Getting a Bahamas Pet Permit

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2016 • all rights reserved

Step by step instructions to get a Bahamas pet import permit, which your furry friend needs in order to accompany you

We just got our Bahamas Pet Import Permit! I wouldn’t say I was worried about it, but it’s nice to have that done. We made a few mistakes along the way and nearly made a few more, but other cruisers straightened us out on some things. So, of course, I’m passing it all on as a step-by-step how-to.

The process is the same for dogs and cats and works basically like this:

  • You send the application and a money order to the Bahamas.
  • You get a permit and form for the vet to fill out in return, either via fax or mail.
  • Make sure you have the pet’s rabies certificate.
  • Just before you leave for the Bahamas (while you’re waiting for the final weather window), take the pet to the vet and get a certificate of health.

Now for the step-by-step details. Start the process early! Items are listed below in the order that you should do them.

NOTE: These are the requirements as of when I’m writing this (early January 2016). Requirements can change. Do your homework and check here for current requirements.

I was told that it’s best by far to use FedEx/UPS/DHL to send the application and pay the extra $5 to get it faxed back. This cuts down on the time and uncertainty considerably. Therefore, my step-by-step instructions assume this is what you’re doing. (NOTE: I do know people who have sent theirs by regular mail; some got them back in about 6 weeks, others had their applications lost and had to re-send.)

Total Cost

Assuming your dog or cat is up to date on it’s shots, here’s an approximation of the cost, based on what we paid . . . or should have paid if we’d done things a bit differently.

  • $15 money order + $4.50 fee (We paid an extra $1.25 as I first mistakenly bought a “money order” and didn’t specify that I needed an international one. So I had to use the first one to buy the second one.) UPDATE: Money order should be $15.75 — the 75 cents is VAT (tax).
  • $20 for Fed Ex (We paid $70-something to UPS and then learned that Fed Ex was much, much cheaper. UPDATE: Fed Ex is cheaper, but maybe not as much cheaper as I thought.)
  • $100 vet fee (Prevailing fee here in Marathon)

So figure about $140, plus any cabs or fees paid to print out the forms if you don’t have a printer.

Two Things That are Not Required

Some countries require that pets be microchipped and a USDA rabies titer test be performed. Neither of these is required for the Bahamas.

Rabies Certificate

Your pet has probably already had it’s rabies shot, but it has to be administered within certain dates of your stay in the Bahamas. Check here for current requirements, but as I write this, the requirements are:

  • One year vaccine: more than one month before date of arrival and no more than 10 months before date of arrival.
  • Three year vaccine: more than one month before date of arrival and no more than 34 months before date of arrival.

Make sure you have the original certificate.

Get a Fax Number

IMPORTANT: Do not use a toll-free fax number. Toll free numbers cannot be dialed from foreign countries, including the Bahamas.

You can use a marina fax number or one from the local UPS store or other “office services” store. My preference, however, is to use a free fax-to-email service so that it comes straight to me. This way, the document is saved to my computer and I can print out additional copies if I need to.

I use eFax free. It gives you 10 free incoming faxes per month with your own fax number. Faxes are then sent directly to your email as a PDF attachment (won’t work with Sailmail; may work with Winlink but it’s a better bet to specify a “land” email). I discovered that the sign up website did not work for me with Chrome & Windows 10, but was fine with Windows Edge (the successor to Internet Explorer). If you have problems, I’d suggest trying again with a different browser.

You’ll get a confirmation email with your fax number.

Get and Complete the Application

  • Download the application (PDF) here and print it out. NOTE: Address to send it to is incorrect – see below for new address (office moved but they haven’t updated form yet)
  • Complete the form.
    • For date of arrival, make a reasonable guess. The Bahamas realize that boaters’ plans change and its not a big deal.
    • For destination island, other cruisers said they used the furthest island they thought they might visit.
    • For purpose of importing animal, say something like “pleasure cruising aboard private boat.”

Money Order

Go to the post office and get an INTERNATIONAL money order. Make sure it’s international, not domestic. Several cruisers told me it was their experience that the Bahamas preferred money orders from the post office to other types.

