Pets - travel, and care
“Sometimes losing a pet is more painful than losing a human because in the case of the pet, you were not pretending to love it.” – Amy Sedaris
Important. If you are considering bringing your pets down here be aware it may be difficult or even impossible to take them back to the country of origin. You must take the right precautions before leaving your own country to facilitate any return. I cannot emphasize enough to have your pet chipped and ensure all of its vaccinations are valid for a long period after entry to Honduras.
The first recommendation I have is to apply to join the Facebook group "Roatan Pet Lovers" as there is no better information than that given by other pet lovers who have had to deal with the various issues that may occur on Roatan.
During COVID, the USA put a flat ban on returning animals from Honduras. Their stated reason was Rabies, but as far as I know, Roatan and the mainland of Honduras are totally free of Rabies. They eventually eased up on the total ban but it is still severely restricted. As of right now, it is only possible to obtain the waivers to take a dog to the USA via a lot of paperwork, time, and expenses.
As of September 22, 2021, Canada followed the USA's lead and added Honduras to the list of countries that you are not allowed to bring animals from again for Rabies reasons. Read the press release here.
The only way to facilitate your pet being able to return is to have it chipped and ensure all of its vaccinations are still valid in the country of origin. As long as those steps have been taken, the process is straightforward. In the case they have expired, having them boosted in Honduras will not count, so it is strongly advised that you continuously monitor that every vaccination is up to date in case you wish to return home with your pet.
Honduras does not require vaccinations, however, fungi, diseases, and viruses are very active here so you must make sure your animals are vaccinated against as many as possible, and that you’ve taken all preventive measures available to keep them safe. For example, monthly heartworm tablets and medication to prevent or hinder flea and tick bites are crucial in Honduras.
One of the biggest dangers your pet will face on Roatan is from other dogs. Not only do we have a street dog problem in Roatan, but many owners of dogs let their dogs roam free. It is a sad fact that there are several dogs killed a year by dog attacks. Dog attacks are often started by known violent dogs as there are no repercussions for the dog owners. Try to be aware of any areas where "known" dogs live and learn to recognize them. The best way to be aware is to talk to other owners here on Roatan.
Bringing your pet here is a big decision and the most important consideration should be the comfort of your pet and whether you are sure you are here for the long term.
Unfortunately, animal abuse is sadly almost a norm in Honduras. It is a country where they still have dog and cock fighting. You will often see dogs tied to posts outside homes and that is their whole life 24 hours a day. Such animals can be very aggressive and you and your pets need to keep your distance.
Kidnapping can be a problem on the island, especially for rare or in-demand breeds. Therefore it is sensible to know where your pet is at all times and not let them wander. If your pet is taken, report it immediately on the various Facebook groups as there is a chance it just wandered off or someone saw something that can help.
Traveling with pets
The majority of airlines flying to Roatan do not allow you to travel with large pets. In-cabin pets that are allowed are domesticated cats and dogs that can fit in a travel carrier underneath the seat in front of you. Limits tend to be between 20 and 25lbs for the weight of the pet and the carrier. You must check with the airlines you plan to fly with as not only do restrictions vary from carrier to carrier they vary from plane to plane.
From the United webpage:
"A pet traveling in a cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of you and remain there at all times. The maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm). The recommended maximum dimensions for soft-sided kennels are 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm). Soft-sided pet carriers can exceed these dimensions slightly because they are collapsible and able to fit underneath a seat without blocking the aisle."
On Arrival at Roatan airport
When you arrive at the airport you will need to go through immigration to the baggage area. There you will be found by the airport staff. There is a small office by the baggage claim area the staff will take you along with your pups there and go through your paperwork. It is advised to bring small bills with you as they probably will not have the ability to give change. The cost per dog is approximately $22 USD.
Large pets are not currently allowed at all. It is possible to find routes via other countries e.g. San Pedro via Mexico or Guatemala but they can be rather long and arduous. Some people fly down in what seems like outlandishly expensive private planes and will occasionally post for extra passengers or fare contributors to reduce the cost. There are now several people who physically drive dogs from North America to Roatan. I inquired into the cost of these services and they are in the thousands of dollars range.
Returning as I have stated is a completely different matter as you are facing your country of origin requirements, not Honduras and as that changes all the time I strongly suggest you check the latest information in a Facebook group.
