Can I cross the border with my dog walking? A Comprehensive Guide

Traveling To Mexico With A Dog

Your experience crossing the border will be very different depending on how and where you travel. More scrutiny and inspections are common at busy crossing like San Diego and El Paso. If you’re flying in, your documents will also be reviewed more thoroughly.

In contrast, if you’re walking across the border, the process could be very casual – especially if you’re visiting a small town. Driving across the border will likely be somewhere in between, with where you choose to cross having the biggest impact.

Mexico requires all foreign citizens visiting the country to fill out an Official Entry Immigration Form, also called a tourist card, prior to their arrival. Tourist cards are free and you can fill out and print the form at home.

When you arrive at the border, present the immigration officer with your printed tourist card and your passport. Since your information will already be in their system, once your tourist card is stamped, you’ll be off to enjoy Mexico!

If you are walking across the border into Mexico, you might find the immigration officer doesn’t request your tourist card. Still, it’s better to have it prepared – just in case.

If you are driving in Mexico, you will also need to purchase Mexican car insurance. Even if your U.S. auto insurance policy covers you in Mexico, it cannot pay damages that you would legally owe to others if you were in an accident. Mexican law is very clear—in order to drive in Mexico, you must at least have Mexican liability coverage, underwritten by a Mexican carrier.

Can I cross the border with my dog walking?

On December 16, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that cats and dogs traveling to Mexico from the U.S. no longer need a health certificate.

The rules now state that travelers with the pet dogs and/or cats must visit the Mexican Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (OISA), and see the person working with SENASICA upon arriving in Mexico.

If you travel regularly between the U.S. and Mexico with your dog, you can request to register in the “Pet Program – Frequent Traveler.” For further information, refer to the USDA website.

SENASICA inspectors aren’t present at every crossing. When we walked into Mexico from Naco, Arizona near Bisbee, there was no pet inspection. Myles simply strolled across the border with us.

If there is a SENASICA inspector at your crossing, the rules state that pets must be presented clean cages or carriers. Though, we’ve heard this rules is not always enforced – especially for larger pets. If you cannot easily carry your pet in a carrier, presenting your dog on leash should be fine.

Can I cross the border with my dog walking?

The SENASICA agent will perform a physical inspection of your pet to determine the following:

  • Your pet shows no sign of infectious and contagious diseases,
  • is free of ectoparasites (ticks), and
  • has no fresh wounds or wounds in the process of healing.
  • If ticks are detected, your pet cannot cross the border. You’ll either need to return to the U.S., or the SENASICA agent will send a sample of the tick for diagnostic testing at the official laboratory. Your pet would have to remain at the OISA (Mexican official office) until confirmation is received that the parasites are not exotic/foreign to Mexico.

    If your pet is being treated for lesions and/or infections due to a skin condition, present the SENASICA agent with the diagnosis and treatment instructions from your veterinarian. This information should be presented on letterhead, including the veterinarian’s professional registration number (or equivalent).

    When traveling to Mexico with a dog, the rules state you can only bring enough food to feed your pet that day. If you’re staying longer than a day, you could purchase pet food in Mexico. Or, consider shipping your dog’s food to your destination so it’s there when you arrive. Otherwise, you might be sharing your meals!

    Can I cross the border with my dog walking?

    Some states may require other vaccinations and health certificates. Please check with your destination state’s health department before you leave on your trip.

    Your dog must be healthy and have a valid rabies vaccination certificate to enter the United States. Puppies must be at least 12 weeks old (3 months) before they can be vaccinated against rabies. As a result, the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months old because dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to arrival. Adult dogs older than 15 months of age that have previously been vaccinated for rabies but have since expired are permitted to cross the border immediately after a booster vaccination and do not need to wait 30 days.

    Travelling across the border into the United States with your healthy dog and/or cat can be a smooth and stress-free experience if you are prepared beforehand. Here are the things you need to make your road trip with your pet that much more enjoyable.

    Cats don’t require a rabies vaccination to enter the United States. However, most states and many other countries require it. Be sure to inquire with your destinations’ requirements and ask your veterinarian before travelling.

    You must bring a copy of your dog’s current rabies vaccination certificate from a licensed veterinarian including:

    How can I bring my dog to the USA?

    A veterinarian issued health certificate stating your pet is healthy and fit to fly. This certificate must be completed within 10 days of travel. Proof of rabies vaccination from all countries where rabies is present*.

    Can I cross the border with my dog walking?

    Generally speaking, crossing back to the U.S. is a breeze with a dog or cat. Its important to note that there are federal and state regulations and its important to know both.

    In an nutshell, to return to California only dogs, not cats, require a rabies certification. Health certificates are not required for either dogs or cats.

    As information can change, below are some of the regulations with links to find the latest information:

    Federal level: According to the CDC, all dogs and cats must appear healthy on arrival. The CDC does not require rabies certificates if the dog is coming from Mexico. They state as an example: “Your adult dog lived in the United States and visited Mexico. This dog does NOT require a rabies certificate or CDC Dog Import Permit, because Mexico is NOT on the list of high-risk countries for dog rabies.” View more federal information about bringing dogs and cats.

    State level: The USDA has a handy tool to check state requirements to import a pet. Scroll down to “Additional State Requirements” and select the U.S. state you will be crossing into from Mexico. For example, for California, the CDFA states:

    Generally speaking, dogs and cats will NOT be quarantined as long as they are healthy and have the required paperwork to enter the U.S. However, according to the Pets and Wildlife Division of U.S. Customs, all about Bringing an Animal into the United States.

    Pet dogs and cats may be examined at the border domestic pets once taken out of the U.S. are subject to returning to the U.S. with an animal may be found on the CDCs website:

    Thank goodness, some good news! There is no “duty” or fee for dogs or cats re-entering the U.S.

    According to the CDC, the youngest a puppy can be to legally enter the US is 4 months old. Puppies can not get vaccinated before 3 months of age, and once vaccinated they need to wait 30 days before traveling so the vaccine can take effect.

    According to the CDC: Adult dogs older than 15 months of age that have previously received a rabies vaccination given no earlier than 3 months of age and that has since expired may be imported immediately following booster vaccination, without the need to wait for 30 days.

    Dogs that have never received a rabies vaccination before must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to arrival in the U.S.

    Importation of dogs and cats into the U.S. is regulated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). According to the CDC, all domestic cats and dogs must show no evidence of disease that can be communicable to humans at the port of entry.

    Even if all of your paperwork is in order, if your dog or cat does not look like it is in good health, further examination by a licensed vet (at your expense!) will be necessary before your dog or cat is allowed to re-enter the U.S.!