Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Step by step guide to taking your (small) dog to Belize from the US! (as of 12/2016 rules)

Hopefully you have stumbled on this blog after googling how to get your dog into Belize from the US, because it is stressful, complicated, and there is WAY too much information out there to make sense of it. You will feel like you have no idea what you are doing, and that what you are doing is probably wrong. I successfully brought my dog in and out many times and I wanted to clear up some of the misinformation - however as you will read below there is still some conflicting info.
Relevent Google image.

Note: here is the official latest info; NOTE I JUST CALLED THE APHIS OFFICE AND THEY JUST CHANGED THEIR WEBSITE AND UPDATED THE APHIS FORM-new form below (as of 12/19/16.)
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/pettravel-belize

This one is specific to Belize. You will note that the area for the USDA signature is blocked out. When I just took my dog through in August 2016, the Belize BAHA officer told me that I now needed the USDA signature/stamp. This means you would have to send the APHIS form to your state USDA office after your veterinarian fills the form out. Note that this was never required before. Although I argued for a while with this gentleman, he assured me I needed the stamp. Fast forward to Dec 2016, and I send the form dutifully in to USDA as told, for my next Belize dog visit. USDA JUST called me (12/20/2016) to tell me this stamp isn't needed. If you are moving to Belize, LOL, this is a good introduction to some of the frustrations you will face (different rules based on who you get.) The following is what I have verified to be true as of Dec 2016!

****When I took the dog through on 12/28/16, the BAHA officer accepted my form with the USDA stamp (and I had to beg the USDA to stamp it for me just in case, although they reassured me it was not needed.) The BAHA officer told me that the stamp IS needed unless you have a pet passport, which you can request through BAHA. I explained that the USDA told me I didn't need the stamp. I could not get a straight answer. My advice is, get documentation through an email with Ms. Melody (see below) and print off the sites below where it says you don't need the stamp - or be safe and get the stamp. As I take my dog through several times a year, I will be looking into the pet passport and will update how that goes!

1.) Before anything else, get your plane tickets squared away- you need at least a month to get the pet thing figured out. I fly United, and they are very pet friendly. Caveat - my dog is really small so he can go in the cabin with me. If you are traveling with your dog as cargo, I will have missed a few steps for you. I know Delta has just changed their pet restrictions and most can't fly your dog as cargo during certain times of year. This whole thing is a much bigger pain for you. :(
Pretty much the best flight ever, for dog loving, plane riding traveler; Google image.

Plane tickets - with United, I have to make a phone call to customer service to find out what flights are dog friendly (they have a limit on how many dogs per flight, and some planes are too small). If you just try to book online and check the "I have a pet" box, they won't let you book. Also, I don't book over the phone because you get charged now for phone bookings. Hang up with nice lady on the phone, get online and book tickets, and call back. The operator will confirm that you can have dogs on the flight you booked, and charge you $125 per way (:() and also give you a confirmation # for your pup. Make sure you leave 2-3 hours at layovers for your sanity, so you can go let the dog use the bathroom outside.

2.) First step -  you need an "Import Permit" from The Belize Animal Health Administration (BAHA). This is issued by BAHA to the airport and is there when you arrive, but note that the BAHA people are only at the airport between about 9-5, 7 days a week - so schedule your incoming flight during that time. To get the permit, first print out this application:
http://www.baha.org.bz/images/files/Application%20form%20for%20imports/Animal%20and%20Animal%20Products%20Application%20Form.pdf
Note - if you don't already have this, download the free app called Cam Scanner. You can hand write out the form, then scan it in picture form on Cam Scanner - this app is totally awesome and I use it all the time. Emailed docs look very professional.

Attach application to an email and send to this address: animalhealth@baha.org.bz. Current person I talked to was Ms. Melody Robateau; she is very nice.

The first email I sent looked like this:

Hello, I will be moving to Placencia, Belize from the USA and I would like to take my pet dog, a 3 year old Chihuahua, with me. I would like to request an approval import permit. Please let me know if there is anything else I need to do to get this approval.

If I can have this approval, can it be emailed to me? My email is _________________. I very much appreciate your help and assistance, and again please let me know if there is anything I can do to help the process. Thanks so much! Attached is my application.


**Being very gracious and nice always helps.

Here is her other contact info:
Ms. Melody Robateau
Administrative Assistant/Permit Officer
Animal Health Department
Belize Agricultural Health Authority
Central Farm, Cayo District, BELIZE, C. America
Tel: (501) 824 4899/72/73
Fax: (501) 824 4889/3773

They are pretty good - they usually email you the permit within a week and it is good for 90 days - so you technically have a 90 day window to schedule your flight. Please note I did have to call this last time and it took 2 weeks, so don't wait too long.  Print a copy of the permit they email you to have on hand at the airport just in case.

3.) You have to see a USDA certified vet no more than 14 days before your trip (PLEASE NOTE - I have heard this number is anywhere from 7-10-14 days. I always try for 7 days before. The link at BAHA says 14 days:
http://www.baha.org.bz/index.php/dept/animal-health/entry-requirements, 
**note there ARE SOME BAHA OFFICERS who are going to have differing opinions - I have experienced this - note 2c where it says other conditions as specified!! - you may want to have this printed with you.