Endemic Diseases and conditions on Roatan
As the climate here is hot and humid, a wonderful climate for viruses, parasites, and bacteria, the diseases are active not just in other animals, but they are transmissible in the soil as well. Therefore you cannot protect your pet by keeping it away from other animals. Vaccination and regular medication are the only way and unfortunately, even those methods are not 100% reliable so it is advised that you get a snap blood test at least once a year to check your pet's health.
Canine distemper is caused by a very contagious virus. Puppies and dogs usually become infected through virus particles in the air or in the respiratory secretions of infected dogs. Infected dogs typically develop runny eyes, fever, a snotty nose, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis. It is often fatal.
Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine to protect your dog from this deadly disease. The canine distemper vaccine is considered a "core" vaccine and is recommended for every dog.
Canine parvovirus ("parvo")
Parvo is caused by a virus that is very contagious and attacks the gastrointestinal system, causing fever, vomiting, and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Unprotected dogs basically die from diarrhea. It is spread by direct contact between dogs as well as by contaminated stool, surfaces, bowls, collars, leashes, equipment, and the hands and clothing of people. It can also survive in the soil for years, making the virus hard to kill. If the disease progresses too far before being treated, the treatment is expensive (>$1,000) and many dogs die from parvo despite or even because of the intensive treatment.
Fortunately, there is a vaccine for parvo. It is essential in Honduras that your dog is vaccinated against it.
Fungal infections and skin diseases
Fungal organisms in the soil can infect dogs when they eat or sniff contaminated soil. Dogs can also be infected through the skin, especially through a skin wound.
In general, the fungus infects the body through the respiratory tract and causes fever, coughing, lethargy, and flu-like or pneumonia-like signs. If eaten, digestive problems (e.g., pain, diarrhea) can occur. Immunosuppressed dogs (dogs whose immune systems are weakened because of disease or certain medications) are much more likely to become infected with these fungi and develop a disease.
Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and can cause coughing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, heart disease, and death. Since we have year-round mosquitos and it is likely that most street dogs have heartworm, it is a safe bet to say that the majority of mosquitoes will be carriers if they have bitten other dogs first. Regular medication and checkups are necessary.
Roatan is hot and humid year-round. In summer the temperatures can be unbearable for a dog with a thick coat or one that is unable to rid itself of excess heat. Make sure your dogs always have plenty of access to water. A lot of bars are dog friendly here and are used to people asking for water for their dogs.
Short-nosed breeds, such as pugs, Boston Terriers, boxers, bulldogs, etc. are more prone to heatstroke and breathing problems because they don't pant as effectively as breeds with normal-length noses.
Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting and drooling, anxiousness, weakness, abnormal gum color (darker red or even purple), collapse, and death.
Any dog showing signs of heatstroke should be immediately taken to a shaded area and cooled with cold, wet towels that are wrung out and rewetted every few minutes. Running cool water over the dog's body and quickly wiping it away (so the water absorbs the skin's heat and is immediately wiped away) can also help. Transport the dog to a veterinarian immediately, because heatstroke can rapidly become deadly.
Again because of the heat, humidity, and the prevalence of bacteria and fungus, any scratch or injury must be taken seriously and treated appropriately. If possible deep bite wounds should be evaluated by a veterinarian in case stitching is required or a vein/artery has been cut. At a bare minimum, the area must be carefully cleaned and treated with medications.
Parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms lay eggs that are passed in the dog's stool and infect other dogs when they eat contaminated soil, lick contaminated fur or paws, or drink water that has been contaminated with the stool from infected dogs. Tapeworms are also spread when dogs eat fleas, lice, or rodents infected with tapeworms. These worms can cause malnutrition (because they steal nutrients as food is being digested) and diarrhea, and hookworms can cause blood loss. Regular checkups and monthly medication are necessary to prevent infection and start treatment if your pet is infected.
Animal Rescue and giving your time and support to help
From fostering rescue dogs to donating money or your time, there are many ways to help out animals and volunteer in Roatan. There are several charities based on the island, such as Roatan Operation Animal Rescue (ROAR), ROAR focuses on spaying and neutering street dogs and cats and actively rehoming them where possible. ROAR is a US 501(c)(3) nonprofit & Honduran-registered NGO. They have a network of volunteers who help take a diseased-ridden and mistreated animal and turn it into a socialized pet ready for adoption. They hold many fundraising events around the year to help raise money to keep the operation going.
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