Mexico Relaxes the Requirements to Import Pets from the U.S. and Canada

Photo source: iStockphoto

For years, bringing your pets along with you on vacation to Mexico meant gathering a bunch of paperwork like health certificates, vaccination records and proof that your furry friend was treated for parasites within the last six months. Fortunately, many of those requirements were eliminated earlier this year for pets originating from ether the United States or Canada.

Import Procedures for Pets from the U.S. or Canada

Let’s begin with a fun fact — in Mexico, only dogs and cats are considered pets. Well, at least in the eyes of the Mexican government. That means that the procedures discussed in this post only apply to dogs and cats.

Okay, let’s get back to the topic at hand.

The government agency in Mexico tasked with overseeing the importation of animals is el Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad, Calidad Agroalimentaria (SENASICA). I made contact with them earlier this week to obtain the most current procedures for importing dogs and cats from either the United States or Canada:

  • You are no longer required to bring a health certificate, rabies vaccination record or proof of treatment for parasites.
  • Upon entering Mexico, you must report to la Oficina de Inspección de Sanidad Agropecuaria (OISA)  where your pet will be visually examined by an employee of SENASICA to determine if your pet has any open or healing wounds, rashes, external parasites or infectious diseases. If a problem is detected, you’ll will be required to contact a veterinarian of your choice to have the animal evaluated/treated at your expense. 
  • If ticks are found during the inspection, they will be collected and sent to the lab for analysis to determine if they are an invasive species. The animal will be kept at the examination center until the results come back. Any analysis or tests will be at your expense. 
  • If your pet is being treated for lesions and/or infections of the skin like mange, dermatomicosis, dermatofilosis, alopecia or similar condition, you should present SENASICA with a letter from a licensed veterinarian with the diagnosis and treatment. The letter should be on official letterhead with the license number, or equivalent, of the veterinarian. 
  • If the pet’s transport carrier is dirty and/or has disposable bedding (diaper, newspaper, sawdust, rags) toys or food, it will be disinfected and those items will be removed and destroyed. 
  • You are only permitted to bring enough pet food for the day of arrival. 

If you would like to review the requirements from SENASICA in Spanish, click HERE.

NOTE: All of the information in the article was verified by employees of SENASICA.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Whether or not your pet will actually be inspected in accordance with these procedures will depend a lot on how you enter the country. If you drive across the border, it’s unlikely that any officials will even ask you about your pet; however if you fly in, you can rest assured that SENASICA will be giving Lil’ Fluffy the once over.

Speaking of flying, keep in mind that the the airline may require additional documentation such as a health certificate (some do and some don’t). Always do your homework.

Whenever procedure changes at the federal level in Mexico, it seems to take a very long time for the information to reach the line-level folks. That’s why it helps to bring the applicable law, rule of procedure with you. You can print the requirements for the importation of any animal from any country using the SENASICA portal: https://sistemasssl.senasica.gob.mx/mcrz/moduloConsulta.jsf

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

50 Comments on "Mexico Relaxes the Requirements to Import Pets from the U.S. and Canada"

  1. I flew into CANCUN on October 20th this year and I still was asked for proof of parasite control. Was this just changed as we fly to Canada and back throughout the year?

    • Changed earlier in the year. Those are still the procedures for pets coming from countries other than Canada or the U.S. I really think they are still in the learning curve at SENASICA. If you click the link in the article, it goes directly to their requirements along with a code that they can look up the same info themselves. Sometimes it helps to show folks.

  2. Even though Mexico doesn’t require a health certificate, the airlines still do.

    • Not all airlines do. Jetblue doesn’t ask and they instruct passengers to “check the vaccination and documentation required for each destination on your itinerary.”

  3. I just brought my dog down to Baja on October 8, 2019. I walked across the border with her, and that was no problem. However, the airline (Volaris) DID require the health certificate from my Vet. Also, I thought the letter needed to be issued within 10 days of traveling, (my letter was 8 days old) but they told me it needed to be issued within 5 days of traveling. They finally did let me on the flight, but it was quite stressful.

  4. Working for a vet we get our up to date info for each country’s requirements from the aphis website. There is nothing there that reflects your information – where are you finding It?https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/pettravel-mexico

    • Hi Karin. The page you mentioned was last updated in February of this year and this change came out after that. The information in the article came from el Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad, Calidad Agroalimentaria (SENASICA) which falls under Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Development.

