A General Step-by-Step Guide
As many of you can imagine, it’s impossible to move to paradise without bringing your pet along. I mean, just look at that cute little face…how can you even consider leaving it behind? And, if you think it’s tough with a dog or cat, imagine with a fluffy little bunny you’ve had for 5 years! One of my biggest concerns about moving to St. Croix was bringing Cupcake, my 5.5 pound black Havana rabbit, with me. Here is a picture of Miss Cupcake’s cute little face for you to imagine as you read through this blog:
I found out in my research that if you plan ahead and make proper arrangements many different kinds of pets from dogs and cats to birds and horses (and rabbits, of course) are welcome on St. Croix! While my personal pet-transportation experience is limited to carrying Cupcake on the plane with me from Arizona, the steps listed below will help make your experience a smooth one. In order to bring any pet to the US Virgin Islands you will need to:
- Make travel arrangements for your pet, particularly if you are traveling on an airline. There are many rules and regulations regarding the transportation of animals and they vary by airline, especially if you have a bird or “exotic animal” (which, oddly enough, a rabbit is considered). Most importantly, determine if you can carry your pet on the plane or if they will have to be checked (as baggage) or transported via cargo. In either case, the airline will require a reservation of some sort with an associated cost for your pet. If they must go as a checked pet, be sure to ask about temperature restrictions, as the airlines will not allow pets during extreme heat or cold. Make sure you find out about any other applicable restrictions as each airline may have special instructions.
- Obtain an Import Permit or Health Certificate. Dogs and cats require a health certificate signed by their current veterinarian and dated within 10 days of travel and accompanied by a current Rabies Vaccination Certificate. For all other animals an Import Permit issued by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture and dated within 30 days of arrival is required. For information on the current Import Permit and Health Certificate requirements, please visit the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture Veterinanry Services website at: www.vifresh.com/vitnary.php
- Ensure you have the proper kennel/carrier for your pet prior to travel. If you will be carrying your pet on the plane, make sure your carrier fits within the maximum dimensions that will fit underneath your seat, as well as meeting the airlines requirements for the size of the carrier in reference to the size of the animal. If traveling in the cargo hold, make sure the kennel meets the size requirements, is labeled properly, is accompanied by the appropriate paperwork (a current photo of your pet is helpful too), and is supplied properly with food and a water container as required.
- The day of travel, hand-carry your Health Certificate and Import Permit with you and allow yourself extra time to check-in and get through airport security. Have your Health Certificate available upon check-in for review by the airline. Also, have your pets reservation number, if one was provided as airlines limit the number of pets allowed in-cabin on flights. BE WARNED: when going through security you will have to take your pet out of their kennel/carrier and hand-carry them through the metal detectors while their kennel/carrier is scanned by the x-ray machine. Then, if you have the same experience I did, they will check your hands one at a time for explosive residue, while you are still holding your pet! (This part is especially NOT fun when you have to hold a squirming rabbit intent on jumping out of your arms and hopping around the airport…so be careful!)
Basically, get all your required documents in order and, most importantly, keep the comfort and safety of your pet in mind when making your travel arrangements and while in transit!I am happy to report that Cupcake seems to love it here in America’s Paradise! She spends her days free-roaming the main floor and deck of our house, or lounging in the windowsill looking out at the Caribbean! I hope your pets enjoy St. Croix as much as my Cupcake does!
-Jennie Ogden, Editor