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Traveling with your Pet to Baja

“It has long been taken for granted that our attitudes are influenced by the degree of biological or behavioural similarity between a given species and ourselves.” –Bioscience Horizons By Yesica PinedaWhen traveling to Mexico with pets, it is important to be informed and to know the facts, regardless of how many tales you hear about not needing to show any official documents to cross your pet through the border. Baja is Mexican territory; therefore, Mexican regulations apply.

Photo by Muge Kuran

When I drove from Baja to California, my dog Sugar was so eager to show that all her documentation was in order, but at the immigration stop, nobody noticed her (and she is a 75-pound wolf-dog Mexican mot) so she passed the border to the United States like any other citizen would. My friend Muge, who recently drove down to Cabo from Colorado twice, had no one stopping her when she crossed the border from San Diego to Baja, and no one stopped her dog, either. All 1000 miles of Baja California Peninsula are considered border territory, and border rules apply when it comes to the roadtrips. Most Baja road travelers will tell you that some international permit requirements are not strictly reviewed unless you are crossing to mainland Mexico, and that there is an air of trust and freedom that the Baja Peninsula offers to its road travelers. Airports are a different story, however.  Customs and immigration rules are enforced as in any other country. I visited the official Mexican websiteto get up-to-date on the latest rules regarding bringing your pet with you to Mexico, and this is what I found out:

  • Only dogs and cats are considered pets.
  • The required documents will be checked at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (OISAS) located at international airports, border crossing points and seaports.
  • Administrative process: Your pet will undergo a physical examination. Mucus (oral, nasal and conjunctival), ears, body temperature, skin and hair will be checked to rule out the presence of parasites, infections, tumors or skin cuts. If parasites are found, it is required that a veterinarian of your choice gives your pet the appropriate treatment; once the treatment has been given, your pet will be allowed to enter the country. You must cover all generated expenses. Your pet will be rejected if it has any form of skin infection such as scabies, fungus or alopecia. All kennels must come clean and will be disinfected at arrival.
  • To travel with your pet (dog or cat) to Mexico, you need to present a Health Certificate (original and a copy) issued by an approved official veterinarian or by a private veterinarian from the country of origin. The certificate must come in letterhead with the veterinarian license number printed on it. You will need to present this certificate at the Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (OISA) located at the port of entry.
  • The certificate must state:

1. The importer / exporter name and address.

2. That animals have been immunized against rabies (date and expiration of vaccination). Animals under three months are exempt of this requirement.

3. That a previous check up showed no signs of disease.

Note: If you choose to use the USDA Health Certificate official format, make sure it is signed and sealed by official USDA personnel to make it valid.

If your pet is Mexican and is coming back from the US or Canada, you can present the health certificate your private veterinarian issued before leaving Mexico. The certificate must include rabies immunization date not older than six months, or the immunization card stating that the rabies vaccination is up to date.

If your pet is Mexican and is coming back from any other part of the world (except the US and Canada), your pet is exempt from presenting a health certificate if before leaving Mexico you received the Mexican Animal Health Certificate for Export.  The issuance date must not exceed six months and the rabies vaccination must be up to date.

OISA issuance of Animal Health Certificate for Import

  • Once all requirements are met, OISA official personnel will issue the Health Certificate for Import.

  • If you are traveling with three or less animals you are exempt of any fees. If you are traveling with four or more pets, you should make the required payment for the issuance of the certificate (MX$1,817). You can make the payment either online or at the bank.

  • If you are traveling with four or more pets, customs authorities will order their transfer to the cargo area, where they must comply with the regulations for commercial imports.  You are allowed to bring in your pet`s food, but it must come in its original package, with the USDA/CFIA seal and no more than one portion per pet. Please note that in Mexico you may find pet food under the registration and approval of SAGARPA.

Important information: Pets must enter the country in a clean cage or kennel, with no bed or accessories. Otherwise, these items will be removed and will go under a prophylactic treatment if considered necessary by SENASICA personnel.

If for some reason you were not aware of the requirements or you lost the documents:

1. Contact a family member or an acquaintance in Mexico to get in touch with a trusted veterinarian so he can wait for you at your arrival in Mexico. He can certify your pet´s health and give it the needed immunizations or treatment. Or, you can contact the veterinarian yourself and ask him to wait for you at the airport to certify your pet´s health and offer the appropriate treatment.

