Having moved with Brewster (our 40-lb Labrador mix) from the US to the U.K., back to the US, and then into the Bahamas on a sailboat, we know that figuring out the legal documentation and process to get a dog into a new country can be very nerve-wracking – but certainly doable!
Our advice is to do your research well ahead of time, make sure you have the most current regulations and documents needed for the country/ies you’re going to, and don’t be shy about asking questions (of the organizations and offices involved, of your vet, of people who have done the same thing recently, etc).
Plenty of fellow cruisers we’ve met have their dogs on board. Hopefully these tips can provide some guidance if you plan to bring your dog into the Bahamas like we did!
Entry into The Bahamas from US/Canada
(current as of April 2017, when we entered)
- Must be at least 6 months old
- Must have current rabies vaccination
- For 1-year vaccine, it needs to be administered between 1 month and 10 months before arrival in Bahamas.
- For 3-year vaccine, it needs to be administered between 1 month and 34 months prior to arrival.
- Must be current with immunizations against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, leptospirosis, adenovirus and coronavirus.
- Must not feature these breeds in its records: pit bull, Staffordshire terrier, presa canario, cane corso, American bully. (The Bahamas doesn’t allow these breeds to enter.)
Documents You’ll Need:
- Proof of rabies vaccination (including date administered and length of vaccine (i.e.: 1-yr, 3-yr…)
- Bahamas Pet Permit Application
- Download the current application form.
- The Bahamas Department of Agriculture will review this application and then return your approved Pet Permit to you.
- International Money Order
- This is sent along with your Pet Permit Application to cover the processing fee, VAT tax and optional fax fee (see below).
- Bahamas Pet Permit
- After reviewing your Pet Permit Application, this is what the Bahamian Dept of Agriculture sends back to you that you need to present to the Bahamas Customs official upon entry to the country.
- You can opt for them to either mail or fax it back to you. The fax option (for a $5 fax fee) could save weeks of waiting for this response. (No fax number? No problem – see details below and register online for a free fax number tied to your email address.)
- Veterinary Health Certificate, signed by a vet in the country of origin after performing an examination.
- This is Form IMP 1 (B). The Bahamas Dept of Agriculture faxed this blank form along with our approved Pet Permit.
- Upon performing a health examination, our vet completed and signed Form IMP 1 (B) as well as the standard US health certificate (“United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination For Small Animals”). She provided the US form, which provides more detail (re: dog breed, gender, age & vaccination records) than the Bahamian Form IMP 1 (B). Each Bahamas customs official is different, but ours didn’t even look at the US certificate. I’d suggest you have both, just in case.
What To Do:
1. Check the Bahamas government’s website to make sure you know the most current information & regulations and download the Pet Permit Application form.
- Instead of waiting for the Pet Permit to arrive via mail (which can take weeks longer), we were advised to opt to have it returned via fax. To do this, we simply included a fax number on the application where indicated and included an additional $5 fax fee in our accompanying money order.
- If you’re like me, we didn’t have a fax number readily available, so I registered for one for free on eFax.com. It’s simple to do and you get your own fax number to receive incoming faxes that are sent through automatically to your email address.
- I’ve heard the Bahamian gov’t can be picky about this, and was advised to be sure to get an international money order (available to purchase at a US Post Office), rather than just any money order (i.e.: from a grocery store, etc).
- Make payable to “Bahamas Department of Agriculture” in the amount of $15.75 ($10 processing fee + 7.5% VAT tax + $5 fax fee)
- Alternatively, cash is accepted (no personal checks), but this isn’t advisable since anyone along the way could easily pocket it without any tracking, causing your application to get massively delayed and you to be out the money!
- Cost: $24.00 ($15.75 + $8.25 purchase cost from USPS)
4. Send the completed Pet Permit Application and international money order to the address below.
- I was confused about a couple of fields on the application, and was advised to answer similar to what’s noted below:
- “Destination of Animals in The Bahamas” – I answered the furthest city & island we thought we’d be going. (But apparently, we’re not held to this, since our plans have already changed!)
