Let me preface by saying that there are lots of good dogs available in Panama. Our two Dalmatians and Rotweiller are all Panamanian and bi-lingual. “No!” works in both languages but they know thier English names (Spot, Monkey, Baru) names as well as their Spanish names (Mancha, Mono, Baru – Baru is named after the volcano, Volcan Baru). We got them as puppies and the local vet, Dr. Chely, has helped us take good care of them.
There are also some amazing animals up for adoption that were pets of expats who left for one reason or another and could not take their pet with them. And there are some strays which can turn out to be great watchdogs and pets.
But if you want to bring your animal along here’s how.
I asked Shaun and Maureen Pilson who just arrived in Boquete and are renting our casita while they look for a house, to share their experience in bringing Digby to Panama. I’m sure you will appreciate their willingness to share!
1. Get a rabies vaccine more than 30 days prior to travel, and less than 1 year. If you get the rabies vaccine, say, 28 days before travel, your dog will be turned away from Panama.
2. Airlines want vaccinations 10 days or less than when you travel. Panama says 14 days, but if you want your dog on the plane, abide by the airline 10 day restriction.
3. Your vet must be USDA accredited.
4. You will have 2 trips to the vet, one for rabies and one for the vaccinations. The Panamanian Embassy website mentions a Hepatitis shot, which sent us into a panic, since we had not seen this mentioned elsewhere, but the hepatitis shot is mixed in with the other vaccinations already, so no worries. The vet must fill out a form APHIS 7001 in blue ink. Our vet also signed an airline health certificate for us – no certification required. If your state has a USDA office, take this form and the rabies form to it, and get it stamped. This will cost $38. If your state does not have a USDA office, overnight it and include an overnight return label. Remember, you only have 10 days to get it all done!
5. Then, send these overnight, including a prepaid return label to the Panamanian Embassy with a $30 money order for each one. Also a copy of the request for in house quarantine apparently. Instead of doing this, we took the forms down to our Secretary of State Apostille office, and got it done then and there for $3 each form. (In our case, this was Phoenix, Arizona)
6. Email the Quarantine form to Panamanian authorities: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (phone # 507-238-3855) or fax to 507-212-9449 at least 3 days before arrival. We did it 10 days before. Just a short form, describing dog, and where he would be staying.You also need a Panamanian telephone # to put on the form.
7. Be very careful about the size of crate and the restrictions from the airlines. We traveled on United, with their Petsafe program. They have very strict guidelines, because they get fined if they are found breaking the rules. You can go on the United website. United did not have weather restrictions I was told, but some airlines do, if the dog is going cargo. American airlines said we could just take the dog to reservations, and if there was room on the plane, he could go. They were very cheap, but we would not risk him not getting on the plane. Copa told me they had stopped carrying animals. I heard Delta had a good record with animals, but I do not know. You will probably be traveling United anyway. With a big dog, you must take him to cargo 2 – 4 hours before the flight.
8. Arrival at Tocumen International Airport in Panama – First you go through immigration, then head to baggage/customs. I suggest you have a bottle of water with you when you meet the pet, he will be thirsty. We employed a company called www.goldenfrog.net to meet us and take us to the vet’s office and the Ministry of Agriculture (MINSA) office, and get the dog through customs. It was $85. It would have been better if they had spoken English. Your dog will come in at Ramp 4, where you go to pick up your luggage. You will need to get 2 luggage trolleys, 1 for luggage, 1 for the dog and crate ($3 each, to go 30 yards, what a ripoff!). The offices are right at the left hand side of the baggage security screens (yes, they do check bags coming INTO Tocumen.) I can’t remember seeing any signs on the door. I thought the vet would check out the dog, but Goldenfrog led me to one office to pay $16, then down to the next office to pay $130. If you have the money (CASH ONLY) and the paperwork, you will be fine, takes 10 minutes. We arrived at around 7:30 pm, and everyone was there, but it could have been that Goldenfrog had told them to stay open, or maybe that was the hours they worked. I got different information regarding hours. Then, the exit is right there. We got a ride with Goldenfrog right to Boquete.in a very old mini bus/van. $475 for the dog, the crate, 2 of us and luggage. It was a lot to pay, but it was from curb to curb. Again, the driver spoke no English, so give him a map of exactly where you want to go. They will stop to let the dog/you out for a break when you ask.You are definitely at a disadvantage if you do not speak Spanish. Try to carry the exact amount of money needed, no-one ever has change.
[Another possible option for transport to Boquete is Gerardo Guerra www.transporteytuismo.com]
www.petpassportstore.com – Offers all the forms and instructions for around $20 – Much of this you can find on your own if you search enough, but $20 will save you a lot of hassle and time.
Veterinary Certificate Translation Service: Having the veterinary certificate translated into the language of the country you are visiting can make going through immigration much easier. The cost is $35.00 and takes two days. For more information send an email to Jerry@PetPassportStore.Com