  • $15.75 per pet to have form faxed back
  • Make the money order out to “Bahamas Department of Agriculture”
  • Fill in the address, etc. on the money order. Don’t use the address on the application! The new address for the Department of Agriculture is:

Gladstone and Munnings Roads
Nassau, New Providence
The Bahamas

Several people have told me they had to add 7.5% VAT — we didn’t know about this requirement and didn’t pay it, but did get the permit. A couple of months later, we received a paper copy that said they had paid the 75 cents VAT for us — so yes, you should include it!

Sending the Application

We learned the hard way that FedEx is much cheaper than UPS for shipping a single page. UPS charges $70, while Fed Ex is $20 (UPDATE: I got that price by calling Fed Ex; friends were quoted $54 when they went to Fed Ex in Marathon, FL). UPS is overnight, FedEx takes two days.

Be sure to use the new address shown above!

Get the tracking number and make sure it gets delivered.

Receiving the Permit

With luck, about a week after you send the application you’ll receive the pet import permit and veternarian form via fax. Check to make sure it’s complete with the signatures at the bottom and official stamp (a friend of ours had the signatures and stamp cut off his fax). I overnighted our documents on Monday and got the permit and vet form via fax-to-email on Wednesday afternoon. It would probably be an extra day or two if I had sent it by Fed Ex.

If you do not receive the permit or there is any problem with it, contact the Department of Agriculture.

Tel. (242) 397-7450/325-7438
E-mail: minagriculturemarine@bahamas.gov.bs

Phone is best, and you can use Skype to avoid the cost of an international call.

Veternarian Visit

The vet form says that it must be completed no more than 48 hours before arrival in the Bahamas. This is obviously impractical for travel by boat and the Bahamas officials realize it (the regulations were written for the vast majority of people who arrive by plane). Visit the vet as you are waiting for your weather window.

Ask around wherever you’re prepping for your trip and you’ll find out what vets most cruisers use for the health certificate. Here in Marathon, the prevailing fee is $100 (no shots or anything, just to examine the animal and fill out the form).

UPDATE: I got the following information from Alicia aboard Saol Nua in May 2016, who gave me permission to include it here:

I called several vets to inquire their costs and thought I would share it with you.

For those crossing to Bimini:

•Marathon: you know about
•Key Largo:
-island hammock pet hospital: $45 exam
$25 certificate
-vaccines if needed, not included in price.
-you do need an appointment but they have the flexibility to make them only a day or so in advance.
-there is also a restaurant next door with a dinghy dock to get ashore.

Crossing to West End:
•Miami: Coconut Grove Animal Clinic, 3200 Grand Ave., 786-472-7496
-They said $65: exam & certificate
-they charged $58 certificate, $51 for exam and dog DHLPC vaccines, $48 for exam and cat fvrcp vaccines. I don’t know what they charge for rabies because my pets didn’t need that vaccine.
– walk-in only which works out great for cruisers.
-easy walk from dinner key dinghy dock.
-they will make a big deal about the 48hrs, so just say you plan to leave within that time.

•Ft. lauderdale:
-Ft. Lauderdale vet: $115 exam & certificate, no vaccines
-Victoria: $65 exam & certificate, no vaccines
•West Palm Beach:
-Clearlake: $85 exam & certificate, no vaccines.

I can’t speak for Bimini, but West End doesn’t even look at the paperwork. They quickly stamp it and ask for the $300 [cruising permit fee for the boat . . . $150 for boats under 35 feet . . . nothing to do with having a pet onboard]. They also don’t ask for copies or anything.

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Comments

  1. Excellent information, thanks!

  2. It’s great that you are so helpful in sharing your knowledge.

  3. Great info make sure that you FedEx or ups. I have sent requests via us mail and they were never received.

  4. Hi Carolyn.
    What was your total time it took to get everything?
    Is there a time limit on the permit issued?
    Thanks for more details.

