If you want to know who chooses the islands we visit while sailing in the Caribbean, it’s Molly. Yes, everyone’s favourite four-pawed furry friend is quite capable of pointing at the guide book and letting us know which is our next port of call! Well that’s what we’d like to believe, however, the tale (or should that be tail) is a little more complicated than that.
Sailing in Europe with a European Dog (she voted to stay!) is so easy, get a Pet Passport from your Vet with all the relevant stamps and off you go. No issues until you re-enter the UK or Gibraltar. In three years we were never asked by customs or port police to show Molly’s papers and on the odd occasion that we tried to show them we were literally laughed at and told to go away.
Leaving Europe from The Canaries has required some hoop jumping, initially for Barbados, but every new Caribbean country has its own set of quirks. The good news though is that most Caribbean islands no longer quarantine healthy dogs that can tick their boxes, so Molly can enjoy island life off the boat as well.
Firstly, the biggest quirk -The French West Indies – Martinique, Guadeloupe, The Saints, Marie Galant, St. Barts and French St. Martin. These islands are still a department of France and therefore part of the EU. So not only are dogs with a Pet Passport welcome we were never asked to even show it. We checked on every island that Molly was OK to go ashore and the answer was always ‘Bien Sur!’ and the Customs Officer on St. Barts even gave Molly a biscuit.
Outside of the French islands things get a little more complicated. But with persistence and direct e-mail communication with a Government Veterinary Officer it is possible to get four paws ashore. So far Molly has been approved entry into Barbados, St. Lucia, the BVI’s and the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Below is a rundown of what was needed and at the end a few useful links we have found: (This assumes a European Pet Passport and the inoculations and micro-chipping that goes with it)
A working ISO compliant microchip. (Make a note of where it is on your dog as many testers do not work that well)
Proof that the dog is 100% disease free, the big one being Rabies. Many islands are free from disease and rightly want to stay this way so full vaccination history is imperative along with tests showing a clean bill of health. For Rabies, vaccination history is not enough, your dog will need a current (every 12 months) Titre Test that shows the number of anti-bodies in the blood stream to fight rabies.
(The Titre Test takes about three weeks to organise and best done in your home country before travel. It must have been carried out 90 days before entry in most cases).
There are additional vaccinations not needed in most of Europe that include Leishmanial, Lyme Disease and Screw Worm. So far Molly has not been vaccinated aginst Lyme Disease as the side effects can be nasty, so she has to be checked with a SNAP 4DX Test that rules out the majority of diseases the islands are concerned about as part of her Health Certificates.
An Import Permit (not always needed) but usually applied for in conjunction with sending scanned copies of all Molly’s paper work to the countries Government Veterinary Services Department.
Above all making contact with one person within the Government Veterinary Services Department; being extremely polite, explaining the yacht in-transit situation and asking to conduct all communication via e-mail. So far this has worked well and all of the Government Vets have done all they can to help.
Before travel (48 hours) get an Export Health Certificate IN ENGLISH and have the dog treated for internal and external parasites. Ie fleas, ticks and worms. Then get the Export Health Certificate endorsed and stamped by the local Government Veterinary Services Department.
All of this is a pain, time consuming and expensive, not to mention a little distressing for the dog who hates going to the vets. So we only do it for islands where we plan to stay for a week or more. If less time is anticipated, then Molly stays on the boat and gets daily swims rather than walks.
Still we wouldn’t be on this trip without her. She handled the voyage across the Atlantic so well and was a perfect crew member. She makes our day so worthwhile and she adores swimming in the sea and paddling off a beach, so we feel she’s getting lots of benefits to being a salty Caribbean sea-dog.
www.pettravel.com (An amazing resource for anyone travelling anywhere with a dog)
www.caribbeancompass.com/dogs_cruising_2.html (A dog who went before and whose owners wrote a very comprehensive blog about travelling through the Caribbean)
www.thecaribbeanpet.com/pet-import-export (One to watch, at the moment a very limited site, but in time it could become a useful resource)
© Two Drifters Travel