If you don't have a USDA vet, call around to vet offices and ask if they do travel forms for pets. My vet made me go through Pet Relocation - because vets have gotten sued in the past when people showed up in other countries with dogs and then had problems. Pet Relocation (if you choose to use, you don't have to unless specified) (http://www.petrelocation.com/   )will try to sell you a whole bunch of services, but you don't need them to ship your pet for you - you will feel like a wreck the first time you do this, convinced that your pet will be quarantined, but then after you do it once you will be a master. Just tell them you are going to Belize and want them to email you the latest rules. NOTE they will do a lot of overkill!!! Most of the papers they say you need are never asked for.
Purely for example if you are required to do this:
Pet Relocators told me I needed the Certification of Treatment against Ticks and Tapeworms, which I purchased here (and was never asked for, you can pay the few bucks and get it-I can't find it free anywhere)
http://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-passport-ticks-tapeworm-certificate/
Pet Relocators also told me I needed this (this may be only for certain airlines, or if pet is traveling cargo, but it is free so if you want it, do it!)
http://www.mojpes.net/download/aviocertifikat.pdf

I brought the APHIS form with me to the appointment and your vet will fill them out. NOTE - your dog has to have proof of rabies shot and it has to be more than 30 days out from your travel time (their first shot can't be within 30 days of your trip). I also brought my proof of rabies shots with me on the trip just in case.

Google Image that probably reflects your feelings right now. We are almost done. 
I mean, most people have zero anxiety/things on your mind/racing thoughts the week before a major move or international trip anyway, right?
Google image of stress. Relevant to dog topics.
Finally, the first time I flew with my dog Sticks, I actually stopped by the United Airlines desk a few days before my flight, to show them my pet travel bag, to ensure it was OK. I once met a guy who was traveling with a pet, and he found out last minute that his bag wasn't OK, and it screwed up everything for him. Don't be like him.
Appropriate travel bag and a picture I actually took myself. Actual dog of blogger.
I will also tell you my experience of showing up at the Belize Airport. (By the way, if you are taking a puddle jumper after your other flight, they don't give a hoot about your lap dog. I took my dog out of the bag on that flight, no charge and you don't have to worry about that one on Tropic Air. Love them.) When you show up at the airport, I was very concerned about letting my dog pee, and this was not an option for a while. You have to get in line for immigration and customs, and then right past customs they will show you to a door that says BAHA. The guys in there were very nice. They just looked at my APHIS form, made a couple jokes (is that a dog or a hamster LOLZ <he's 4 pounds>, and charged me about $65 Belize dollars for the dog permit. I THEN was able to finally find a door on our way to check in for our Tropic flight (door to the right) where the dog finally peed.

Finally, I want to note that getting the dog back INTO the US was a total cake walk compared to this. If you are only bringing your dog to Belize for a short time (a few weeks) you just need proof of rabies shot and the vet information who administered it (should be on the same form). (Also, don't bring Belize dog food into the US - they do sometimes ask.) At customs, the guys just eyeballed the form and we were on our way. That is literally all it takes to bring dogs back into the US.

Let me summarize and organize this by saying- the papers you should have when you leave for Belize are the following:
1.) APHIS form signed by your vet
2.) A copy of the Import Permit
3.) Proof of rabies shots
***Based on my August experience at BAHA, I am also printing out an email from Ms. Robateau showing that I don't need the USDA stamp, as well as the BAHA website above where it says vet certificate can be within 14 days, AND the USDA website above where it says USDA stamp not needed. This should cover all your bases, don't be like me on my August visit where you don't have any evidence, in case you get a BAHA official who says you don't have the right stuff!!!

And that's it! :-p Your dog will love Belize....it is my dog's favorite place in the world :)
Actual dog of blogger, in an unfiltered image of him enjoying the beach in Belize. He is smiling as you can see.
Total Cost to bring your dog to Belize: $125 per way on the airline, $25-75 for your vet visit, plus maybe $50 for a travel bag. However, as they say, having your dog in paradise = priceless!

11 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for that complete and well thought out information. I will be bringing my dog (a souvenir from Guatemala), to Belize with me from the United States. Canela and I appreciate your advice.

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  2. Can you bring two small dogs from the US to live in Belize??

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    1. Suzanne, I don't see why not. It would be 2 permits and 2 entry charges. You can email Ms. Melody at animalhealth@baha.org.bz to be sure :)

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  3. Thank you for the excellent information. We are traveling soon(December) to Placencia with a teenager, infant and small dog!! Your thorough information helps with the stress level of such a move��

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    1. Best of luck!!! Make sure you get the USDA stamp based on my last time through :). Once you do it once it feels very easy, but so stressful the first time!

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  4. Please note the changes I just made above, the APHIS website just had some changes. My August 2016 visit I was told I needed a USDA stamp, then in December when bringing dog back through, USDA told me the stamp was NOT needed. I recommend printing out the latest rules from BAHA and USDA and having these with you, and the BAHA official MAY have differing opinions from what is officially listed!! If this happens to you, as it did me in August, you will have some back up. Always call the BAHA or USDA office if you want confirmation!!

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  5. Thanks so much! We are looking to maybe move to Placencia next year. Where is the nearest animal hospital/vet? Is there one in Placencia? Also is there a pet supplies store in Placencia?

    Thanks so much love the blog!

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    1. Hi Michael, there are vets in the village frequently - once a month the (wonderful) Placencia Humane Society has a vet clinic. They are great. There is a really good pet supply store in Dangriga, an hour's car ride, and they sell some pet supplies at the Humane Society. The stores in the village sell limited pet things, not the best food, but you can get decent food from Dangriga. Best of luck!!

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  6. Thanks for sharing nice information, yes you said that right if we travel Belize to USA then our pet dog or cat have a passport to enter the Belize needs to include an import permit and health certificate. And I would like to request for design the pet driver’s license; it’s also necessary for your pet security and gives the unique identification.

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