    • Took me three days from when I sent it off, then add whatever it takes for the vet appointment. But I wouldn’t count on it being that fast — I’d allow a couple weeks to be on the safe side in case something is lost and has to be re-sent. I was told that we must enter Bahamas within a year of when the permit was issued (and as soon after the vet certificate as possible).

  5. Thanks for the updated address info and the heads up re using an international money order. Went through this process in November 2015 and they managed to lose the documents sent by UPS even though I had the name of person who signed for them. Allowed me to fax forms to them and waived fee.

  6. Thank so much.
    We are in the ending stages of land-lubber/work-robot lives, and I am researching everything we need to plan for. Having an animal adds a bit to the budget as well as time planning when moving from “country” to country. Not just the weather… Might hold up your move.
    All the more reason to not to plan to be somewhere where someone might be waiting for you!

  7. Thank you for this all important info! We also are in the late stages of land living to move aboard with pets! So much to plan for!!

  8. The hardest part for us was the Health check 48 hrs before crossing which can be hard sailing. In the end – our customs agent never even looked at the paperwork. Glad we had it all anyway.

  9. My question would be “how do you do it coming the other way…from the south?”

  10. Thank you!

  11. I am currently in the Bahamas with my dog, and I went through this process in December. And yes, all they SEEMED to care about was the rabies vaccination, but I thought I should mention that other tests are required also and could be a problem if someone decided to be a stickler. After my vet had signed the paperwork we read the small print and realized that a “negative fecal floatation exam” was required to verify the pet is free from internal parasites. Since my pet had already pooped, and I was on my way out of town, I just prayed it would work out, and it did, no one asked for the fecal exam paperwork. But…. it’s a quick test, you should probably plan to do it. BTW – my vet told me as I left that they would no longer do international health certificate exams. I guess they didn’t like the process…

    Also required are these immunizations: distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, leptospirosis, adenovirus, and coronavirus. I could not find a vet that could do all these, so I ended up getting the leptospriosis at a second vet! And that vet could not have done one of the others. So I suggest you all read the permit carefully when you get it and discuss it well ahead of time with your vet; be prepared to use more than one vet if necessary!

    A third complication was that most vets in Washington state do not carry heart worm since it is not an issue in that state. Sailors leaving from Washington state to Hawaii, for example, or Mexico, might need to plan ahead to get this in time. Once again I left it late and only received my mail order heartworm pills an hour before we left. I thought I could just pick it up but that’s not guaranteed.

  12. Gwendolyn Webster says:

    Although we don’t have a pet on our boat, this is all very interesting information. Where will you be staying over in the Bahamas? We are going for the month of May and will be staying on Bimini. We’d love to visit!

  13. Thank you, Carolyn, for terrific information, from a completely different viewpoint. I have a service dog that loves to sail (yaay!!). While I’m not anticipating sailing internationally (at this time, anyway), since I do depend on my canine partner, this certainly is useful/vital information to have. Additionally, I would offer the thought to make sure interstate health permits are in order if a cruise from the “lower 48” to Hawaii is in your plans. I’m aware of situations that required frantic phone calls from the airport to home to clear a service dog to enter Hawaii when papers weren’t available. Each state’s department of agriculture should be able to point you in the correct direction to avoid problems.

    (And yes, I’m aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act very often does not have a similar counterpart overseas!)

  14. Mark Chenoweth says:

    and the interesting thing is, in the 3 winters we’ve spent in the Bahamas, we’ve never had a single Bahamian official ask for, or check, our pet permit. It’s all about the money!

  15. Windsong II says:

    We have cruised the Bahamas with two dogs. We have had issues using the mail to obtain our permits. We did spend $58 once with UPS to send in our papers for the second time.