      If you’re up on your Spanish, you can see the rules in their entirety with the appropriate reference codes: http://qroo.us/requisitos-de-sader-senasica/

      Knowing Mexico as I do, I contacted SENASICA and SAT directly to confirm the requirements changed for Canada and the U.S.

      You can check the current import requirements for all animals using this portal: https://sistemasssl.senasica.gob.mx/mcrz/moduloConsulta.jsf

      SENASICA said it is the most up-to-date and accurate source.

  5. Are ticks and “evasive” pest or “invasive” pest. That made me laugh!

  6. According to the spanish link you provided the new rules were published on Oct 17 of this year.

    • Yes, the rules at the link page were last updated October 17, 2019 but the change in procedures first appeared on another Mexican government web page on March 13, 2019.

      • Yes that’s the date the changes were approved. Then there is a publication date. That’s why there is a lag time of the change and notification. Similar to the US when regs are changed.

  7. Thanks for this information.

    While it may be the official Mexican Government requirement, what actually happens when crossing the border can be and usually is quite different. We’ve made three crossings with our two large dogs in the last couple of years, two of which were in the last 6 months and the Mexicans have never once done anything with my pooches except ask me if they bite before giving them pets. I have APHIS certificates, proof of vaccinations and parasite treatment and will continue to do so whenever we cross with the dogs based on my belief that the Mexican requirements are adhered to randomly and that the more ‘official papers’ I carry with me, the better if something does come up.

    • I would do the same thing if I were traveling with an animal. I think a lot of the inconsistencies in how rules and laws are applied and enforced comes from a serious lack of training.

      On more than one occasion, I have responded to this apparent lack of training by presenting the government employee with a copy of the applicable law, rule, procedure or guideline. In most cases, the employee reads it as though they’ve never seen it before in their lives. Then the employee typically calls a supervisor and after a brief discussion, things suddenly take a turn in my favor. At least this has been the pattern (knocks on wood…lol)

    • Unfortunately when driving across you wont be asked because that’s not the responsibility of customs or immigration. The regulations before this change clearly stated that “you” will present the animal with the papers to the senesaca office at the port of entry. Obviously when flying it’s right there and you cant miss it. Most people when driving go right past it or assume that if they arent asked it’s not enforced.

  8. Any info on traveling within Mexico. We are regulars to CDMX and the requirement have (annoyingly) been exactly the same.

  9. Really need current rules for bringing my Dove via car

  10. The regulations weren’t particularly strict to begin with. We went with option B on the US APHIS site and all was easy flying into Guadalajara. Even though Mexico has “changed” requirements, check thoroughly with the airline you are using as their requirements change on a dime.

  11. Just curious as to why the requirements were different if you brought you pet into Mx by air rather than by land. We have never been asked for any paperwork when we drove from the US border into Mx. However by air from Canada or the US they appear to be much more strict- at least they used to

    • They aren’t different in writing, just in practice. That sort of thing happens a lot here in Mexico. It actually used to frustrate me when I first moved here but I’ve since gotten used to it…lol.

      • They arent different in practice either. People just dont understand the actual law and the procedures. They assume since immigration or customs doesnt ask when driving across its enforced differently. It’s not their responsibility. According to the law it’s your responsibility to present the animal animal for inspection. Now that had somewhat changed without all the paperwork. But it’s still your responsibility to present the animal

  12. Kimberly A Goddard | November 2, 2019 at 11:40 am | Reply

    Duly noted. Thank you!

  13. Thank you for this information! I really will be interested in the “Other Pets” section when you can. We drove in with our Yorkie years ago, and never had a single issue. But of course we had all paperwork if asked. Later, we brought in our English Mastiff as a Puppy. More curiosity than concern about paper work again with her. I really would like to bring down one last Tortoise from my collection in the US. Do you know if it would be able to stay, legally? I have been Hoping for the Car Ferry Route on that adventure. Thanks again.

    • Hi Fred. I don’t off of the top of my head if you’re tortoise can join you in paradise, but we’ll both find out soon when I publish the post about other animals next week. 🙂

  14. I have 4 small dogs, currently my husband and I drive 2 cars to bring our pets to our home in PP. would prefer one car, any suggestions??

    • I’m probably not the best person to field that question because I have never transported any pets across the border. I would suggest asking folks in one of the expat FB groups.

