Moving a pet across international borders can be a daunting process, but not an impossible one. There are only a few steps, but the timing is what will prove difficult. From the USDA to the Panamanian consulate, take our advice, follow this guide, and bring that loving pet along.
Beware: The procedure for transporting pets could change from time to time. Check the Embassy of Panama website to make sure that the requirements have not changed.
Steps In The Pet Transporting Process…
- Ensure your pet has the necessary vaccinations and that they are administered within the time requirements.
- Confirm your crate meets airline requirements. The pet needs to be able to stand up with head room to spare and comfortably turn around in the crate.
- Make your travel arrangements about two to three months ahead of when you want to arrive.
- Discuss the health certificate with your veterinarian.
- Have the health certificate completed by your vet 10 days before you travel.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture must certify the health certificate.
- Have the Panamanian Consulate or the U.S. State Department Office of Authentications issue an apostille for the health certificate. (This is a document which verifies the certificate is legitimate and authentic.)
- Apply for home quarantine three days before you travel.
- Have exact cash, for the import fee and for the home quarantine, to pay what you need at the airport.
- Check in with the pet three to four hours before your departure and know that all the paperwork travels with the animal, not with you.
Now, take a deep breath…
Tips To Help You Through The Process…
- Know What You Need: Panama does not require a parasite check, but it does require a leptospirosis vaccine and a parvo vaccine (generally considered a puppy disease). Panama also only accepts one-year rabies shots for the health certificate. There are deadlines associated with all of these shots, so make sure you get them within the required times.
- Details, Details, Details: Make sure you have records of all the vet visits and vaccinations from the very first visit until the last. The health certificate requires the vaccine manufacturer and expiration date. Make sure your vet is aware of that.
- Hire An International Pet Shipper: Although you and your pet may be flying on the same plane, hiring an international pet shipper will help things run smoother. For example, Jackie’s Pet Services is certified with IPATA, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. They not only make the dog’s flight reservations, but they also walk you through the paperwork maze, and make phone calls to bureaucracies on your behalf.
- Use Every Minute Of Time You Have: From the day your pet’s veterinarian signs the health certificate, you have only 10 days to get into Panama, and the certificate must be signed off by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and either the U.S. State Department Office of Certification or the Panamanian Consulate in that time.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Make Phone Calls: Making a phone call to offices in Washington, D.C., may be slightly nerve-wracking. However, those in the Panamanian Consulate in D.C. who take care of pet paperwork are generally friendly, helpful, and are willing to take the time you need to get answers to your questions.
- Don’t Believe Everything You Read: Unlike many European countries or island nations that are working to keep out rabies, Panama does not require a kennel quarantine. A home quarantine is allowable, meaning the pet has to stay with you for some number of days. Some websites will tell you 30 days, some will say 40, some won’t offer any explanation at all. You do have to apply for home quarantine, though. Some websites say apply 10 days ahead of time. The Panamanian Embassy website says three days is enough. Working through the maze of contradicting information is time consuming and sometimes frustrating. Just be sure to make all the necessary phone calls and ask the right people and you’ll be fine.
- Plan To Arrive At The Airport In Panama During The Vet’s Working Hours: Generally, a veterinarian who approves the health certificate and home quarantine is at the airport from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. However, be aware of holidays. There are many in the month of November, for example, and you don’t want to spend hours waiting at the airport for someone to come approve your paperwork.
- Be Prepared To Answer Lots Of Questions: Prior to departure, you will have to go through a couple of pages of fine-printed questions with the airline. These range from could the dog be pregnant to would the dog be used for fighting. It’s a long part of the process and one reason you should check in several hours before the flight.
- Know Your Neighborhood: Like many big American cities, Panama City is a series of distinct neighborhoods. When you arrive, authorities will ask you where you plan to stay. You can’t just say you are staying in Panama City. You need to let authorities know if you will be in El Cangrejo, Bella Vista, San Francisco, or one of the myriads of other barrios that make up the city.
- Make Copies Of Everything: You will not get the health certificate back from the veterinarian at the airport. We recommend you make copies of everything before turning it over to the airline. Also, you may not have anyone—apartment managers, security, police officers, or park officials—ask for the dog’s papers once you’ve been let out of the aiport in Panama. Still, it’s a good idea to keep the little stamped OK/receipt you receive from the vet at the airport with you at all times, just in case.
- Don’t Be Surprised By… Anything: The vet at the airport in Panama might not even look at the dog, just the dog’s paperwork. Airport personnel in the United States might ask you out-of-the-ordinary questions like are you transporting your dog to use for dog fighting. Also, no toys are allowed in the dog’s crate during transportation. These are just a few of the things that you may find surprising.
Living overseas, and traveling with a pet helps you learn to “go with the flow.”