- “Purpose of importing animals” – I answered Pleasure cruising aboard private boat
- The address listed on the Bahamas website and the form is outdated. Use the one below instead:
- This can be sent via standard mail, but we heard it was not uncommon to just not hear anything back if it went ‘missing’ without a way to track it, so we were advised to send it with tracking via FedEx, UPS or DHL. We found DHL to be the most cost-effective option for us, but it’s worthwhile to compare costs as they may differ by origin city, etc.
- Cost: We paid $33 for international delivery from Key West via DHL.
5. Make an appointment with your veterinarian for your dog’s health examination while waiting for the Bahamian gov’t to process the application.
- The regulations state the exam must be performed and the health certificates must be dated within 2 days before arrival in the Bahamas. However, in our experience (and several others we talked to), Bahamian customs officials gave some grace period for cruisers since they understand that our schedule is weather-dependent and not as definite as those arriving on flights or cruise lines. By the time we arrived & cleared customs, Brewster’s health certificate was dated 10 days prior.
- We went to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital in Marathon, FL, since that’s where we were leaving from to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini. They were fantastic – very welcoming and familiar with the process and forms for entry into the Bahamas. Since Brewster didn’t have a history with this vet (since we’re from St. Louis), we brought her vaccination records with us so the vet could include the appropriate details on the health certificates.
- Cost: This can vary, so check with your vet. At the Marathon Veterinary Hospital, we paid $90 for the exam & completed/signed certificates.
6. Wait for your approved Pet Permit to be returned from the Bahamian Dept of Agriculture.
- If you’ve chosen fax as the return method, you should expect to receive this back within about a week from when the Bahamian gov’t receives your application (so check your tracking details to ensure it was delivered.) If you chose standard mail as the return method, it can take 2-4 weeks.
- Once you receive the approved Pet Permit, print it off before leaving for the Bahamas, as you’ll need to show it to the Bahamian customs official when clearing in. (No printer on the boat, so we went to the local UPS store, emailed them the documents and paid a couple bucks for the printouts.)
- Important! When you print this, make sure the entire page prints. Luckily, I had heard this from others, so I checked and had to have it reprinted on 11″x14″ paper to ensure that the bottom part with the signature line was included. (I’d heard stories of people who didn’t realize this part was missing and had problems when they arrived in the Bahamas as a result.)
7. When clearing into Bahamas, have these documents ready to show to the Customs official (along with your passport):
- Pet Permit
- Bahamas health certificate: Form IMP 1 (B)
- US standard health certificate: “United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination For Small Animals”
- Rabies vaccination certificate
*Note: You’ll need to clear in with Bahamas Immigration (to enter the country and get your visa), and then you’ll need to clear in with Customs to clear your dog in, obtain your cruising permit and fishing license (included with the cruising permit). I’m not sure if all this is done with one person in some ports, but in South Bimini where we cleared in, there were two different officials in separate areas and we could have easily missed going to the Customs official after the Immigration official. (We know a few cruisers who missed the Customs step because they thought everything was taken care of at Immigration. Just a heads-up so you’re aware of this.)
8. Keep copies of all documentation, especially those signed/stamped by Bahamian customs officials. If you are boarded by the Bahamas Defense Force for a routine check during your time in the Bahamas, they will very likely ask you to show them these documents, (in addition to your passports, Bahamas visas and cruising permit). We had all this ready to show when we were boarded and had no issues. The Defense Force officials were very professional and respectful.
Additional Considerations for Other Caribbean Countries
While you don’t need this for the Bahamas, some Caribbean countries also require dogs to be micro-chipped as well as have a Rabies Serology/Titre Certificate. There are only a few places in the US or U.K. that perform this rabies blood test. Ask your vet. It’s likely that your vet would have to send your dog’s blood sample off to have it tested and then wait to get the results and the certificate back. If you plan on cruising to many islands throughout the Caribbean, it might be worth it to get this done ahead of time so you have it.
We’ll add more info here as we enter new countries beyond the Bahamas.