Bring your fur babies! The process for getting your pets into Panama is extremely time-sensitive, but it is worth it to have your pets with you. When I moved to Panama, I brought my cat, Elizabeth (see photo on the left).
Consult with your veterinarian before bringing your pet to Panama because older pets may be too stressed to fly to Panama, especially if they have to go in cargo.
These are essential things you need to do to bring your pet to Panama:
At least three months before moving to Panama, you should check the airline pet policies on their website to determine which airline you will use to get your pet into Panama. If the pet is small enough to fit under the airline seat, it can fly “in-cabin,” but if it is larger, it must go in a pet cargo area.
Note that each airline has different rules for how tall a pet carrier can be. Domestic flights have much smaller pet cargo areas, so driving to a town with a direct international flight to Panama, like Miami or Houston, may be necessary. It will be easier for you and your pet to have a non-stop flight to Panama instead of changing planes with long layovers.
WEATHER AND HOLIDAY RESTRICTIONS
Some airlines do not allow pets to be flown during certain months, times of day, or holidays. It’s important to check the pet policy for the airline to pick a date and time when you can fly with your pet(s). The airline’s pet policy will have pet carrier size and style rules. Also, ensure you are NOT arriving in Panama on a weekend or a Panamanian holiday. You must arrive in Panama between 8 am and 11 pm on weekdays. I will explain why later.
If your pet is small enough to fly in-cabin (in a crate under the seat), there is usually a limit of two pets in the cabin on any flight. You can estimate about $150 for your per to fly in-cabin. So, you’ll want to book your and your pet’s flights early. If only one of you has two pets to go in-cabin, you’ll need to have a friend fly with you to get the other pet in-cabin; otherwise, the second pet will need to go in cargo.
These are the prices for larger pets to fly in cargo on Copa Airlines.
Other airlines have different sizes for allowable crates so check their pet policy or call their cargo department. The sooner you know this information, the better.
Once you book your flight and pay for your pet to go on the flight, then you know the DATE you will be arriving in Panama.
The next step is to ensure your pet is up to date on its shots and schedule a veterinarian appointment to get an international health certificate for your pet 30 days before your flight to Panama. This is a list of vaccines needed.
Ten days before you fly to Panama, you must take your pet(s) to the vet to get an international health certificate. You may be able to put two pets on the same certificate. The cost is $150 to $200 for the certificate. For those who doubt the 10-day rule, see the State Department website section highlighted in purple.
If you are flying on a charter plane, the health certificate can be no more than 30 days old.
Next, you must get the international health certificate authenticated by the agriculture department. If you’re a US citizen, that is the USDA. Canadians go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Some vets (but not all) can electronically deliver the health certificate to the agriculture department and then get it back quickly.
If the agriculture department has an office near you, driving to their office to get the authentication would be a good idea. If there is not an agriculture department office near you, you will need to send the international health certificate to them via Federal Express “next day delivery” and include a return “next day delivery” envelope so they can send it back to you as fast as possible because there is one more step…
In the third step, once you get the authenticated international health certificate back from the agriculture department, you must authenticate it by the Panamanian Consulate. If they have an office near you, it is best to drive there to get the authentication. If there is not an office near you, once again, you will need to send the authenticated international health certificate via Federal Express “next day delivery” and include a return “next day delivery” Federal Express envelope so they can send it back to you right away.
Remember, you only have 10 DAYS to complete the last three steps.
Simultaneously, while you are doing what is necessary to get your pet OUT of your country, you will need to do certain things to get your pet into Panama. We have information below on hiring someone to help with the next steps if you prefer not to do it yourself.
At least three days before you arrive in Panama, you must send a document requesting a 40-day home quarantine. The home quarantine means your pet can stay in your home or yard in Panama. The fee for the home quarantine is $130 per pet. SEE THE HOME QUARANTINE DOCUMENT IN ENGLISH HERE.
When you arrive at the airport, a veterinarian must inspect your pet. So, it’s essential to arrive at the airport when the vets are working from 8 am to 11 pm on weekdays and NO Panamanian holidays. If you arrive after hours, during a Panamanian holiday, or on the weekend, your pet will be held in a kennel at the airport until the veterinarian’s office opens again.
You can hire a company in Panama to take care of the Panama home quarantine documents for you. They will meet you at the airport when you arrive to help you get your pet inspected by a Panamanian veterinarian, then either take you to a pet-friendly hotel so you can relax or drive you to your final destination in Panama. We recommend using Jose at GoldenFrog.
If this sounds too complicated and time-sensitive for you to do, you can hire a pet relocation company to handle everything for you, but they charge about $3000-$5000 per pet. This is not necessary if you follow these simple yet time-sensitive guidelines.
Getting your pet into Panama is a time-sensitive process, but YOU CAN DO IT! Tens of thousands of others have gone through the same process to get their pets into Panama, and you can, too! It’s so worth it to have your fur baby with you.