Cruising the Eastern Caribbean
with Your Dog
Part One: The Virgins and Leewards
by Liesbet Collaert
If you think Eastern Caribbean check-in procedures are inconsistent, different on every island, time consuming, annoying and sometimes costly, try doing it with a dog. We human beings can visit any country in the Caribbean without proving our healthiness, but our totally healthy pets (who would want to have a rabid dog on their boat?) need health records, up-to-date vaccinations, microchips and health certificates. To be able to experience the Lesser Antilles with our four-legged friends, and do it legally, as required by all the different islands, cruisers have to put up with a lot of hassle, frustration, misinformation, time commitment and fees and show a high level of endurance on top of it all. But, it is possible!
There are certain rules for bringing a pet into every country, and my partner Mark and I don’t mind following them as long as they make sense and the fees aren’t exorbitant. We respect the fact that islands want to stay rabies free and want to protect their people. We try to do whatever we can to abide by the rules to properly check our dog, Darwin, in to each country. We have all the documents and vaccination records, we keep up-to-date with all the required shots, we give him his monthly dose of heartworm pills and flea-and-tick medicine, we obtain health certificates when necessary and we are responsible dog owners (we clean up after our dog in areas where people walk, and our dog listens to us, rarely barks and is well behaved). We try to research the regulations, prepare accordingly and request details where needed. None of this is easy, however, as there is no consistency, a lot of information on-line is incorrect, correspondence remains unanswered, things change without notice and few people really know what the actual regulations are or what to do when we go through the check-in process.
With the following overview I will try to inform you about the check-in procedures for your dog in the Eastern Caribbean islands. This information is based on correspondence with government officials and agriculture departments, on-line regulations and our own experience. It will give you an idea about what cruising the Caribbean with your dog involves and hopefully will make things easier when checking in to different countries. Whether things go as planned will always be a surprise. I cannot guarantee that you will receive the same treatment, fees or information as we did. This is the Caribbean after all!
US Virgin Islands
Just like in the United States and Puerto Rico, it is very easy to visit the USVI with your dog. There is a check box on the Customs form and the officer might ask a few questions. Be sure to bring your dog’s paperwork, just in case the officer needs to see the vaccination records. You should have a Rabies Certificate that is less than three years old.
British Virgin Islands
Contact: Ms. M. Tyson
Phone: (284) 495-2110 (ext 124), 468-9693, 468-9243 or 495-2532
Fax: (284) 495-1936 or 495-1269
Requirements: Microchip, Government Health Certificate, Rabies Certificate (<1 year), DHCCP Certificate, Titer Certificate.
Procedure: Fill out application obtained via e-mail or fax with tentative date and time of arrival. Fax application, Government Health Certificate (for example, in USVI, obtained from vet in St. Thomas — in walking distance from Charlotte Amalie — and endorsed by Department of Agriculture in Dorthea via cab ride), Rabies Certificate, DHCCP Certificate, Titer Certificate. Ideally all the documents state the dog’s microchip. Dog must be checked in at West End or Road Town in Tortola. The morning you depart port for Tortola, call (284) 468-9693 or 468-9243 to let them know more specific date and time of arrival. Bring yourself and pet to Customs. Officer will meet you there, inspect the animal, read the microchip, look through the documents, collect the fee and issue the import permit.
Fee: US$10 per dog.
Experience: We e-mailed back and forth multiple times, but the important communication had to be done by fax. They need a fax number to send the conditions and application form. They faxed us an application, we filled it out and sent it back. They would fax an import permit back to us, but we preferred that the vet who would examine our dogs would bring the permit with him in West End.
Remarks: Ms. Tyson is very nice, helpful and responsive to e-mail correspondence. The inspecting vets are friendly, efficient and professional. The official regulations state additional requirements but the abovementioned ones seem sufficient. We did get questioned about only having one instead of two titer (serological) tests done and about the fact that our titer is older than 12 months. We proved that our dogs were healthy (we had two then) and stressed the fact that it is very hard to obtain extra titer certificates from the Caribbean (blood samples can only be tested in two places in the whole world: the UK and the USA). As long as the dog has subsequent rabies shots to date, one titer certificate should do, according to the strict UK requirements we use as our “make sense guidelines”.
