As I’ve explained before, the most common question I get from readers is “What paperwork, shots and stuff do I need to take my pet to Mexico?” About a month ago, Travis contacted me to confirm that pets younger than 3 months cannot receive rabies vaccines,and are exempt from this requirement. He and his partner, Allen, were getting a new puppy and wanted to eliminate any possible problems when they brought their new baby back home to Mexico.
Travis was nice enough to write me to let me know about the difficulty Allen had when he reached Guadaljara with with the new pup.
Just thought I’d let you know how it went importing the puppy through GDL. My partner Allen did the deed, he actually dealt with the folks at the airport, while I waited in baggage claim for their arrival.
The breeder/owner of the puppy had already started on the parasite meds, and we got the vet up in the US to write a statement that the dog appeared to be free of both internal and external parasites. That part wasn’t a problem, but….
Allen printed off a copy of the “International Health Certificate” from the internet, since the veterinarian didn’t have an original to use. Same exact form, but a printout from the internet. The folks at the airport had an issue with it being a copy, even though it was effectively an original since the vet (with license number and all that jazz) had filled it out in ink. I guess the “originals” of the Intl. Health Certificate are all stamped with a “folio number”. Since it was a copy, it didn’t have an official #. Again, exact same form. The bureaucrat at the airport was actually making an issue out of it, and saying it was unacceptable. Unbelievable. Allen, who speaks almost no Spanish, was saying, “But this is what I have….these are the papers I have. It’s everything the website asks for. It’s an 8-week-old puppy!”
Fortunately, a bilingual Mexican approached. He was interested in finding out what was necessary to bring back a dog from the U.S. for himself. Thankfully, in an empowered “Mexican to Mexican” way, he told the clerk something like….”It’s Sunday….it’s an 8-week-old puppy…..he has all the paperwork in order…..don’t be a jackass….. let the dog in!”
So the clerk made an “exception” and the puppy got in. I don’t know what would have transpired without the intervention. One would hope that common sense would have kicked in at some point, but who knows….
Based on this report, I’m going to strongly suggest that people only use the original International Health Certificates that can be obtained by your vet. Don’t accept a photocopy or a downloaded version of the form.
A few years ago when we were planning our first trip to Mexico, I quickly discovered how difficult it could be to find lodging that would accept a pet. Thankfully, it’s easier these days, but the advice that I received back then about the option of a Hotel de Paso is still important to know if you are traveling in Mexico with a pet. My online friend, Rolly Brook, is a longtime resident of Mexico and has a terrific website called My Life In Mexico. He uses the term ‘Motel de Paso’ for these interesting accommodations – and I’m sure he’s correct. But according to Google, those of us who are less knowledgeable about Mexican customs still search for a ‘Hotel de Paso’. No matter what you call them, it’s a viable alternative when you are traveling with a pet in Mexico, and I appreciate Rolly letting me use this from his site:
In the USA and Canada, the line between a motel and a hotel is sometimes blurry. This is not the case in México; here they are distinctly different. Hotels frequently do not have secure parking; motels always do. Hotels usually cost more than motels, sometimes much more. Hotels often have restaurants, motels almost never do. Many motels can be found on the highway near a town or city, while hotels are usually located near the city center. But the big difference is in the purpose of each.
Some background: In México it is common for two, three, or even four generations to share the same house, sometimes even the same bedroom. In such a situation, it is difficult for a couple to find a private time to be intimate. Motels provide a place for couples to get together when they have no other place to do so. They are not brothels.
The proper name of these establishments is Motel de Paso, but the more common name is just motel. It always will have a covered garage attached to each unit. The cover may be a regular garage door or it may be a heavy canvas curtain. The facility is complete walled off from the outside except for a single entrance/exit which is staffed 24/7. This combination provides very good security for your car. Units are typically not rented in 24 hour blocks like hotels, but rather in shorter blocks — anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. Some of them are rather plain and not very expensive, some are truly elegant and priced accordingly. Prices typically range from US$15 to $25, more for an up-scale place.
Some will have a snack bar, perhaps tacos and hamburgers in the evening. Some will have room service with orders being placed in a through-the-wall delivery compartment so the delivery person does not see who is inside. They will almost always be immaculately clean — their client base is local folks not travelers, so they must be clean and respectable to succeed in the community.
These motels will not have a swimming pool nor a children’s play area.
