Crossing Borders with Your Pet
"Was it hard to travel with your dog?"
In our top ten of “questions we are regularly asked,” is “was it hard to cross borders with your dog?” For Mexico and Central America, the answer is as simple as crossing the borders – NO, it was ridiculously easy. We haven’t been to South America yet but we are told that with only a couple of exceptions, its essentially the same process.
A few minor steps and this will become the least-stressful part of any Mexican or Central American border crossing. For most of the countries, except Belize, the steps are the same.
You need a few essential things – you don’t need each of these things for every country but if you have them, you won’t have any problems:
1. A recent (but not too recent) proof of Rabies vaccination. It needs to be within one year but not within the last 30 days. (shot record pic to be uploaded shortly)
2. Proof of regular and current flea treatment – generally, a sticker from the box with a date written on it will suffice.
4. A certificate of health from a veterinarian in the country from which you are leaving (unless you have hopped countries in succession – we used the same certificate, that we got in El Salvador, for Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica crossings because we did all of these within five weeks. Mexico and Belize were the only countries that checked that the certificate was given within ten days of crossing the border.
(photo of health certificate to be uploaded shortly)
5. A dog that can get through a brief inspection, using the word “inspection” very loosely, without biting anyone.
We always tried to make Gracie look as “civilized” and cute as possible – we bathed her and put a bandana around her neck prior to every border.
Belize is Special
Belize is the only country that required any prior-planning but we still found the process to be simple and straightforward.
1. Visit the Belize Animal Health Authority (BAHA) website and download this form.
2. Email the completed form to: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. You will receive an email back in approximately 5 days with an approved copy of the form.
4. You must have this approved form (and 2 copies of the approved form) along with $25 USD or $50 BZN when you get to the border. If you do not have this, it will cost you an extra $100 BZN at the border and you will likely have to wait a long time for the exchange of faxes and emails. Bring the money for fees with you because I do no recall there being an ATM at the border.
5. At the border, you will meet with an agricultural inspector. He will ask for your form, your shot records (and 2 copies), your health certificate (and 2 copies) and the fee.
Technically, Belize also requires vaccinations against rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza and echinococcus and Gracie had most of those, she didn’t have them all and many people we know had dogs with only the rabies and flea treatment.
Upon our meeting at the border with the inspector, rabies and flea treatment was the only thing in Gracie’s shot records he looked for.
Once inside these countries, we have only been asked to see our dog paperwork one time - by a police officer attempting to elicit reason to shake us down for a bribe. We always keep a folder with all of our "stopped by cops" copies under the front seat.
Another overlanding team, Paws on Tour, wrote a helpful article on crossing Panama to Colombia with your pet.