St. Martin, St. Barth’s, Guadeloupe, Martinique
When checking in to these French islands, pets don’t have to be declared. It is recommended that you have the dog’s paperwork on board and that you act responsibly.
Remarks: We have found that many beaches have “no dogs” signs (not often enforced) and locals don’t seem too pleased about or interested in pets (compared to the English-speaking islands). Many restaurants do allow a dog at your side, however.
Contact: William K. Vanterpool
Phone: (264) 497-2615
Fax: (264) 497-0040
Requirements: Health Certificate, Rabies Certificate (<1 year)
Procedure: Apply for an import permit for your dog by phone. The permit is filled out over the phone, signed by the vet and faxed to you. Once in Anguilla, take permit and health certificate to the port of entry. The permit must then be paid for at the Agriculture Department in The Valley (on the road to Crocus Bay).
Fee: US$16 (EC$40)
Experience: We did not make any preparations and only planned on spending two nights in Road Bay if all worked out okay. We tried to contact the government vet multiple times, without success, and ended up explaining our predicament (of not getting a response and a dog that needed to relieve himself) to Customs. We promised to never take him beyond the beach and received a reluctant “go ahead” until we got in touch with the government vet, which never happened during our brief visit.
Remarks: The government of Anguilla is very strict about Import Permits, so it is highly recommended to get in touch with them before arrival. Persistence is required in getting through to the office.
Saba, Statia, St. Maarten
Contact: Glenn Holm
Recommended: Current Health Certificate, Rabies Certificate, dog’s paperwork
Procedure: Pets do not have to be declared on the Customs form.
Experience: Before we arrived in Statia, the Director of Tourism of Saba, Glenn Holm, replied to my inquiry as follows: “There’s a great chance you won’t even be checked or asked for the documentation but it’s always good to have it on hand just in case you are asked.” He indicated that the rules are the same for all three islands.
Remarks: E-mailing with Glenn Holm was a pleasant experience and we encountered no problems whatsoever taking our dog ashore in Statia and St. Maarten.
St. Kitts & Nevis
Contact: Dr. Challenger, Dr. Lesroy Henri
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Phone: (869) 465-2110
Fax: (869) 465-2928
Requirements: Rabies Certificate, Titer Certificate, Health Certificate
Procedure: E-mail or fax the dog’s documents with an idea of the date and time of the ship’s arrival. In the port of entry, a vet will inspect the animal and issue an import permit.
Fee: US$40 (EC$100) weekdays from 8:00AM to 4:00PM
US$50 (EC$125) after 4:00PM and on weekends
Experience: Information on-line is inadequate (firstname.lastname@example.org never responds or its mailbox is full), communication with the government vets ranges from non-existent (many unanswered enquiries) to confusing and non-clarifying. After e-mailing the required documents and not hearing anything back, we decided to show up in Basseterre with our dog. Nobody at Customs knew what to do, the vets were unreachable or busy for at least 24 hours, and everything was a huge hassle and mystery while our dog was not allowed on shore. (During subsequent e-mail correspondence, one of the officials indicated that there is a quarantine period of four weeks, but if you only stay a week, there are “designated” areas where your dog can do his or her business.) We decided to move the boat to a more remote area during our visit in these islands. Voted the most difficult Eastern Caribbean country to visit with your dog.
Remarks: Good luck with this one! Inefficiency and lack of communication make it hard for a cruising pet owner to do the right thing in order to visit this country. If you need some assistance, Akela Browne of the St. Kitts Tourism Bureau in Basseterre (email@example.com, tel  465-4040 or cell 662-7588) proved helpful in one instance.
Contact: Dr. Selvin Maloney
Phone: (664) 491-2076 or 491-2546
Fax: (664) 491-9275
Website: in progress
Requirements: Rabies Certificate, Titer Certificate, DHCCP Certificate, list of all ports visited within the last six weeks prior to arrival in Montserrat, treatment for internal and external parasites (between three and seven days before arrival), Health Certificate from previously visited country.
