Cruising the Eastern Caribbean with Your Dog: Sometimes Challenging, Often Possible
If you think Eastern Caribbean check-in procedures are inconsistent, different on every island, time consuming, annoying and sometimes costly, try doing it with a dog… We, human beings, can visit any country in the Caribbean without proving our healthiness, but our totally healthy pets (who would want to have a rabid dog on their boat?) need health records, up-to-date vaccinations, microchips and health certificates. To be able to experience the Caribbean with our four legged friends, and do it legally, as required by all the different islands, cruisers have to put up with a lot of hassle, frustration, misinformation, time commitment and fees and show a high level of endurance on top of it all. But, it is possible!
There are certain rules for bringing a pet into every country and my Mark and I don’t mind following them as long as they make sense and the fees aren’t exorbitant. We respect the fact that islands want to stay rabies free and want to protect their people. We try to do whatever we can to abide by the rules to properly check our dog Darwin into each country. We have all the documents and vaccination records, we keep up to date with all the required shots, give him his monthly dose of heart worm pills and flea and tick medicine, we obtain health certificates when necessary and we are responsible dog owners (we clean up after our dog in areas where people walk, our dog listens to us, rarely barks and is well behaved). We try to research the regulations, prepare accordingly and request details where needed. None of this is easy, however, as there is no consistency, a lot of information online is incorrect, correspondence remains unanswered, things change without notice and nobody really knows what the actual regulations are or what to do when we go through the check-in process.
With the following overview I will try to inform you about the check-in procedures for your dog in the Eastern Caribbean islands. This information is based on correspondence with government officials and agriculture departments, online regulations and our own experience. It will give you an idea about what cruising the Caribbean with your dog involves and hopefully will make things easier when checking into the countries. Whether things go as planned or expected will always be a surprise. I can not guarantee that you will receive the same treatment, fees or information as we did. This is the Caribbean after all!
Just like in the United States and Puerto Rico, it is very easy to visit the USVI with your dog. There is a check box on the customs form and the officer may ask a few questions. Be sure to bring your dog’s paperwork, just in case he/she needs to see the vaccination records. You should have a Rabies Certificate that is less than three years old.
Contact: Ms. M. Tyson
Phone: 284-495-2110 (ext 124), 284-468-9693, 284-468-9243 or 284-495-2532
Fax: 284-495-1936 or 284-495-1269
Requirements: Microchip, Government Health Certificate, Rabies Certificate (<1 year), DHCCP Certificate, Titer Certificate.
Procedure: Fill out application obtained via email or fax with
tentative date and time of arrival. Fax Application,
Government Health Certificate (for example from USVI: from vet in St Thomas -in walking distance from Charlotte Amalie- and
endorsed by Department of Agriculture in Dorthea via cab ride), Rabies Certificate, DHCCP
Certificate, Titer Certificate. Ideally all the
documents state the dog’s microchip. Dog must be checked in at West End or Road
Town in Tortola. The morning you depart port for Tortola, call 1-284-468-9693 or 1-284-468-9243 to let them know more specific date and time of arrival. Bring yourself and pet
to customs. Officer will meet you there, inspect the animal, read the
microchip, look through the documents, collect the fee and issue the import
Experience: We emailed back and forth multiple times, but the important communication had to be done by fax. They need a fax number to send the conditions and application form. They faxed us an application, we filled it out and sent it back. They would fax an import permit back to us, but we preferred that the vet who would examine our dogs would bring the permit with him in West End.
Remarks: Ms. Tyson is very nice, helpful and responsive to email with. The inspecting vets are friendly, efficient and professional. The official regulations state more requirements but the above mentioned ones seem sufficient. We did get questioned about only having one instead of two titer (serological) tests done and about the fact that our titer is older than 12 months. We proved that our dogs were healthy and stressed the fact that it is very hard to obtain extra titer certificates from the Caribbean (blood samples can only be sent to and tested in two places in the whole world: one in the UK and one in Kansas, USA). As long as the dog has subsequent rabies shots to date, one titer certificate should do, according to the strict UK requirements we use as our “make sense guidelines”.
When checking in to these French islands, pets don’t have to be declared. It is recommended that you have the dog’s paperwork on board and that you act responsibly.
Remarks: We have found that many beaches have “no dogs” signs (not often enforced) and locals don’t seem too pleased about or interested in pets (compared to the English speaking islands). Many restaurants do allow a dog at your side, however.
Contact: William K. Vanterpool
Requirements: Health Certificate, Rabies Certificate (< 1 year)
Procedure: Apply for an import permit for your dog by phone. The permit is filled out over the phone, signed by the vet and faxed to you. Once in Anguilla, take permit and health certificate to the port of entry. The permit must then be paid for at the Agriculture Department in The Village (on the road to Crocus Bay).
