Bring your fur babies! The process for getting your pets into Panama is extremely time-sensitive but so worth it to have your pets with you. I brought my cat, Elizabeth, when I moved to Panama (see photo on the left).
Consult with your veterinarian before making a decision to bring your pet to Panama because older pets may be too stressed to fly to Panama, especially if they have to go in cargo.
At least 3 months before you move to Panama, you should check the various 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, the pet can fly “in-cabin” but if the pet is larger it will need to go in a special 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 it may be necessary to drive to a town that has a direct international flight to Panama, like Miami or Houston. It will be easier on you and your pet if you 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 pet policy will have its rules for pet carrier sizes and style. Also, make sure you are NOT arriving in Panama on a weekend or a Panamanian holiday. You must arrive in Panama between 8am and 11pm 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. So, you’ll want to book your flight and your pet’s flight early. If there is only one of you but you have 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. Once you book your flight and pay for your pet to go on the flight, then you know your DATE you will be arriving in Panama.
The next step is to make sure your pet is up to date on their 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 will fly to Panama, you will need to 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.
Next, you will need to 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. If they have an office near you, it would be a good idea to drive to their office to get the authentication. 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…
Third step, once you get the authenticated international health certificate back from the agriculture department, you will need to get it authenticated 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. At least 3 days before you arrive in Panama, you will need to send in 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, your pet must be inspected by a veterinarian. So, it’s important to arrive at the airport when the vets are working which is 8am to 11pm on weekdays only and no Panamanian holidays. If you arrive after hours or when it is a Panamanian holiday, or on the weekend, your pet will be held in a kennel at the airport until the veterinarian office opens again.
There are companies you can hire in Panama to take care of the Panama home quarantine documents for you and 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. You will get recommendations during a Panama Relocation Tour.
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 per pet. This is really not necessary if you follow these simple, yet time-sensitive, guidelines.