Procedure: E-mail or fax the required health documents with the list of visited ports. Inform the veterinary officer of the date and approximate time of arrival at least 48 hours prior to anchoring. Upon checking in, inform the Customs officer about the dog aboard and a government vet will inspect the animal and make a final decision on its entry (and more than likely hand you an import permit).
Experience: Correspondence with the vet department went smoothly and the inspection was short and efficient. No questions were asked and no more documents needed to be shown. We treat our dog monthly for parasites, but were not asked for proof. We did not have a health certificate from St. Kitts & Nevis (the previously visited country), but when we explained why, they accepted our health certificate from St. Maarten.
Remarks: Temporarily importing your dog in Montserrat can be done efficiently, painlessly, and in a timely manner. Dr. Waldron and Dr. Maloney were prompt and courteous with their responses and inspection.
Antigua & Barbuda
Contact: Helena Jeffery Brown, Dr. Oona Edwards (the new Chief Vet Officer)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (268) 462-6104 or 764-1263
Fax: (268) 460-1759
Requirements: Microchip, Rabies Certificate (<1 year), Titer Certificate, Lyme Disease test (<6 months), medical and vaccination history, Government Health Certificate (<7 days), treatment for internal and external parasites (<7 days before arrival).
Procedure: Fax or e-mail the information required to start the import license process. After the documents have been reviewed, an import license can be issued upon arrival. Inform the Veterinary Division of the date and time of arrival at least 48 hours ahead of time and contact them (let them know you need a Lyme Disease test if needed) upon check-in. A government vet will come to inspect the animal and the documents. If you don’t have a Lyme Disease Certificate, the test can be done upon arrival for the equivalent of US$41 (EC$110).
Fee: US$50 (EC$130) for the inspection.
Experience: Before we arrived in Antigua, we never found out about the fees (they are mentioned on the website now) and we didn’t have a Lyme Disease test. Our boat had to be tied on the quarantine dock in Jolly Harbour before we were allowed to check ourselves in with a dog. (Check on this procedure in English/Falmouth Harbour.) We were prepared to obtain the Lyme Disease test here if the fee was reasonable.
After four hours of waiting, the vet arrived and before agreeing to proceed we wanted to know the fees. They were anything but reasonable. It would cost us more than US$90 just for the dog to be able to legally visit Antigua & Barbuda. Add the fee for a cruising permit and the cost was just too high for us. We decided against paying and therefore against visiting these islands. We explained the situation to Customs and Immigration, and also told them it was too late and we were too tired to set sail for Guadeloupe. We obtained permission to spend the night in Jolly Harbour after paying for the cruising permit and were told to keep the dog on board.
Remarks: If you are willing to pay the high fees, visiting Antigua and Barbuda with your dog is possible after declaring the animal in Antigua. Check the price of the Lyme Disease test in a previous country first to save some money. The rules are straightforward and the vets efficient. Communication seems to have improved as well.
Contact: Dr. St. Aimee
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (767) 266-3824 or 266-3827
Fax: (767) 448-8632
Requirements: Health Certificate, DHCCP Certificate, Rabies Certificate (<1 year), Titer Certificate, treatment for parasites
Procedure: Fax or e-mail the dog’s paperwork and health certificate. If all is in order, an import permit will be faxed/e-mailed back to you after the documents have been reviewed. Show this import permit when you check in.
Experience: Communication with the vet department and obtaining the import permit is easy and straightforward (and free!). The permit is valid for one month. After the Customs officer saw our printed permit, all was okay the first time we visited Dominica in 2009, but now the Customs Department insists you call the government vet for an inspection before landing the dog. The phone numbers on the permit were invalid or remained unanswered when we tried multiple times, so we sent our contact another e-mail to clarify the matter. We were informed that, so far, no inspection is needed to land your dog in Dominica; a valid import permit is enough.
Remarks: Dominica is an easy place to temporarily import your dog, but be prepared to ignore the Customs officer if asked to call the vet before landing your dog.
Liesbet Collaert is a freelance writer who lives and cruises on S/V Irie with her partner, Mark, and their dog, Darwin. For more stories and pictures, check out their website www.itsirie.com.
Next month: Cruising the Eastern Caribbean with Your Dog, Part Two: The Windwards, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados.
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