Below are the steps on how to bring your pet to Panama from the US or Canada using commercial air travel, both in the cabin and cargo. At the bottom, we will list differences for private flying, prohibited breeds in commercial airlines, maximum weights, ages, service animals, and changes to emotional support animals—also estimate typical fees per pet.
If you want assistance with these steps, CLICK HERE to Contact Us.
Below is a Live Q & A hosted on August 29th, 2022, about Bringing your Pet to Panama
How to Bring Your Pet to Panama from the US or Canada
1. Before 30 days before your arrival date in Panama, make sure your pet has a current Rabies Vaccination.
2. The paperwork requirements for traveling with a pet on a commercial plane, in the cabin, or in cargo are basically the same, except an airway bill will be filled in.
3. Decide on the best airline you will use. If your pet is flying in cargo, we highly recommend one flight, so find a direct flight closest to you, to Panama City. If your small pet, including its soft carrier, weighs under 20 lbs and is of the dimension allowed by the airlines, then you may be able to take it in the cabin with you. Most airlines will let you fly in a cabin with a small pet, but they are limited to many per flight, so book your flights early and confirm. Best to book over the phone when traveling with a small pet.
The cities below all have direct flights to Panama City, Panama. The airline is listed beside.
• Miami (Copa, AA)
• Orlando (Copa)
• Tampa (Copa)
• Atlanta (Delta)
• Washington – Dulles (Copa)
• New York – Newark (Copa)
• Chicago (Copa)
• Denver (Copa)
• Las Vegas (Copa)
• Los Angeles (Copa)
• San Fransisco (Copa)
• Toronto (Copa)
• Montreal (Copa)
• ** United is currently not transporting Pets in Cargo. **Spirit is pets in the cabin only, under 20 lbs.
4. Book your flight. It is best to book a flexible fare and early morning flight. During North American summer months, the earlier, the better flight, or even a red-eye flight. If it is very hot outside, early in the day, that could prevent your pet from getting on the flight if it is traveling in cargo.
5. If your pet is traveling in cargo and you do not live close to one of the above cities, consider renting a car and driving to that city. Or using a ground transportation pet company to get them to the direct flight airport. You fly there and pick them up.
6. Preparing the Paperwork. There are three main pieces of paperwork: the Veterinary Health Certificate and the Department of Zoonosis Home Quarantine form. There are specific health certificates for the US and Canada; in the US, there is one for dogs and one for cats. Make sure you have the most current forms, and they change them often. Also, ensure you have copies of your pet’s current rabies certificate.
7. In addition to the rabies vaccine, dogs should be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and Parvovirus. Cats should be vaccinated against viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.
8. The Veterinary Health Certificate is the form you will need to get stamped by the USDA or CFIA in Canada and authenticated by a Panama Consulate in the US or Canada. Many vets in the US and Canada can now file electronically with these agencies, reducing your time and stress. You need to make an appointment ten days before your arrival date in Panama; best to make it nine days at a vet that is USDA or CFIA authorized to fill in an international health certificate and preferably file electronically with the USDA and CFIA.
9. If your vet files electronically with the USDA or CFIA within 24 hours of your vet appointment, the vet will email you the electronically signed Veterinary Health Certificate. Suppose the vet you use does not file electronically with the USDA or CFIA. In that case, you have to overnight the Veterinary Health Certificate with a copy of the rabies certificate to get their stamp, including a money order for their fee and a return envelope to you.
10. You need to get the stamped Veterinary Health Certificate, a copy of the rabies certificate, and a USD $30 money order to your closest Panama Consulate. You can make an appointment and drive it there, or you will have to overnight courier it there with a pre-paid return overnight envelope to yourself.
10. You can see the importance of finding a vet that can file electronically with the USDA or CFIA because this will save you a day or two. Make two sets of copies of everything.
11. Let’s back up to the 10th day if your pet travels in cargo. At this point, you need to contact the cargo department of the airline you are flying with to get booked on the same flight. Typically they only take bookings 5 – 10 days before the flight, as they want to see your authenticated Veterinary Health Certificate. They will start with the document after your vet fills it in. Still, they will not confirm your booking until you send them copies of the Consulate’s authenticated Veterinary Health Certificate and a copy of the rabies certificates.
12. Three to five days before your arrival flight, you need to notify the MINSA Zoonosis office at the Panama City Airport of your arrival and attach the docs: Authenticated health certificate, rabies certificate, and home quarantine form. You email your docs to this email address: email@example.com. You should get a reply in 24 hours. If you do not, request again by forwarding your original email, asking if they have received it. Make sure any handwriting is clear, and the scans are clear.
