Sailing with Pets


Taking your pets along while sailing to foreign countries is not only doable, but enjoyable. We've had dogs, cats, parrots, and hamsters (no frogs!) on board rally boats. But you must do your homework and start well in advance of your passage to have the proper paperwork to clear your pet into a country. Requirements for pet clearance or importation vary a bit from island to island. Remember, you are in another country, and you MUST follow their rules. Requirements differ from country to country and without notice. You may find all current requirements on the USDA APHIS site.

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Start well in advance of your departure. It can take months for the tests and vaccinations to get completed. When you export an animal, you must obtain a Health Certificate from a USDA Veterinary Officer. Your local Vet can not issue this Health Certificate. 

Step 1: Have your vet administer the Rabies Titer (FAVEN) test and send it to Kansas State University.

Step 2:  

Obtain a microchip for each pet with a 15 character ISO certified microchip. Vaccinations must be done after micro-chipping so that the micro-chip number is listed on the vaccination certificate and other health records. 

Step 3: Have your vet administer all other vaccines, medications, and tests (For example - Some islands will also require  evidence that your dog  tested negative for Ehrlichia and Lyme) in the prescribed timelines. Specifically, most islands do not  accept the 3 year rabies vaccine, so even if your pet received the 3 year, you'll need to do it annually. The blood draw for the rabies titer should be done AT LEAST 30 DAYS AFTER the rabies vaccine is administered. 

Step 4: Have your vet make a "certificate" for each vaccine you will need for the islands you plan to visit. St Vincent and the Grenadines has the most comprehensive list: Rabies, Lyme, DHLPP, Kennel Cough and additional medications administered just prior to arrival. Get these prescriptions from your vet and have the last vet you visit administer them.

Step 5: When you receive the results from KSU, scan the results and certificates (you might also include Patient Record and IDEXX results) into one PDF document. Here is an example for two dogs.   

Step 6: Send an initial email to all countries you plan to visit with an approximate arrival date. They usually send a Pet Import form with a link to their requirements. BE SURE to see if they require any medications administered immediately before arrival.  Follow-up two weeks before your arrival to arrange a time and location to meet the vet.


  1. Always be courteous and friendly. Don’t try to talk your way into a country without complying with local rules. Your pet could be confiscated, quarantined, sent home or, even euthanized.
  2. Always keep a copy of your pet’s import certificate with you when going ashore. This is necessary especially in St Lucia, Dominica, and Bequia. Organize and scan your pet’s health records that way you have hard copies and electronic copies. 
  3. Some countries require an export permit from the last country you visited.         
  4. If you are leaving a rabies-free country, it's worth it to pay the extra money to get an export health certificate from that country.  
  5. Pets that do not leave the boat to go ashore still need to follow the rules. They should be inspected in the US by the USDA vet and vaccinated and rabies-titiered. Be sure your paperwork is in order in case of an inspection. All pets should be on heart worm medication while traveling and have flea and tick prevention applied as prescribed. You might also consider carrying any antibiotics and other health first aid according to your vet's recommendation.  
  6. Many countries in the Caribbean islands use rat and other poisons to control varmints. While WHO programs have tried to discourage this widespread use, partly due to the threat to humans, poisons are still broadly used outdoors. Carry Vitamin K as an antidote to rat poison.


    For those entering Antigua with the Salty Dawg Caribbean Rally, a vet will be available in Falmouth Harbor to check your pet papers into the country. You must have notified the Salty Dawgs that you are bringing a pet by updating your Crew Information. 


    You may visit the Bahamas, you may meet the requirements on the USDA APHIS site and work directly with the Bahamian government. You may also accomplish the task through a service provided by Wellington Saunders, a Bahamian who facilitates the importation of pets for a fee ($50 in 2023). [email protected]