Crossing North American Borders With A Pet: What You Need To Know
Taking your dog or cat along with you on an RV trek across the continental borders of North America shouldn’t be an ordeal with some savvy planning.
First and foremost, before you ever leave the driveway, seriously consider having your pet microchipped and/or tattooed for identification purposes. Also make a strong, slip-proof collar or harness with an identification tag or plate permanently attached to part of your pet’s essential travel kit. Be sure to have good photos of your pet stored in an accessible site on the internet as well as a disk or other fairly universal digital storage device and a few hard copies in a notebook with other pertinent documents you will need.
The next vital step in your preparation is to obtain the necessary health papers from your vet. Whether you are traveling to the Canadian border or the Mexican border, you will, if your dog is over three months old, need a current certificate of rabies vaccination with a unique description of your pet — by your veterinarian’s office — that identifies your specific dog as the one animal to which the certificate pertains. Canada requires that the rabies vaccine be less than thirty-six months old; Mexican regulations state that the vaccine must be given not more than twelve months nor less than thirty days prior to entry into the country.
Canada does not, at this time, require further documentation of good health, however, your dog is expected to be visibly healthy to cross the border. Crossing the Mexico/U.S. border is more involved, however. An international certificate of health (form 77-043) must be signed and stamped by a veterinarian either at the border or the Mexican consulate. The fee for this is $20 — or at least that is the current fee. Check before you leave on your trip as fees can change. Count on paying the fees with a major credit card with a bank name on the face.
Familiarize yourself with any pet laws in the areas on your planned itinerary before you go, especially if you own an American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, Catahoula, Rottweiller, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd Dog, any of the Mastiff breeds, or any dog that can be remotely claimed to resemble a “Pit Bull.” Make sure you aren’t passing through — or worse, staying in any jurisdictions with breed-specific legislation that could cost your dog his life just for being what he is. Assume that there are leash laws, even if local behavior gives the appearance of exactly the opposite. What a local does and what a tourist is allowed to do aren’t necessarily one and the same. Also, with a rise in reports of dogs being stolen, particularly near the Mexico/U.S. border, having your dog attached to you at all times and being aware of his proximity can save both of you great potential heartache.
Other than for the obvious safety reasons, keep your dog contained either in a crate or in a seat harness while you’re on the road, and especially while you’re going through a border crossing. There are more and more stories of travelers being pulled over for traffic stops and having an over zealous officer shoot their pet dog. Don’t give anyone an excuse.
Make sure you have that ever-present first aid kit, complete with any medications and copies of prescriptions your dog is on in case you run out or lose your dog’s meds or possession of them is called into question at a border crossing. It’s an easy precaution to take and far less expensive and traumatic than finding yourself being whisked away to jail for smuggling drugs across an international border.
If you’re going to be in an area where you’re cautioned against drinking the water, give your dog bottled or boiled water as well. Even though dogs’ systems are much better equipped to deal with bacteria than ours, it’s an easy precaution to take — and well worth saving the potential troubles of a sick, dehydrated animal with explosive diarrhea, especially when you’re in a strange place, far from home and your regular vet.
Precaution, planning, and organization can take a great deal of the drama out of crossing borders, and with care and awareness, there’s no reason you can’t have a wonderful experience and come home with your dog a bona fide international dog of mystery.
This article is brought to you by Kim McDaniels.