13. On travel day, if your pet is flying in the cabin, you will present these documents when you check into the flight. If you are flying with a pet in cargo, the cargo office may ask you to drop by with the pet and crate to their office 12 – 24 hours before your flight. They will take all your original paperwork; you keep copies. They will affix the paperwork to your crate. This is typically where you will pay them also. Then you will drop off the pet and crate 3 – 4 hours before your flight at the cargo office.
Final Thoughts on how to bring your pet to Panama from the US or Canada
Banned Breeds on Airlines
Airlines have different lists of banned breeds. Below is Copa Airlines banned breeds as of August 2022. Please check your airline as this list may be different or has changed.
Prohibited breeds of dogs:
• Pit Bull Terrier
• American Staffordshire Terrier
• English Bulldog
• Canary Catch Dog
• Argentine Dogo
• Cane Corso
• Tosa o Tosa Ken
• Brasilian Fila
Prohibited breeds of cats:
• Burmese cat
• Persian Cat
• Himalayan cat
• Exotic Shorthair cat
Minimum Maximum Age
Airlines typically only accept dogs and cats from 2 months old to 11 years old. In case of any exception, the customer must sign a responsibility release.
Maximum Size Pet
Each airline has a maximum size of crate you can use; the size of the crate is more relevant than the dog’s weight. The dog has to be able to stand up and turn around without touching the top of the crate. On Copa Airlines, the maximum crate size is 52″ x 32″ x 33″
Document Timing Changes on Private Charter Planes
Suppose you are taking your pet on a private charter plane. In that case, the Veterinary Health Certificate will be good for 30 days, not ten, like on a commercial flight, which makes the timing much more manageable. There will be some additional paperwork to be filled out by the ground crew at the airport you are traveling to, including the import license and air waybill.
Also, with some coordination, you will have the option to land in David if your final destination is Chiriqui.
Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
Fully trained Service Animals (dogs) are allowed on board international flights traveling to Panama at no additional costs. However, they still must have all the paperwork above, just like any other pet.
• Airlines may require:
◦ (1) a US DOT form attesting to the animal’s health, behavior, and training; and
◦ (2) a US DOT form attesting that the animal can either not relieve itself or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner, if the animal will be on a flight that is 8 or more hours.
• Airlines are not permitted to require other documentation from service animal users except to comply with requirements on transport of animals by a Federal agency, a US territory, or a foreign jurisdiction.
Emotional Support Animals are No Longer accepted on international flights.
Estimated Cost to Bring Your Pet to Panama
Many of these costs are varied depending on your situation. Prices are in US Dollars
1st Visit to Vet for required shots ($$ Varies)
10-day visit with a USDA or CFIA Vet for Veterinary Health Certificate ($150 – $200 per pet)
USDA or CFIA Stamp ($28 – $50 per pet)
Panama Consulate Authentication ($30 per pet)
Pet in Cabin International ($125 – $150 for international flight per pet)
Pet in Cargo International (Currently Approximately $15/lb, including Kennel per pet)
At Arrival in Panama City – ($155 per pet, $130 Home Quarantine, $15 Vet, $10 airport fee) Payable in US CASH ONLY
So without the first vet visit for rabies and other vaccinations needed, the approximate cost to bring one pet to Panama is: In the cabin: $500, In Cargo, 50lb Dog plus crate: $1,350
USDA physical offices here
The Panama Consulate office is at:
CONSULATE OF PANAMA
2862 McGill Terrace, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
The above is the best Consulate in the US to send your docs by courier, as they deal with the most pet requests.
Find Offices for the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency here
Canadian Panama Consulate Offices
Consulate of Panama in Vancouver
Park Place, 666 Burrard St, Suite 500, Vancouver, BC. V6C 3P6
Call: +1.778.370.1415 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consulate of Panama in Toronto
4789 Yonge Street East, Suite 412, Toronto, ON M2N 0G3
Call: +1.416.651.2350 E-mail: email@example.com
Consulate of Panama in Montreal
1425 Blvd. René Levesque Ouest, Suite 602, Montréal, QC H3G 1T7
Call: +1.514.874.1929 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want assistance with these steps, CLICK HERE to Contact Us.
We hope you have learned how to bring your pet to Panama from reading the above article. Please reach out to us for further assistance.
Oscar & Rod
Panama Expat Service