    One tip I picked up from a marina owner. He told me if we were going to get a slip in his Marina to email him and he would take care of the paper work and fax it back to us in 24 hrs. (Now that might be Bahamian hours?). I don’t know if they all have the ability to do this or interest, but might be a consideration. The marina was in Freeport.
    We have never been asked for a pet permit.
    We will not have our dogs with us this year they have both passed on.
    We hope to see you in the Bahamas this season !
    Bob

  16. Thank you, Carolyn, for putting all this information down so clearly. Now we can direct new cruisers to this link when they question us about what they need to do to bring a pet to the Bahamas. Regarding cruisers who have never been asked if they have a pet, the official checking you in does not ask that question, but you should always volunteer that you have a pet aboard. We have brought a dog with us to the Bahamas five times and have always informed the officials while checking in. Last year, while in Georgetown, Customs and Immigration visited our boat. They did not board but came alongside. We came out and of course our dog Sailor came to greet them too. They asked to see our paperwork and saw that we had declared we had a pet aboard. On our cruising permit received when we checked in, the official wrote in the section Duty Not Paid, “1 Dog Permit #2015/11261.” Also in that section he listed our kayaks, our dinghy and motor and our Hawaiian Sling. I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if we had not declared our dog because the officials who visited us specifically commented that we had a dog and we had declared him.

  17. Hi Carolyn! Thanks for the step-by-step guide. Lots of great info here. We are also in BKH preparing for the Bahamas. You may have seen us around being walked by the big black lab. Which veterinarian did you use for the certificate of health?

    • Haven’t done ours yet — we hope to leave in mid-March and you don’t do the vet cert until you’re just waiting for the weather window. But the one that most cruisers use is the 24-hour vet clinic between Home Depot and Office Depot, same side of the street. We’re told it’s $100 without any shots.

      If you see us ashore, come say HI — I know Paz would love to meet your lab!

  18. Thank you for all the great info! Has anyone tried using the USPS priority mail instead of the UPS or FedEx?

  19. Maryvonne La Peyre says:

    Love the detailed info, thank you so much for sharing! We are planning another trip to the Bahamas this year but now have a new crew member … a 6 mo kitten. I know other cat owners simply bring their feline friends in without permits but I think we will do the right thing just to be safe. Quick question …. does anyone know if it’s possible to fly in & out of the Bahamas with pets? I would only take her if I can carry her on board in a crate. We may have to leave the boat for a while & return to the US. Any info would be great.
    Cheers & thanks!

  20. Marlee Puskar says:

    Valuable information….thanks for the step by step guide.
    I had some confusion at the FedEx office with the address that is published in the article, so I called the Dept of Agriculture to verify the correct address. The woman that I spoke with said to send it to:
    Gladstone & Munnings Road
    Nassau, Bahamas
    You do not need the New Providence……it was confusing the FedEx agent
    It cost $51.89 to send the documents International Priority from Merritt Island FL to Nassau, Bahamas,

  21. Rose Sherby says:

    Hello! We are flying into Marsh Harbour via Airgate airlines on May 26th. Both of our dogs are accompanying us and we are sailing our boat back to the U.S. I understand the process of obtaining the pet permit and health certificate. Does the Bahamas require a distemper/parvo vaccine? Our girls get all other vaccines but I get titers done on those two. I always thought that the rabies vaccine was the only one required. Thank you so much for your reply!

  22. I need to find out, if I have a dog that is diabetic and has other medical issues…can I do a distemper titer instead of doing the vaccination?

    • Call the Bahamas Dept. of Agriculture and ask them directly: 242-325-7502 (dial this number as though it were a US number — put a 1 in front of it if dialing from landline. You will be charged an international rate, however.

      • Hello!
        I had asked the same question regarding titers (distemper/parvo). After a few attempts calling the Bahamas Dept. of Agriculture I was told that would be fine but that I would need a letter from my Vet stating why this was done.After the titers were done for the sixth year in a row my dog wasn’t protected against distemper so we went ahead and gave the vaccine with no issue (thank goodness!)
        The Bahamas still require the other vaccinations including corona which in the U.S. most Vets don’t give anymore because the parvo vaccine is effective in preventing this corona virus and corona is usually mild and not life threatening like parvo virus.
        My dogs will still get the corona vaccination which my Vet had to buy from another Vet that still administers it. Make sure to call the Dept. of Ag. anyways since they may have changed their minds on getting a letter from your Vet.