Fee: US$ 16 (EC$ 40)
Experience: We did not make any preparations and only planned on spending two nights in Road Bay if all worked out OK. We tried to contact the government vet multiple times, without success, and ended up explaining our predicament (of not getting a response and a dog that needed to relief himself) to customs. We promised to never take him beyond the beach and received a reluctant “go ahead” until we got in touch with the government vet, which never happened during our brief visit.
Remarks: The government of Anguilla is very strict about Import Permits, so it is highly recommended getting in touch with them before arrival. Persistence is required in getting through to the office.
Contact: Glenn Holm
Recommended: Current Health Certificate, Rabies Certificate, dog’s paperwork
Procedure: Pets do not have to be declared on the customs form.
Experience: Before we arrived in Statia, the Director of Tourism of Saba, Glenn Holm, replied to my inquiry as follows: “There's a great chance you won't even be checked or asked for the documentation but it’s always good to have it on hand just in case you are asked.” He indicated that the rules are the same for both sister islands.
Remarks: Emailing with Glenn Holm was a pleasant experience and we encountered no problems whatsoever taking our dog ashore in Statia and St. Maarten.
Contact: Dr. Challenger, Dr. Lesroy Henri
Requirements: Rabies Certificate, Titer Certificate, Health Certificate
Procedure: Email or fax the dog’s documents with an idea of the date and time of the ship’s arrival. In the port of entry, a vet will inspect the animal and issue an import permit.
Fee: US$ 40 (EC $ 100) weekdays from 8 am - 4 pm
US$ 50 (EC$ 125) after 4 pm and on weekends
Experience: Information online is inadequate (email@example.com never responds or its mailbox is full), communication with the government vets ranges from non-existent (many unanswered inquiries) to confusing and non-clarifying. After emailing the required documents and not hearing anything back, we decided to show up in Basseterre with our dog. Nobody at customs knew what to do, the vets were unreachable or busy for at least 24 hours and everything was a huge hassle and mystery while our dog was not allowed on shore. We decided to move the boat to a more remote area during our visit in these islands. Voted the most difficult Caribbean island to visit with your dog.
Remarks: Good luck with this one! Inefficiency and lack of communication makes it hard for a cruising pet owner to do the right thing in order to visit this country. If you need some assistance, Akela Browne of the St. Kitts Tourism Bureau in Basseterre (firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 869- 465-4040 or cell: 869-662-7588) proved helpful in one instance.
Contact: Dr. Nicholas C A. Waldron, Dr. Selvin Maloney
Phone: 664-491-2076 or 664-491-2546
Website: in progress
Requirements: Rabies Certificate, Titer Certificate, DHCCP Certificate, list of all ports visited within the last 6 weeks prior to arrival in Montserrat, treatment for internal and external parasites (between 3-7 days before arrival), Health Certificate from previously visited country.
Procedure: Email or fax the required health documents with the list of visited ports. Inform the veterinary officer of the date and approximate time of arrival at least 48 hours prior to anchoring. Upon checking in, inform the customs officer about the dog aboard and a government vet will inspect the animal and make a final decision on its entry (and more than likely hands you an import permit).
Experience: Correspondence with the vet department went smooth and the inspection was short and efficient. No questions were asked and no more documents needed to be shown. We treat our dog monthly for parasites, but were not asked for proof. We did not have a health certificate from St. Kitts and Nevis (the previously visited country), but when we explained why, they accepted our health certificate from St. Maarten.
Remarks: Temporarily importing your dog in Montserrat can be done efficiently, painlessly, and in a timely manner. Dr. Waldron and Dr. Maloney were prompt and courteous with their responses and inspection.
Contact: Helena Jeffery Brown, Dr. Oona Edwards (the new Chief Vet Officer)
Phone: 268-462-6104 or 268-764-1263
Requirements: Microchip, Rabies Certificate (< 1 year), Titer Certificate, Lyme Disease Test (< 6 months), medical and vaccination history, Government Health Certificate (< 7 days), treatment for internal and external parasites (< 7 days before arrival) .
Procedure: Fax or email the information required to start the import license process. After the documents have been reviewed, an import license can be issued upon arrival. Inform the Veterinary Division of the date and time of arrival at least 48 hours ahead of time and contact them (let them know you need a Lyme Disease Test if needed) upon check in. A government vet will come inspect the animal and the documents. If you don’t have a Lyme Disease Certificate, the test can be done upon arrival for the equivalent of US$ 41 (EC$ 110).
