How to Move Your Pets to Mexico in 2024

This post is for those seeking practical tips and guidance on moving their dog or cat to Mexico. NOTE: these are the only animals the Mexican government considers pets.

As expats living in Guadalajara since 2022, we have first-hand experience bringing cats into Mexico by land.

To be honest, moving with our pets was one of the most stressful aspects of relocating, since the information I found online about how it works sometimes conflicted or was too vague to be actionable.

Plus, what happens on the ground so often differs from “official policy.” So I can relate if you’re feeling stressed out about it!

But please try not to. This is just how most things work in Mexico.

Now let’s get started.

Pets at the beach in Mexico

What is Required to Take a Pet to Mexico?

The first thing to know is that requirements for entry with pets into Mexico by air are much more stringent than arrival by land. This has nothing to do with the Mexican government but with requirements imposed by the airlines. (more on that in a minute)

Given the wide discrepancy, many pet owners opt to drive to Mexico because it’s so much easier, not to mention cheaper.

The official Mexican policy is that you can import two animals per adult and four total. Traveling with more pets than this could subject you to fees, though it’s highly unlikely if entering Mexico by land.

According to the USDA’s website, pets will be inspected by SENASICA (Mexico’s public agency for health, food safety, and food quality) upon arrival. Animals are also expected to be secured in their own carrier at border crossings, not roaming freely in the car.

We did not have our animals “inspected” or even asked about when we entered Mexico via the Colombia Crossing just north of Laredo, Texas. This was despite having two large, plainly visible animal carriers inside our car. No one cared.

Furthermore, I’ve never met or heard of anyone stopped for an animal inspection at the border driving south. Even those who ask immigration about it during crossing typically just get waved on.

Now if you’re paranoid like me, then you’ll have your animal’s vaccination paperwork with you anyway, just to be safe. But you will almost certainly not need it – unless your travel involves a round trip.

 

Flying to Mexico with a Dog or Cat

With each passing year, it seems that airlines’ requirements for travelers with pets become a little more onerous, and the fees keep going up (just like everything else with air travel).

Airlines regulate everything from the dimensions of your pet crate/kennel, its design features, the space your animal has inside it, the type of material the crate’s made of, which seats you can book when traveling with a pet in-cabin, minimum age of the pet, permitted/prohibited breeds, check-in requirements, health requirements, pet fees, seasonal restrictions, your pet’s access to food and water, and so on.

Flying cat

Airline pet policies differ substantially so be sure to check out the requirements of your chosen airline well in advance of your travel dates. At the bottom of this post are links to every major airline’s pet policies.

 

Does Your Pet Need a Health Certificate to Enter Mexico?

Since December 2019, no health certificate is required by the Mexican government to enter the country by land or air from the U.S. or Canada.  You are officially required to present a health certificate for your pets if entering Mexico from other countries.

That said, I wouldn’t dream of traveling internationally without having proof of rabies vaccination. It’s also a good idea to have your pet vaccinated against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Para-influenza, and Bordatella.

Be sure to make a photocopy of your vet records so that if a government official asks to keep a copy, you do not have to scramble to get one.

Traveling by air you must comply with whatever health documentation is required by your carrier.

Our preferred airline is Delta, and as of January 2024 they do not require a health certificate for your pet to fly in-cabin or as checked baggage, only if shipped as cargo (dated within 10 days of travel).

 

Other Procedures You May Encounter Traveling by Air

Whether entering or exiting Mexico, travelers with pets are supposed to report to SENASCA (Mexico’s department of agriculture) for an animal inspection. This procedure seems to be followed at the bigger airports with significant international arrivals.

While a health certificate is no longer required by the government if entering from the U.S. or Canada, it’s best to have the vaccination paperwork you prepared and presented to the airline handy in case SENASCA asks to review it.

Upon entry, Mexican Customs is also likely to ask for your vet paperwork before allowing you to pass through with your animal(s). It may or may not get stamped after being reviewed.

Dog at public fountain

Every airport seems to use slightly different procedures, so your mileage may vary.

A day’s supply of pet food and water is required for your pet and can be kept inside their carrier, but additional food supplies are likely to be confiscated by Mexican Customs.

The reason is that larger quantities may be suspected of importation for commercial use, which is forbidden as pet food in Mexico is taxed as a luxury item. Yup, I agree that makes no sense.

Traveling with a Pet from Mexico to the U.S.

If you travel to Mexico with pets and plan to return to the States by land or by air, there are more stringent health requirements when crossing the border heading north.

It’s best to check the USDA’s current entry requirements for pets a few weeks before you travel, to ensure you have time to obtain a health certificate for entry into the United States, or update your pet’s vaccinations if needed.

In an upcoming post later this month, we’ll explore life with pets in Mexico, including vet care, buying food, and Mexican attitudes toward pets.

 

Resources: Pet Policies of the Major Airlines

Delta: https://www.delta.com/us/en/pet-travel/overview

Aeromexico: https://aeromexico.com/en-us/travel-information/flying-with-pets

Air Canada: https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/plan/special-assistance/pets.html

American Airlines: https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/pets.jsp

United Airlines: https://www.united.com/en/us/fly/travel/traveling-with-pets.html

Alaska Airlines: https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/pets

Jet Blue: https://www.jetblue.com/traveling-together/traveling-with-pets

Viva Aerobus: https://www.vivaaerobus.com/en-us/info/get-ready-to-fly/travel-with-pets

While Southwest does fly a few Mexican routes, they don’t allow pets on these flights or any international trips.

About Live Well Mexico

My name is Dawn Stoner. In 2022, my family sold our house and half of our possessions, then relocated to Guadalajara, Mexico. We now live here full-time.

Since then, we’ve learned how to navigate the real estate market, deal with the Mexican bureaucracy, and manage our finances as expats… all while having a pretty fine time!

I created this blog to help newcomers solve the everyday challenges of living in Mexico, because it isn’t easy figuring all this out for yourself.

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