Would a tourist want to stay in one of these places rather than a hotel? Perhaps. While these places usually rent for a shorter time block than a traveler might want, most are willing to negotiate a discount for a longer stay, although a discount is not always available on weekends which tend to be a motel’s busiest time. They provide excellent security for a cost that is usually a good bit less than a downtown hotel with comparable secure parking, and they may be more convenient to the highway. Most accept pets; hotels are almost always pet unfriendly.
On our next trip to Mexico, I just have to try one of these out, if only to be able to tell the story at our next cocktail party!
For those who are even thinking about moving to Mexico, Rolly is one of the authors of The Best How-To Book on Moving to Mexico. This is probably the best book on the subject. That’s not just my opinion – Amazon reviewers unanimously give it Five Stars. Click Here to buy it directly from Amazon with free shipping.
After hearing from a reader that a border control agent had told her that she was only allowed to bring one dog into Mexico, I contacted SENASICA to find out what the current rules really are. In May, 2011, they confirmed via email that each person can bring two pets into Mexico. People under 18 years of age are also allowed to bring two pets.
If you bring more than two pets per person, you have to pay a fee for the Certificate for Imports. In May, 2011 the cost of the certificate was $1,620.00 Pesos. There is not a maximum limit on the number of pets you can bring, but you will pay that fee for every pet that exceeds the two per person rule.
Those that have multiple pets and want to avoid the fee might need to get a little creative and invite some extra two-legged guests along for the ride. Consider these scenarios:
- A single person can bring 2 pets for free. More than 2? Pay the fee for each pet over the two per person limit
- A couple can bring in 4 pets for free. More than 4? Pay the fee for each pet over the two per person limit.
- Mom, Dad and one kid can bring 6 pets for free. More than 6 pets? Pay the fee for each pet over the two per person limit – and you have my condolences for every minute you spend in the car on the drive down to Mexico!
A few weeks ago, I received an interesting question from a reader:
Does your website address the restrictions on bringing dog food into the USA from Mexico? We have six dogs and are full-time residents of Ajijic. We travel to Oregon every year at this time (for 17 years) with several dogs and have never had a hassle with dog food until last year.
Last year I was told by a friend that had just crossed with a dog that the dog food had to be in the original container or be confiscated. So we tried to cross the border with an open bag of Costco dog kibble. They said the container must be unopened. That creates logistic difficulties that I would rather not try to figure out unless necessary. I was hoping perhaps the guy we got was in a bad mood or something. Anyhow, if you know anything about this, I would love to know what you know.
Thanks for being who you are.
Well, I didn’t know anything about it. I’m embarrassed to say that I never even considered it is was okay to bring dog food into the US (I guess I was too busy trying to figure out how many bottles of Tequila we are allowed duty free.)
After a little research, I’ve found enough information that makes me say that bringing dog food over the border into the US may cause problems. The Department of Homeland Security, Customers and Border Protection website contains the following warning:
Meats, Livestock and Poultry
The regulations governing meat and meat products are stringent. You may not import fresh, dried or canned meats or meat products from most foreign countries into the United States. Also, you may not import food products that have been prepared with meat.
The regulations on importing meat and meat products change frequently because they are based on disease outbreaks in different areasof the world. APHIS, which regulates meats and meat products as well as fruits and vegetables, invites you to contact them for more information on importing meats. A list of countries and/or regions with specific livestock or poultry diseases can be found at the Animal Disease Status page.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, CBP Division
Based on this information, I think it’s clear that pet food that is made from meat or meat products cannot be brought back into the US, whether the container is open or closed. But those of us who travel with pets realize that we need to carry some pet food along for the ride, ideally the same type of pet food that our four-legged family usually eats. Next time we return from Mexico, we will still have dog food in our vehicle, but it will be a small amount and we’ll keep it in the original bag. The bag will probably be open since that’s what we will use for Riley during our road trip.
If the border agents ask us about dog food, we’ll be honest and explain that it’s just enough to get us home, smile nicely and hope it’s not confiscated. But I’m betting that Riley is hoping that the border agents will snatch his dog food, forcing us to make a pit stop at the nearest grocery store, where might buy him fresh cold cuts at the deli!
P.S. This is the travel dog bowl we use whenever we take Riley on the road. They’re great!
I receive quite a few emails every week asking questions about airlines and pet travel. Which airline is the most pet friendly? Can my pet ride in the cabin with me? What kind of pet carrier do I need to bring my pet on a plane?
