Following yesterday’s post about changes to the procedures for importing/exporting dogs to/from the Bahamas, I received several emails from readers who had further questions. Since I, too, wanted more information, I contacted Dr. Godfrey Springer, Head Veterinarian for the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture. Dr. Springer was extremely helpful in providing context for, and further details about, the new measures.
First, the good news is that these new procedures are temporary, and will be in effect only until the current distemper outbreak in Nassau has been controlled. Dr. Springer says these sorts of outbreaks happen every so often and though it’s impossible to predict how long the current one will last, I get the sense that we’re looking at months, as opposed to years.
According to Dr. Springer, the new measures are intended to prevent further spread of the deadly disease and to protect dog owners returning home from the Bahamas.
Foreign officials are aware of the current distemper outbreak in the country, he says, as well as the fact that several dogs recently transported from the Bahamas to the U.S. and Canada later developed — and died from — distemper.
Although officially, the distemper outbreak is confined to Nassau, the fact that you are arriving from anywhere in the Bahamas is a huge red flag for foreign customs and immigration officials. Without a current health certificate, your dog may be denied entry at your final destination.
Dr. Springer says he’s willing to work with travelers visiting Bahamian islands on which there is no veterinarian to ensure they can obtain the necessary documentation. Dog owners may want to get together and split the cost of flying him in from Nassau for the day to examine their pets and provide health certificates. (For your reference, round-trip tickets from Nassau to the out islands cost roughly $100-$140.)
Or, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to send Dr. Springer a video of your dog, along with your original health certificate from your home vet. Based on this information, plus a discussion with you about the dog’s activities while in the Bahamas, he may, at his discretion, provide a health certificate without a face-to-face meeting.
Ultimately, it sounds like obtaining a Bahamian health certificate for your dog before leaving the Bahamas is voluntary. Dr. Springer says you can certainly leave the country without one, but he stresses that he has no control or influence over the actions of foreign officials, and that there’s a chance your dog will not be granted entry into your destination country.
Also, knowing the Bahamas as I do, it’s entirely possible that, upon departure, you’ll encounter local airline or airport employees who believe that having a Bahamian health certificate is mandatory and may refuse you boarding without one. (I don’t know about you, but I think travel is plenty stressful enough without all this added worry.)
According to Dr. Springer, these measures will be in effect for at least the next few months. If you’re not scheduled to travel to the Bahamas until the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015, it may be worth checking with him closer to your travel date to find out whether the new procedures are still in place.
For more information, contact Dr. Springer’s office at (242) 397-7450.