    • The number of pets only refers to how many you can bring in without paying extra duty. You can bring 5 pets in a car you just pay a fee on the 2. It’s like 2200 pesos last time I checked

  15. I supposed new regulations take a while to filter down to the front line staff. I flew into Vallarta in September and they still wanted to see my dogs health certificate (which they photocopied) and vaccination records. They even questioned me as by vet didn’t include his license number on the health certificate… would be nice when they do relax the regulations across the country. Puerto Vallarta (arriving by air) still wants to see the document s

    • You’re absolutely correct, whenever significant changes occur to any government procedures in Mexico it seems like the line-level workers are the last to hear about them. That’s why if I anticipate a problem occurring, I always bring copies of their own rules, regulations and/or procedures to show them. They always looked confused at first — probably because it’s the first time they’ve ever seen them — but then things take a turn in my favor.

      Keep in mind that the requirements weren’t changed for every country, just the U.S. and Canada. That means they are still posted all over their work areas.

  16. sees to me you might as well have the documents in case your pet needs vet attention while “vacationing”. also, the US (and probably Canada) probably require most of the documents when returning

  17. We are flying on November 6th and was wondering if the food rule was for open food you bring to give your pets food while traveling? Our cat has prescription food as her normal diet. We are bringing a small case of cans(each 2 1/2 oz cans) until we can find her food in Mexico.

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      They’ve always been pretty strict on the pet food thing. We’ve heard from several people who had all but a couple of cans of pet food — enough for the day of arrival — seized and destroyed at the airport.

      The guideline reads, “Únicamente se permite el ingreso de la ración de alimento balanceado considerada para el día de arribo.”

      Of course, if questioned, you could claim that your cat eats that much in a single day. 🙂

      Paul

  18. Excellent news! Thanks

  19. Jeanette, the rules for pets are and have been the same no matter how you enter Mexico. When you drive YOU are required to go to the inspection location which is often many miles away from the border. They inspect your pets, the border officials don’t.

  20. Hey Paul, my dog has allergies and sometimes her skin looks bad (red, puffy) on bad allergy days. We plan to drive over from Arizona. Do you think this would be cause for alarm if we are stopped? We had planned to get the health certificate but now it seems the letter from the vet is enough.

    • It’s unlikely even be asked when driving in but if I were you, I would probably just get the health certificate to play it safe. But I tend to overprepare for everything! lol

  21. Our Facebook group Moving to Mexico moderators say they have been trying to confirm this information with the government and have found nothing to support this. Do you have a url with these updates on a government site? They are taking down posts that refer to this because they can’t confirm. Thank you.

    • Hi Gina,

      I contacted SINASICA and SAT personally to verify all the information in the post. If you click the Spanish link in the article, you’ll see the requirements provided by SENASICA’s online database of requirements. I included the coding to assist folks in locating the information and/or showing it to SENASICA personnel who are unaware of the change.

      Above the Spanish section, is a link to a portal where you can check the requirements for any animal from any country. The requirements haven’t changed for other countries regarding dogs and cats. For example, run Spain and you’ll see they still need a health certificate, rabies records and parasite treatment.

      Have a great weekend,

      Paul

  22. Another great article! I save them all. Our pooch too is on a special diet for pancreatitis and must be fed special “sensitive” food. I assume there are, likewise, dogs in Mexico with this same affliction and we can purchase special food, like Science Diet, at the vets or pet stores? Or maybe we could have them shipped via Fed-ex ahead of our arrival?

  23. In 13 trips driving I have never been asked for paper work for our dog. I always bring a big bag of food. Now I need to stop somewhere this seems more of a pain then just having a health certificate. Seems like it opens the door for them bribing you at the boarder

  24. Thanks for the information.I think it is cool that there is a pet frequent traveler program that can be signed up for – “6.- Esta HRZ sólo aplica para perros domésticos (Canis lupus familiaris). * Si viajas de manera regular y te acompaña tu mascota podrás solicitar el ingreso al Programa Mascota Viajero Frecuente, para mayores informes, comunícate al siguiente número: 59051000 ext. 53611, 54326 y 51020, (0155) 43130154; 43130155 y 43130152.”

  25. We arrived in Merida airport on November 4, 2019 with our Doggie. They did not even look at him. As usual, it was all about the paperwork. They took a photo of his rabies certificate, and a photo of documentation on the vet’s health certificate, where I had the vet type in Spanish “He has been vaccinated for rabies which is good until 2020. He is in good health. He has been on prevention treatment for endoparasites and ectoparasites for past 6 months.” They were very happy with this. Process took 5 minutes.

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