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. If necessary, get the other vaccinations.
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.)
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 (as of Dec 2016, fee is $4.75).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).
- $50+ for UPS or FedEx (We paid $70-something to UPS in 2015 and $56 in 2016). UPDATE: Fed Ex is slightly 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.
Your pet has probably already had its 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.
I cannot find an online source for required vaccinations, but the import permit will specify what is required. It is my understanding (but no guarantee) that any of these can be done at the vet exam immediately prior to travel (as opposed to the rabies what has to be done at least one month in advance), but if you’re getting the rabies in advance be sure to get these as well.
Dogs. The form I received back from the Bahamas Ag Dept in October 2016 is the one they’ve been using for several years, requiring a rabies certificate and also shots for:
. . . also that the dog is free of internal parasites as determined by a negative fecal floatation exam and that it be free of external parasites.
Cats. That same form from October 2016 says that in addition to rabies, cats must have adequate levels of immunity against:
- Feline leukemia
- Feline Rhinotracheitis
- Feline Calicivirus
- Feline Panleukopenia
- Feline Pneumonitis
. . . also that the cat is free of internal parasites as determined by a negative fecal floatation exam and that it be free of external parasites.
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.”
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 (still correct as of December 1, 2017) for the Department of Agriculture is:
Gladstone and Munnings Roads
Nassau, New Providence
I used this address in both January 2016 and again in October 2016. Friends used it in November and early December 2017. It is correct. The Bahamas Ag Department simply hasn’t updated the web site . . . yet.
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. (October 2016: UPS charged $56 for overnight this time.)
Be sure to use the new address shown above! If you are asked about a ZIP code or postal code, there is none.
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: [email protected]
Phone is best, and you can use Skype to avoid the cost of an international call.
Veternarian VisitThe 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:
-island hammock pet hospital: $45 exam
-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 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.