Fee: US$ 50 or EC$ 130 for the inspection
Experience: Before we arrived in Antigua, we never found out about the fees (they are mentioned on the website now) and we didn’t have a Lyme Disease test. Our boat had to be tied on the quarantine dock in Jolly Harbour before we were allowed to check ourselves in with a dog. Check on this procedure in English/ Falmouth Harbour. We were prepared to obtain the Lyme Disease test here if the fee was reasonable. After four hours of waiting, the vet arrived and before obliging to anything else we wanted to know the fees. They were all but reasonable. It would cost us over US $ 90 just for the dog to be able to legally visit Antigua and Barbuda. Add the fee for a cruising permit and the cost was just too high for us, “poor” budget cruisers. We decided against paying and therefore visiting these islands. We explained the situation to Customs and Immigration and told them it was too late and we were too tired to continue our trip to Guadeloupe. We obtained permission to spend the night in Jolly Harbour after paying for the cruising permit and were told to keep the dog on board.
Remarks: If you are willing to pay the high fees, visiting Antigua and Barbuda with your dog is possible after declaring the animal in Antigua. Maybe check the price of the Lyme Disease test in a previous country first to save some money. The rules are straightforward and the vets efficient. Communication seems to have improved as well.
Contact: Dr. St. Aimee
Phone: 767-266-3824 or 767-266-3827
Requirements: Health Certificate, DHCCP Certificate, Rabies Certificate (< 1 year), Titer Certificate, treatment for parasites
Procedure: Fax or email the dog’s paperwork and health certificate. If all is in order, an import permit will be faxed/emailed back to you after the documents have been reviewed. Show this import permit when you check in.
Experience: Communication with the vet department and obtaining the import permit is easy and straightforward (and free!). The permit is valid for 1 month. After the custom’s officer saw our printed permit, all was OK the first time we visited Dominica in 2009, but now the Custom’s Department insists you call the government vet for an inspection before landing the dog. The numbers on the permit were invalid or remained unanswered when we tried multiple times, so we sent our contact another email to clarify the matter. So far, no inspection is needed to land your dog in Dominica; a valid import permit is enough.
Remarks: Dominica is an easy place to temporarily import your dog, but be prepared to ignore the custom’s officer when asked to call the vet before landing your dog.
Contact: Dr. Auria King-Cenac, Dr. Sharmine Melville
Phone: Government Vet Office: 758-468-5621 or 758-468-5623 (miss Louis= receptionist)
Cell phone Dr. Melville: 758-460-6889
Website: www.slumaffe.org (Veterinary & Livestock link)
Requirements: Microchip, Rabies Certificate (< 1 year), Titer Certificate (< 2 years), DHCCP Certificate, treatment for parasites, Health Certificate
Procedure: Fill out the application form for an import permit (available online) and email or fax it to the Agriculture Department, together with the dog’s health records and an expected date of arrival. A current health certificate (ideally from the country previously visited) is required upon arrival. When arriving in St. Lucia, check in with customs, immigration and the port office (all in the same room in Rodney Bay) and call the vet office to arrange a time for one of the vets to come and inspect the dog, scan the microchip, bring a permit and collect the fee. The dog is NOT allowed onshore without a permit.
Fee: US $ 18 (EC$ 45) when applying for a permit ahead of time (= preferred)
US$ 26 (EC$ 65) when applying for the permit upon arrival (= requires 2 visits of the vet)
Experience: The email address available online has been having problems for a year, but the private email addresses above will get a conversation going. Checking your dog into St. Lucia is straight forward and easy in Rodney Bay. Either you or the customs officer can call the Agriculture Department to set up a meeting with the vet. He will come to the marina/dock.
Remarks: The best place to arrive in St. Lucia is Rodney Bay, where the process has been done by other cruisers many times before, customs can help with the phone number or a phone call and the vet office is not too far away (towards Castries). Our experience in Soufriere was demotivating, expensive and non-professional. It is advised to keep the permit with you each time you take your dog to shore. We have been asked for it by an immigration official walking around the Rodney Bay Marina area. Allowing foreign dogs into the country is a relatively new development in St. Lucia, so locals might ask you whether your dog is cleared in or wrongly tell you that he/she is not allowed in their country.
