Citing the recent canine distemper outbreak in Nassau and changes to USDA regulations, the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture has revised its requirements for bringing dogs into or out of the country.
Though the following changes are not (yet?) reflected in the dog import/export procedures posted on the ministry’s website, the USDA’s website or any of the airline websites I checked, I’ve spoken with the Island Veterinary Clinic in Marsh Harbour and the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture’s Marsh Harbour office, and a fellow dog owner spoke directly with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Head Veterinarian in Nassau. All confirm the following information.
Bringing Dogs INTO the Bahamas…
Not much has changed here. You complete the import permit application and send it to the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture with a $10 money order ($15 if you want them to fax the permit to you.)
If you’re using the postal service to send your application and receive your permit, allow at least six weeks. If time is short, courier the application and request fax service. We used this option once and received our permit within two days.
Applications can be sent to either the main ministry office in Nassau or any of its out island branches. There’s a Ministry of Agriculture office in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, although it don’t offer a fax service. And, for reasons I don’t understand, the Marsh Harbour branch requires that you also submit a health certificate with the application. I’ve never had to do this in dealing with the Nassau office, so my advice is to avoid the extra step and get your permit through Nassau.
Upon arriving in the Bahamas with your dog, you’ll need to present your import permit, a health certificate and a completed Form AGR/VS/1 (you’ll receive a blank copy with your import permit.) The health certificate and AGR/VS/1 form must be completed by your hometown vet no longer than 48 hours prior to your travel to the Bahamas, certifying that your dog is healthy and has received all vaccines listed on the import permit.
Technically, according to the import permit, you’re required to have your pet examined by a Bahamian veterinarian with 48 hours of arrival into the country.
Taking Dogs OUT of the Bahamas…
Here’s where you’ll notice a major change. Regardless of their final destination, all dogs leaving the Bahamas must now be accompanied by a health certificate prepared by a Bahamian veterinarian and approved by a Ministry of Agriculture vet.
If you’re on one of the Bahamian out islands, such as Abaco, there are no local Ministry of Agriculture veterinarians, so your health certificate will need to be sent to Nassau for approval. According to the Agriculture Ministry’s Marsh Harbour office, this process should take about 3 days.
However, local sources say it can take longer than a week to receive the paperwork back from Nassau. So you may want to visit a local vet a couple of weeks before your scheduled departure date, or at least call to find out the current wait time for processing.
If you’re bringing your dog into the Bahamas for just a short period of time, you may be exempt from the above requirement. I’m told that the Ministry of Agriculture’s Head Veterinarian may, at his discretion, simply endorse the original health certificate you submitted when entering the country. I have yet to confirm this, however, so best to check with ministry officials to be sure.
For more information, contact the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture.
Will it be more complicated and costly to bring Wrigley with us to the Bahamas? Yes. But you see that smiling face? Totally worth it!
UPDATE (8/26/14) I had a long conversation with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Head Veterinarian today, and he provided additional information about the above procedures. To learn more, see Further Clarification About Changes to Bahamas Import/Export Rules for Dogs.