Everyone wonders how hard is it to travel with pets on board. We are good people to ask, as we have two cats and a dog. Our cats, Clove and Turk are easy. They never leave the boat, so customs doesn't bother with them. Niko is a different story.
We got Niko when she was 2 months old from a shelter in New Jersey. She is one of the funniest dogs you will ever meet and everyone swears she is human. She loves all people, especially children, and she lets the cats rule the boat, and will even back away from her food when Turk wants some of it! We call her the love child of Petey from the Little Rascals and the RCA dog, as she is black and white and has a black patch around one of her eyes. Look at any of our photo albums and half of the pictures will be of the dog! She is a mixed breed,mostly likely boxer, pit and Boston terrier We did get a $20 DNA test done on her (we swabbed her cheek, mailed it in and got the results mailed back to us). According to that, she is 20% Rottweiler, 20% chow, 10% Jack Russel and less than 10% of Boston terrier, poodle, Italian greyhound and Yorkshire terrier! Maria wants to swab her cheek and see what they come back with! Anyway, we go with boxer mix.
Before leaving the States, I did some research on bring pets into the Caribbean islands. For the most part, all one needs is proof of the usual vaccinations and rabies shots and a health certificate stating that the animal is in good health.
The Bahamas wants an import permit that you can get before you leave and just show proof of vaccinations, rabies shots and $10. The Dominican Republic wanted to see proof of vaccinations and rabies shots and $10 . Puerto Rico didn't even ask to see any type of paperwork nor did it cost us anything to bring her in, and the same with the USVI.
HOWEVER....the BVIs and any other rabies free islands are a much different story! The process starts about a month before leaving.
First, I had to go to the vet to get her all the usual shots, plus a Lyme disease vaccination. Also, Niko was micro chipped at the shelter, but it was before they came out with the ISO standard chip, which has 15 digits, so I had to get a second microchip put in her.
Because some of the islands are rabies free, they are super paranoid about bringing any foreign animal in, rightly so. In order to allow foreign animals in, they require a Titter test, which shows how many rabies antibodies an animal has. Now, I think there are only 2or 3 labs in the WORLD that are authorized to do the Titter test, one of them being Kansas State University. So, I had to get Niko's blood drawn by her vet, who had to follow strict instructions otherwise they would reject the sample and Fed Ex the sample to Kansas State, along with a check for $80. About 3weeks later, they faxed a copy of the results back to the vet...Niko had a titer of 1.5, easily meeting the minimum requirement of 0.5. Perfect. Now that I had the proof of the vaccinations, rabies shot and the titer results, my vet filled out a health certificate, recording the date, type, manufacturer and batch number of all the vaccinations, and stated that Niko was healthily. I then had to send the certificate, along with the proof of vaccinations, rabies shots and the titer results, plus a check for $114 to the US Dept of Agriculture so they could stamp it - the USDA must authorize all the paperwork for the BVIs to accept it.
Now, here is where I messed up. I thought once I got to Jost van Dyke, I could just present all the paperwork to the customs people and they would let Niko in. WRONG. I had to send all of the paperwork to the BVI Dept of Agriculture. No worries, I had a phone number, a fax number and an email address. So, I went back to the boat, scanned all the paperwork and e-mailed it off. About 5 minutes later I got a message that said my email was rejected because they didn't recognize the account it was coming from. Ummm, okay, I'll call them. After about 10 attempts and talking to numerous different people, I finally got through to someone who knew something about trying to get pets in the country, and no, they don't use email, only fax. Okay, no worries, I'll go back to customs to have them fax their main office the paperwork. So, I dingy back in, clutching my paperwork, and politely ask them if they can do this for me. The one customs officer who is in the office looks at me as if I have three heads and tells me all their phone lines are down. I nicely ask where he thinks I may be able to find a fax on the island, and he suggests Foxy's bar down the beach. So off I truck, down to Foxy's, ask if I can use the fax machine, get permission to go upstairs to the main office, where two very nice ladies help fax the paperwork. Although they were very helpful, they were having problems with the fax machine, so only 8 of the 10 pages went through, and they weren't sure exactly which ones went through. They were very busy and I hated to ask to try again, so I called up the Dept of Agriculture to see if they had received what they needed. Evidently, the number was for the person's cell phone and she was not in the office at the moment, but she could check it in a few hours. I told her that was fine, and she could email me if she needed any additional info or email me the permit. Oh no, she said, we don't use email, I have to fax it to you. Oh boy...well I got the fax number for Foxy's and asked if I could get the permit faxed there. "Of course, as long as we are open, you can get the fax." Ummm, "thanks" I say, as I am already coming up with Plan B in my head.
Off to the boat I go, call up my dad and ask if he can fax something via his computer. I would have called my mom, but she would have had to looked in the owner's manual how to do it, and most likely would have had to call my brother-in-law to have him walk her through the process! She would have happily done it, and she is getting better at computers, but I thought it would be best to spare Todd that process. Well, dad's computer didn't have a fax program after all, but a good friend, Leslie had a fax machine and was at home, so I emailed her Niko's paperwork, she faxed it off with a request to have the permit faxed back to her, which it was, and then she emailed me the permit, which I printed off and presented to customs. They looked at it as if they had never seen one before, and I gingerly showed them the words " permission granted". They took my customs clearance paperwork and in the empty box titled "weapons and ammunition" they wrote in "dog - black and white". Finally, Niko was legal to poop on dry land!