Unfortunately, there are very few hard and fast rules that apply across the board to all pet friendly airlines. The policies vary from carrier to carrier and change frequently. These are the only rules that seem to apply universally:
- If an airline allows pets in the cabin, they must fit under the seat in their carrier.
- Most airlines restrict the number of pets allowed in the cabin.
- If your pet is too large to fit under the seat, then it goes as excess baggage or cargo – which can be dangerous for pets.
Airlines have tried to limit the possibility of injury or death to pets traveling in baggage or cargo. Recently, airlines have started to ban brachycephalic dogs and cats from cargo. Airlines also restrict pet travel in cargo during extreme weather conditions. And they require an airline approved travel crate whether the dog is flying cargo or in the cabin.
The rules for pet travel on airlines is confusing and complex, and it’s impossible for me to answer with any confidence. I have, however, found a great resource to help you begin researching for this information. SeatGuru has set up a great search tool that shows the pet travel policy for each individual airline carrier. After you find an airline that has a pet policy that seems to fit your travel needs, go to that airline’s website and double check that the policy has not changed. Consider calling the airline and speaking directly with an agent to confirm the policy and resolve any questions you might have (and get his or her name). It’s also a good idea to print a copy of the online policy and bring it with you to the airport.
Click Here for Amazon’s selection of airline approved pet carriers.
The question I receive the most often is “What paperwork and shots do I need to bring my pet to Mexico.”
Because the rules change so frequently, I usually refer people to the El Servicio Nacional de Sanidad Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria (SENASICA) site, specifically the pages on When Traveling to Mexico With Your Pet.
As of February, 2011, for family dogs and cats, the basic rules are:
- You must present an original and a copy of a Health Certificate issued and signed by a licensed Veterinarian, from the country of origin of the pet. Your vet should have a copy of this form, but you can download it here. Warning: There have been reports that customs agents have been accepting only the original International Health Certificate which includes a folio number.
- This certificate must be dated no more than 10 days prior to entry to Mexico.
- Your pet will need a valid rabies vaccine unless they are under three months of age. Be sure that the dates of inoculation AND expiration of the vaccine are written on the form.
- Pets younger than 3 months cannot receive rabies vaccines, and are exempt from this requirement.
- Your pet will need to receive preventative treatment against internal and external parasites within six months prior to coming to Mexico. Be sure that the form clearly states that the pet has received this preventative treatment, the date of the treatment and that the pet is free from internal and external parasites.
- Your pet must be clinically healthy at examination. Again, be sure the form clearly states this information.
Although the only vaccine Mexico requires is rabies, most responsible pet owners will also want to have a discussion with their vet about administering these additional vaccines to their dogs and cats prior to departure:
Dogs: Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, and Leptospirosis
Cats: Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (FVRCP)
I would like to thank MVZ Karina Gutiérrez Sánchez at SENASICA for her help with this all-important information.
MVZ Karina Gutiérrez Sánchez
Enlace de Alto Nivel de Responsabilidad
Dirección General de Inspección Fitozoosanitaria
Municipio Libre No. 377, Col. Santa Cruz Atoyac
Del. Benito Juárez, México, D.F., C.P.03310
Tel. Conm. (55) 59-05-1000, Ext. 51123
Since 2005, airlines have been required to submit reports to the Department of Transportation detailing incidents involving the death, injury or loss of pets that are transported as cargo. Finally, in September 2010, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published an article that detailed those findings.
The good news is that the number of tragic reports is minimal when compared to the estimated 500,000 pets that travel in the cargo area each year on domestic flights in the USA. In the past five years, airlines have reported 122 dog deaths, along with the deaths of 22 other pets, and 88 incidents involving injuries to pets or loss of pets.
Most importantly, the statistics showed that Brachycephalic dog breeds, such as Pugs, Japanese Chins, French and English Bulldogs were found to comprise about half of all dogs — 122 canines — that died on United States airlines.
As a result, American Airlines has announced that they will not accept snub-nosed pets for travel in cargo. These dog breeds include Boxers, Pekingese, Boston Terriers and other snub-nosed dogs. Brachycephalic cats (Himalayan, Persian, Burmese and Exotic Shorthair) are also banned from travel as cargo on American Airlines.
No doubt that other airlines will follow with similar restrictions. While this does make it more difficult for pet owners to transport their pets on an airline, the airline industry should be commended for their pro-active reaction to this information and their efforts to safeguard our pets traveling in cargo.
If you know of other airlines that have already enacted these restrictions, please add that information as a comment.