2. Inform your veterinarian of the requirements so that he can be prepared.

3. Once you arrive to the International Arrivals Terminal, notify SENASICA´s personnel that you are traveling with your pet and do not have the necessary documents and that your veterinarian is waiting to certify your pet´s health.

4. SENASICA´s personnel will arrange all the necessary actions so that your veterinarian will be able to apply and certify the needed treatment.

5. You may call your veterinarian upon arrival, but be aware that not calling him in advance may result in delays.

6. Get informed about  the requirements.

What happens if your pet is from different species, such as a reptile, ornamental bird, ferret or turtle?

Traveling with your pet back home

The requirements you need to attend to cross your pet through borders will depend on the country you are visiting. You can view the requirements here.

* In case you need an Animal Health Certificate for Export, you may ask for one at the Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (OISAS), located at any International Airport.

Process for the issuance of Animal Health Certificate for Export

  • You can start the process for the issuance of the Animal Health Certificate for Export days before your trip. The certificate will be valid for 30 natural days. We suggest that you begin the process a few days before so you can plan in advance in case of any delay or for the need to administer lab exams, treatments or vaccinations to your pet.

Cost of the Animal Health Certificate for Export

  • This certificate has no cost if you are traveling with up to three pets. If you are traveling with four or more pets, you must cover the cost of the Animal Health Certificate for Export (MX$421).

Airline pet policies

Mexico is pet friendly and does not charge you to bring your pets, but each airline has its own rules about taking pets when you travel, how many pets they will transport per passenger or family group, and their charge for their service. The same dog with which I passed unnoticed through the border on land costs almost US$700 to fly into Mexico from Colorado. Here are some universal guidelines that apply to most airlines as of 2012, but you should contact your airline to find out about their particular practices and fees.

  • For example, effective May 1, 2012, Alaska Airlines will accept only kennels secured with nuts and bolts for transport in the cargo compartment. Space for pets traveling in the cabin or in the cargo compartment is limited and subject to availability. When traveling with your pet in the cabin, the pet is considered your carry-on item. A personal item (e.g. purse, briefcase, laptop) is the only additional item which may be brought onboard. Alaska Airlines does not transfer pets traveling in the baggage compartment to other carriers. Pets must be claimed and rechecked to the connecting carrier. Be aware that you might be traveling under Pet embargo periods when customers flying certain flights may not check pets in the baggage or cargo compartments. In short: always confirm details with your airline.

Crates and Kennels: The airline will require you to use a purpose-built crate (for cats) or kennel (for dogs). Health Certificates: You will need to show the health certificates from the veterinary surgeon — the same documents required at the port of entry in Mexico. Excess Baggage Fees: Fees vary by airline — check with them for details. If you have a big dog (combined weight of kennel and animal greater than 100 lbs), then the dog may have to be transported separately (as cargo). Airlines have been restricting baggage allowances and increasing fees for excess baggage of late, so be sure to check these details with your airline so that you understand the additional costs involved. Proper Labeling on Crates and Kennels: Your full name, address, and telephone contact numbers (at destination) need to be clearly displayed. The crate should indicate which way is up, and the words “LIVE ANIMALS” (in capital letters) should be prominently displayed. Your pet(s) should also be properly tagged. Interior of Crates and Kennels: The interior should have some sort of absorbent lining to absorb any urine or feces. Shredded newspaper will work if you don’t have a purpose made material from a pet store. Do not place food or water inside the crate or kennel but instead place two dishes inside which airline staff may make use of. Some people freeze water in a dish, which melts during the flight, providing your pet with water if it gets thirsty. Upon Arrival: Have food and water ready for your pet. You may place these items inside the crate or kennel; keep water containers and food packets sealed. You will need to present your health certificates to the zoo sanitary kiosk at the port of entry in Mexico, for your pet to be allowed into the country. Do you have any advice or tips to share about traveling with pets to Baja? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Nefful products health care says:

    Hi my friend! I wish to say that this article is amazing, great written and include almost all important infos. I’d like to see extra posts like this .

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