  23. Tracy Woodring says:

    Hi,

    Thank you very much for sharing this information, very helpful!

    Could you tell me what island you cleared through customs? Also which vet did you use for the exam needed within 48 hours of entering? Thanks!

    • We will be going to Bimini (hopefully in about 2 weeks). Marathon Veterinary, within walking distance of Boot Key Harbor. When you’re on a boat, they’re more liberal with the 48 hour requirement as they understand weather windows and longer transit times. We know many people who have taken pets from Marathon to Bimini or West End this year and none have had problems with the time deadline.

  24. Leah Young says:

    I am traveling to Marsh Harbour on or around 5/20…and I already got my health certificate from my Vet. I did a a ton of research and didn’t see this 48 hour before arrival window. 🙁 Will I need to get another certificate? I hope not, they were $130 each for my two dogs!!!

    Also- UPS has tried to deliver my pet import app twice now…and it keeps saying that no one is there to receive it. Today (Monday) is a holiday, but they are doing a final attempt tomorrow. I’m hoping it is delivered.

  25. Hello,

    I appreciate your sharing. It is great!!. may I ask did you send the money order in US dollars or in Bahamas dollars?
    The exchange rate is 1:1 so I guess it does not matter but we are from Canada and in that case it would matter. Canada post does not offer money order in Bahamas dollars, only in US or CA dollars…
    Has anybody thoughts? Did you all send the money order in US dolalrs or in Bahamas dollars??

    Thank you in advance

  26. Karen Mason says:

    Hi Carolyn!

    Thank you for the detailed info. I do have one question though. At the VERY end of the article it reads the west end doesn’t even look at the paperwork. They quickly stamp it and ask fro the $300.” What is the $300 dollars for? I’m trying to calculate and all in total. Is this an additional fee upon arrival?? We’re crusing to the west end for a week and I’m trying to decide if a pet sitter would be less expensive.

  27. Lynle Go says:

    Hello Carolyn,

    Has anybody ever encountered any issues with sending through Purolator with the address above (that has no postal code)? I was just about to send the application and money order through Purolator (which I had done back in 2014 when I did visit Andros Island with my dog) but now, I’ve been given the runaround and told that it was not possible to send this via Purolator to the PO box address and without a postal code. It was a very frustrating day to say the least. I want to know if I am going to encounter the same problem with Fed Ex or UPS? Thank you very much!

    • I used UPS with no postal code and everything I know is that the Bahamas does NOT use postal codes . . . there literally is none. I’ve never used Purolator so can’t speak to them wanting a postal code.

      • Lynle Go says:

        Thanks Carolyn! So the PO box was not an issue with Fed Ex either? I have a sneaky suspicion I was just dealing with extremely unmotivated Purolator employees that don’t go beyond the minimum, in terms of their jobs.

        • For UPS and Fed Ex, use the STREET address in the post above. Do NOT use the PO Box that is on the form. That is an OLD address.

          • Lynle Go says:

            Thanks Carolyn! I guess I got confused with the new address since I went to check the Bahamian government website for the Department of Agriculture and took the address down from there:
            Department of Agriculture
            Darville’s Business Complex
            Gladstone and Munnings Roads
            P.O. Box N3028
            Nassau, New Providence
            The Bahamas

            Anyway, I’ve taken your advice and sent out the import permit request using just the street address, no PO box number and used UPS. No troubles at all! I should have gone with UPS from the beginning, it was pretty much hassle free. Thanks again for all the information you’ve provided!

          • Hello Carolyn,

            I sent in my permit application more than a month ago, using the new address. I paid the money order in USD and paid the extra $5.00 for the fax service. I still have not heard back. UPS confirmed that the letter was sent and was received. Can it take this long to process? I’ve tried emailing a couple of times and tried calling but I am not getting any answers. I’ve done this application before and was successful. So now I am not sure what the problem is and I can’t get a hold of anyone. Do you have a phone number that I can for sure get a hold of anyone?