Contact: Dr. Glasgow or Dr. Hackshaw
Phone: Government Vet Office: 784-450-0326 or 784-457-2452
Cell phone Dr. Glasgow: 784-493-0575
Requirements: Microchip, Rabies Certificate, Titer Certificate, DHCCP Certificate, Government Issued Export Health Certificate (important!), treatment for parasites
Procedure: Contact the vet department to obtain an application for an import permit. Fax or email the application with the dog’s health records and an estimated date of arrival. Obtain a Government Issued Health Certificate from the rabies-free country you are coming from (St. Lucia is the obvious choice. You will have to take your dog to the Department of Agriculture either by taxi, hitching a ride or private transportation). Sail to the south coast of St. Vincent, anchor or pick up a mooring at Young Island Cut. 48 hours notice of arrival must be given. Once in Young Island Cut or another anchorage close by, call the vet department to set up an appointment. Meet the vet at the ferry dock, where she will inspect the dog and paperwork and issue the import permit. The permit is valid for three months. Continue somewhere else to check yourself and the boat in.
Fee: Free from Monday to Friday before 4 pm
Experience: After trying to figure all this out for months and skipping the area twice, we were persistent and managed to visit SVG with our dog, which is possible but hard. We had everything in order to arrive from Martinique, only to learn (after tons of unanswered email inquiries and one final phone call that got through) that this was impossible. The Government Health Certificate has to be issued in a rabies-free country, which basically only leaves St. Lucia as “previously visited country”. Dogs coming from Grenada with all the required documents have been denied. Once we got in touch with the department and got the procedure straight, all went smooth from the moment we met the vet on shore. Dr. Glasgow is very understanding, efficient and professional to deal with.
Remarks: The email address is known to have problems, so to save a lot of frustration, calling might be the better plan of action. The information available about importing a dog in SVG states that the dog first has to fly to the UK, await quarantine and then be transported to SVG by plane (is there even an international airport?). The government of SVG has recently become more lenient with their rules because of cruisers wanting to visit with their dogs. Be aware that not everybody knows about those “new rules” for cruisers. You will be questioned (and summoned to “put your dog back on the yacht”) by officials and locals in bigger towns where you walk your pet. It is recommended that you always carry your import permit with you. Even though the actual import permit and inspection are free, the costs of checking everybody into a rabies-free country prior to arriving in SVG (not a problem if you planned on visiting this island anyway), obtaining an Export Health Certificate and making the necessary phone calls to St. Vincent to make the whole process work, can add up.
Contact: Ministry of Agriculture
Phone: 473-440-2708 or 473-440-3078 or 473-440-3083
Procedure: Ask for import permit by email/phone and get this faxed/emailed to you.
Experience: When checking into Grenada, pets have to be declared on the customs form, but no questions are asked. It is recommended that you have the dog’s paperwork on board and that you act responsibly.
Remarks: No response is given when using the government email address. Use the personal email address instead. Calling works best.
Contact: Animal Health
Phone: 868-625-5997 or 868-625-1473
Procedure: Every pet to officially be landed in Trinidad requires 1-6 month quarantine, unless coming from a rabies-free country where he/she resided for at least six months.
Fee: US$ 3 (TT$ 20) per day for a 30-day quarantine
US$ 1.5 (TT$ 10) per day for a six-month quarantine
US$ 1.5 (TT$ 10) for the landing fee
Remarks: When checking into the country, your dog has to be declared and paperwork presented. Then he/she has to resume on the boat, which counts as quarantine.
Contact: Dr. Rosina Maitland
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 246-427-5073 or 246-427-5492
Requirements: Dog has to be imported directly from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand OR must have been living continuously for six months in Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent, St. Lucia or Jamaica prior to entering Barbados.
Procedure: Complete an application form (available online), pay the fee, give three days notice of the dog’s expected arrival date, along with transportation information, import permit number, name, address and contact information pet owner and name and information customs broker.
Fee: US$ 12.5 (BDS$ 25) permit fee
US$ 30 (BDS$ 60) landing fee
As a conclusion, it is a good idea to stay up to date with the rabies and DHCCP shots and have current health and vaccination records for your dog. Together with a proper way of identification (microchip), this mostly covers your pet’s requirements for the Eastern Caribbean islands. Import permits are generally valid for one month. Please note that certain aggressive breeds are not allowed in the islands.
The overview is based on a dog coming from a country where rabies exists or after a brief stay in a rabies-free country. If your dog was stationed for over six months in a rabies-free country before (non-stop) arriving in another rabies-free country, everything is much easier.
Declaring your dog the “right” way will, of course, require more effort, hassle, planning and money than just sneaking him/her ashore for some quick walks or confining him/her on board. If the respective island governments make it easy, straight forward and free/cheap for pet owners to abide by the rules, however, checking a pet into the country would be no issue and all cruising dogs could enjoy unlimited sniffs in the countryside and super long beach walks without questions asked or nervous looks over the shoulder. Here’s to happy sailing and exploring for our furry companions!
Caribbean Compass letter section: (3 issues)
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