Owning a Pet in Costa Rica
Having a furry friend with you in Costa Rica can be a rewarding experience. Whether your plan is to bring your dog or cat on the flight down or you want to adopt one in need of a home, Costa Rica is great for pet lovers.
An increasing number of pet-friendly restaurants and hotels are popping up all around Costa Rica. Most urban parks are pet-friendly, and while domestic animals are prohibited from entering national parks, many private protected areas allow you to go hiking with your dog.
Costa Rican offers veterinary services that are both high quality and affordable. While it is easy to find veterinarians with modern equipment and facilities in the Central Valley, Liberia and other populated areas, it can be difficult to find these in rural areas. You can look up information about veterinarians on the Colegio de Médicos Veterinarios de Costa Rica website.
Can I bring my pet to Costa Rica?
Whether you are looking to relocate to Costa Rica or just visiting for a few months, bringing your pet is a fairly straightforward process. If you meet the requirements, you won’t have to deal with an extensive quarantine that you might face if moving to another country with your dog or cat.
If you are coming from the United States and wish to bring your dog or cat, you must present a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian and endorsed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Veterinary Services (VS) veterinarian. You can learn more about traveling with your pet on the APHIS website.
Among other requirements, you must also have an official rabies vaccine certificate accompanying the health documentation that is valid for the period of the vaccine (1 or 3 years). A detailed list of requirements for bringing your dog or cat to Costa Rica can be found on the website of the Costa Rica Embassy in the United States.
If you wish to bring your dog or cat from Canada, Europe or elsewhere, consult with your country’s Costa Rica embassy or consulate to make sure you are up to date with the requirements.
Should I adopt a dog or cat?
Costa Rica is a good place to adopt a pet. There are an estimated 2 million stray dogs looking for a nice home and many organizations are working to connect you with a zaguate (Costa Rican slang for stray dog) or cat.
The most well-known organization for adopting a dog is the Territorio de Zaguates, a non-profit sanctuary located in the mountains of Carrizal in the Alajuela province. The sanctuary has over 1,300 zaguates in search of a home and was featured in an episode of the Netflix series Dogs.
The West Nose Rescue, located in the popular expat hub of Atenas, is another option for those looking to adopt a dog or cat. The Wet Nose works to rehabilitate animals that have been abandoned or abused and connect them with responsible and loving owners.
What if I go back to the United States?
If you want to move back to the United States with your pet, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica’s website provides guidance for bringing your pet::
Costa Rica’s National Animal Health Service (SENASA) requires a certificate of good health from your veterinarian in Costa Rica AND an export authorization issued by the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture (SENASA-Cuarentena Animal). It is advised that your Costa Rican veterinarian take care of all required authorizations with the Ministry of Agriculture (SENASA-Cuarantena Animal).
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not consider Costa Rica as high risk for importing dog rabies into the country, many states require rabies vaccines and many airlines require a health certificate and proof of your pet’s latest rabies vaccine.