          • Boy, I don’t know. I had the fax back within a couple of days of when they received it, and then they mailed a hard copy to me that I got back about a week later. Have you double checked that the fax number was correct on what you sent in? Everyone that I know of who has called or emailed has gotten an answer.

            I have the following (voice) phone numbers for the Department of Agriculture (put a 1 in front of any of these if dialing from a landline):
            (242) 325-7413
            (242) 325-7509
            (242) 325-7438
            (242) 325-3898
            (242) 322-2067

            and the email address that I have is departmentofagriculture@bahamas.gov.bs

            Hope that helps!

          • Thanks so much Carolyn. I tried the email address you gave me and hope someone responds on the other end. I will try the list of numbers you’ve also given me. I tried calling that first number but kept getting a strange intermittent beeping sound on the other end, followed by a buzzing sound (almost like a fax machine), so I was not able to get through. I will try the other ones. Surely I will be able to get a hold of someone to get to the root of it all. Just out of curiosity, what did you send to UPS/FedEx as part of the permit application? Was it just the import permit application and the international money order? That was all I included, there was no copy of any rabies certificate enclosed as my understanding is, this is something required at the time of import itself and not before then. Anyway, I am not sure what happened exactly but if I do not hear back by the end of September, I guess I will just re do the whole application again. I am not planning to go to the Bahamas until the end of December, so thankfully I did this early!

          • Update: So it was the fax number I entered that was incorrect. I got in touch with the Bahamas Government using the first phone number on that list you provided. Within a few hours it was sorted out. They did receive my application but couldn’t send it because of the incorrect fax number. I spoke to someone named Sonia Cartwright. She got to work on this issue right away and faxed the import permit same day. She was fantastic! So I am all set! Thank you for your help! If I didn’t get the permit on time I was going to cancel my vacation to the Bahamas. My dog goes wherever I can take her!

  28. Gene Magee says:

    Great detail; however, I saw a requirement to visit a vet in the Bahamas. (Your pet will need to visit a licensed veterinarian in the Bahamas for an examination within 48 hours of arrival.) It seems to be ignored or a misread requirement. Can anyone clarify?

    • Lynle Go says:

      I’ve been to the Bahamas with my yellow labrador to Andros Island in 2015 and nobody asked me to have my dog examined by a Bahamian vet. I flew in from Ft. Lauderdale so I had a vet from Lauderdale examine her and issue the vet certificate (which was done 24 hrs prior to our arrival). I think that stipulation is imposed if you had brought in a sickly looking pet. If your pet has any visible sores or appears to be unhealthy then you might be asked to do that. I was in Andros Island for a week, and there were no problems. There wasn’t even a vet clinic on the island, I was told!

      Hope this helps!

    • The exact text of that section says: “The animal must be accompanied by a Veterinary Health Certificate presented within 48 hours of arrival in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to a licensed veterinarian for an examination.” That is the requirement that the examination you have in the US (or Canada) be within 48 hours of your arrival in the Bahamas, not a requirement of an exam within 48 hours after arrival. I know, the wording isn’t great. And the Bahamas authorities realize that 48 hours isn’t realistic when you are traveling on a boat and have to wait for a weather window. Our certificaate was dated 7 days before our arrival and was not a problem.

  29. I am currently in the process of moving to Nassau with my mini zoo and this information is just fantastic and so helpful. Thank you so much for making everything so clear.

  30. Carolyn, thanks for all the good information about getting a pet permit. For those who might be waiting, I just called the Dept of Agriculture. I used the number 1-242-325-7413 and got right through to the pet permit section. I had sent the information required and money order by FedEx from Florida on August 31 and it arrived at the pet permit office the next day. I paid for the fax, but 15 days later I haven’t gotten the fax or the stamped form from them so I called. They quickly found my application and said they had mailed me the stamped form, but their fax machine is “out” – obviously for at least two weeks. The woman promised to fax it on Monday if the machine is fixed, and told me I should be getting it in the mail soon. So, I advise anyone who needs a pet permit in the next month or two to send it now. Last year I followed this same procedure and got the fax and the mailed form back much quicker.

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