Bringing a Dog to Costa Rica – Part Two – Forms, Vets & Prep

rindo2As I mentioned in Part One of this series about bringing a dog to Costa Rica, it was a process to get ready to bring our dog, Rindo, to Costa Rica. Now that airline tickets have been purchased and reserved, it was time to get down to the technical details of the journey.

When we booked the ticket for myself and Rindo to fly down to Costa Rica, the American Airlines agent explained most of the important details over the phone. There was an entire list of rules, regulations and requirements. She explained the size that Rindo’s kennel needed to be (3 inches above her head while sitting up tall, enough room to stand up and rotate 360 degrees with ease), she told me that we needed to have an airline approved kennel, that we needed to have water and food bowls attached to her door, we needed to provide padding that would absorb bathroom breaks, we would need to bring zip ties to secure the door even further, etc.

She also explained that we would need a Healthy Dog checkup dated no more than 10 days prior to travel as well as copies of all vaccinations and rabies shots. She also mentioned that we would need “a form” signed prior to our travel date for customs, but she was not very clear about what that form actually was. She tried to find out for me, but after 10 minutes on hold, the answer still seemed to be eluding her, so I was left to find out what that form was on my own.

Naturally, I turned to the internet to search for all the requirements. The last thing I needed was to land on Costa Rica and find out that we were not being allowed entry because of a technicality. I found a great website that would send me everything I needed to bring a dog to Costa Rica for a mere $25. In retrospect, I could have found the information on my own, but it was worth it to me to make sure I didn’t miss something. I ordered the “Pet Passport” information and was sent a ton of great information about traveling with Rindo and all the forms that would need to be completed. The mystery form turned out to be a form that needed to be signed by the USDA to certify that Rindo was in fact safe to travel and had “approval” to leave the country. I still had no clue as to how to get that form completed at that point, but at least knew WHICH form it was now.

Next steps were a number of trips to the Vet. Our vet was very excited about Rindo’s upcoming travel and went WAY above and beyond for us, doing hours of research and making calls for us to help navigate the paperwork and regulations. We are so thankful for Harmony Vets. Erin took Rindo down to the vet with all the paperwork I had received and they were on it. Rindo was updated with all of her vaccinations and medications (ticks, probiotics, and even some natural dog treats that help keep dogs calm on flights (or in any stressful situation). Both the Vet and the Airlines highly discourage tranquilizing animals for flights as they have a hard time regulating their temperatures while tranquilized, so these natural treats with tryptophan were the suggested solution.  The vets also explained to us (after they made a bunch of phone calls) that the USDA form would need to be signed IN PERSON (of course) just a few days before our trip and gave us the number of the local USDA office to schedule an appointment.

When it was all said and done, Rindo had all of her paperwork completed and all we needed was a signature from the USDA office. Check. Done.

Erin scheduled an appointment for the following week and drove down to the USDA office for a simple (hour long wait) signature. Done.

In the mean time, I was on Amazon ordering a kennel and the additional things we needed (food and water bowls, absorbent padding, live animal stickers, metal screws for the kennel (it comes with plastic ones that the airlines won’t accept) etc.

rindo3The final step was to trim Rindo with a super short haircut to try to keep her as cool as possible on the beach. She’s always been our shaggy muppet dog, so when she came home from the groomers looking about 20 pounds lighter we all got a good laugh at her new trim. She was ready.

The night before we left we had everything in place. Copies of the paperwork attached to the kennel, originals in my carry on, kennel assembled, accessories attached and the final touches.

That night I had a hard time sleeping as I was tossing and turning and having stress dreams about my day of travel ahead.

As far as I could figure out, we were ready to go. Fingers crossed. Maybe toes too.

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  1. Hi Matt,
    I read posts on tripadvisors that it was not recommended to take dogs to Liberia CR because of all the stray dogs and fleas and ticks infested issues. Since your last article arriving there, would you say this to be true?
    My husband and I are planning a trip there for just one week and am a bit concern about that. Please share your experience with Rindo now that you are there.

    1. Author

      Hi there Liz – We have not had any issues with fleas or ticks at all, but I do have a number of friends who have had ticks with their dogs. Most residents do a tick check on their dogs every few days just to be safe. That being said, I would never consider bringing a dog for only a week due to the paperwork involved alone. You’d have to go to the vet a day after your arrival to start the export process, etc. My suggestion would be to check with your own vet to get their opinion, but I would not want to bring Rindo down for a week, way too much work 🙂 Hope that helps with your decision making process!

  2. Was it hard to find a place to rent with a dog? We are planning on renting a place for a year and are running in to a few road blocks…

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