 15-day at-home quarantine on all arriving pets. Please notify USINT well in advance of any pets that you plan to bring so that proper clearances can be arranged.

Immigration of pets CURACAO
Embassy of Curacao
4200 Linnean Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 244-5300
Fax: (202) 362-3430
Pets will need just a current Veterinarian Health Certificate to gain entrance.

Immigration of pets DOMINICA

Animals may enter the country if accompanied by a valid Veterinary Health Certificate plus an importation permit

Livestock Development Unit
Botanic Gardens
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies

Telephone: 767- 266- 3827/3824
Fax: 767- 448- 7999

Immigration of pets DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Embassy of The Dominican Republic
1715 - 22nd Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 332-6280
Fax: (202) 265-8057
Pets must have a health certificate issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian. The certificate shall contain the name and address of the owner, and complete identification of the animal (name, breed, sex, and age). The pet must also have been examined within 30 days prior to departure and found to be free of any infectious diseases. The pet must also have been vaccinated against rabies. The rabies vaccination certificate (which should have been given between 1 month and 12 months prior to entry) should include the date of vaccination, product name and serial number.

Immigration of pets GUADELOPE
Cats and dogs over three months old are admitted temporarily with certificates of origin and good health (or anti-rabies inoculation), issued by a licensed veterinarian from the country of shipment.

Immigration of pets GRENADA
The procedure for the importation of animals in general (dogs and cats in particular) is as follows:
• A Veterinary officer or an officer of the Pest Management Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture must inspect the animals prior to entry.
• Any person intending to import or take these animals from their vessels, whether permanent or temporary, must make an application sufficiently in advance to any of the above agencies.
• Such an application must be accompanied by a copy of a certificate from the last place of residence certifying that the animal has been vaccinated against diseases and is free from illnesses and infections.
Cats and dogs that are imported permanently from outside of the CARICOM region attract a 40% CET (Common External Tariff) and 5% CSC.
Embassy of Grenada
(202) 265-2561
1701 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20009

Importation of animals is prohibited without an Import Permit. Proper Veterinary Health documents must be produced and the Government Veterinary Officer must be notified of the port of entry and the expected time of arrival.

Immigration of pets JAMAICA
Embassy of Jamaica
(202) 452-0660
Fax: (202) 452-0081
1520 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 452-0660
Fax: (202) 452-0081
No dog or cat shall be imported into Jamaica except such an animal was born and breed in Great Britain, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. This applies to Guide Dogs also. Dogs and Cats vaccinated against rabies are not allowed entry into Jamaica .

Immigration of pets MARTINIQUE
Cats and dogs over three months old are admitted temporarily with certificates of origin and good health (or anti-rabies inoculation), issued by a licensed veterinarian from the country of shipment.

Immigration of pets MONTSERRAT
Montserrat Tourism

Pets must have Veterinary Health certificates and inoculations records and will be quarantined between three to six months.

Immigration of pets NEVIS AND ST. KITTS
Click her for more information
about bringing your pet to Nevis and St.Kitts

Immigration of pets PUERTO RICO
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a United States territory and requires that pets come with a current Veterinary Health Certificate (with a list of inoculations).

Immigration of pets ST. BARTS
Cats and dogs over three months old are admitted temporarily with certificates of origin and good health (or anti-rabies inoculation), issued by a licensed veterinarian from the country of shipment.

Immigration of pets ST. LUCIA
Embassy of St. Lucia
3216 New Mexico Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 364-6792
Fax: (202) 364-6723

Pets must have a Veterinary Import Permit before they may enter St. Lucia. This may be arranged for by contacting the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Department. They must also adhere to the following requirements:
• The cat/dog must be electronically identifiable by having had an acceptable type of microchip implanted. Microchips must conform to ISO standard 11784.
• The cat/dog must be vaccinated against rabies at or over three months of age using inactivated and adjuvant vaccine approved by the veterinary authority of the exporting country.
• A blood test must be carried out not less than 30 days after the date the vaccination was done.
• The blood sample must be sent to an approved laboratory facility. The veterinary authority of the exporting country must accredit the laboratory. In order to qualify for permission, the blood test must show rabies and antibody trait equal or more than 0.5 IU/ml.
• Once permission has been granted, the cat/dog would be able to travel into St Lucia, 180 days (6 months) after the date the blood sample was taken.
• The cat/dog must be treated no more than 48 hours before entry into St Lucia with a preparation for the treatment of ticks and fleas and with an anthelmintic preparation.

Immigration of pets ST.MARTIN
Import Regulations: Pets are admitted if they have the following documentation:

1. A current health certificate (this needs to be dated less than 10 days prior to departure)
2. The pet must have a rabies vaccination certificate that has been issued between 1 month and 12 months before entering St. Martin.

Immigration of pets ST. VINCENT
Summary of Requirements
The following protocols for exporting animals to St. Vincent are available through the International Regulations Retrieval System (IRRS):
Direct shipment of pets, dogs and cats, from the US to St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not permitted. Dogs and cats from the US first have to enter legally into the U.K. Once in the U.K. the owner of the pet has to request entrance into St. Vincent.

Embassy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
3216 New Mexico Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 364-6730
Fax: (202) 364-6736

Pets from the UK, New Zealand and Australia are allowed into St. Vincent and The Grenadines on presentation of a health certificate to the government veterinary office. Pets from all other countries require a six-month quarantine. Pets can enter Vincentian waters on yachts, but must remain onboard at all times unless the above requirements are met.

Immigration of pets TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

Click on these links for further information about bringing your pet into these countries, Trinidad and Tobago

Immigration of pets U.S VIRGIN ISLANDS
The US. Virgin Islands require a current Veterinary Health Certificate for your pet.


billy said...

lots of info. incredible.

Anonymous said...

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Their website is