Pets at the border: A Tijuana dog’s cross-border tail, er tale


Tijuana dog

This is my Tijuana dog Lucky. She has a home in Tijuana, and I see her frequently when I spend time south of the border, but recently we decided to take her across the border to visit the promised land of San Diego where pets like her, who are typically kept for practical purposes like guarding a home, are pampered with pedicures and trips to the beach.

I haven’t done this sooner because I was a little nervous about what  might happen to Lucky at the border. The information I had found on the Internet seemed to be more tailored towards U.S. dogs being allowed to cross back into the U.S.  with proper veterinarian documentation, and Lucky is from Mexico.

I found this line, from one U.S. government publication, somewhat alarming: “Pets excluded from entry into the United States must either be exported or destroyed.” I was a little worried that her nationality and lack of U.S. veterinarian papers might land her in quarantine for 30 days. The thought of Lucky locked up like that was enough to keep me from daring to cross with her for quite a while.

Lucky is a Rottweiler mix of some sort, and she is aptly-named. She was rescued several years ago as a puppy in Tecate, Mexico by some onlookers after her owner was seen kicking and dragging her through a muddy road. Turned out she had dysentery, which could have killed her. We got her on some medications and she survived, learning to get along nicely with a poodle (who called the shots) and to put up with a Chihuahua (who yapped, and yapped and yapped). Later, when we had her sterilized at the Tijuana “Perroton” – a weekend mass sterilization of Tijuana dogs – Lucky’s heart stopped midway through her procedure and the volunteer surgeons said they almost lost her.

For Lucky’s first trip into the United States I got her paperwork in order –  the Tijuana veterinarian records in Spanish that show all her vaccinations are current – and hoped for the best. Turns out that all the worry was for naught. When we pulled up to the Tijuana border, the Customs guy asked us what was in the crate.

When I told him it was a dog, he turned to Lucky, barked “Arf, Arf!”  – – – and waved us through.

From my one experience, it seems as if common sense seems to be prevailing at the border in regards to pets:  But, in case you want to know, here is an excerpt from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection publication of what the U.S. government says you should do if you want to bring your pet across the border from areas “not free of rabies” (apparently, that includes Mexico). The 20-page document talk about “importing” a pet though I’m not sure if that also means “taking your pet for a visit.”

  • “A valid rabies vaccination certificate should accompany the animal. This certificate should be in English or be accompanied by a translation. It should identify the animal, the dates of vaccination and expiration, and be signed by a licensed veterinarian. If no expiration date is specified, the certificate is acceptable if the date of vaccination is no more than 12 months before the date of arrival. NOTE: Some certificates say the vaccine is good for three years. Dogs should not get re-vaccinated if they are within the dates of the certificate.”
  • “Dogs not accompanied by proof of rabies vaccination, including those that are too young to be vaccinated (less than 3 months of age), may be admitted if the importer completes a confinement agreement and confines the animal until it is considered adequately vaccinated against rabies (the vaccine is not considered effective until 30 days after the date of vaccination). The confinement agreement (form CDC 75.37) can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/animal.htm.”;
  • “If the vaccination was performed less than 30 days before arrival, the animal may be admitted but must be confined at a place of the owner’s choosing until at least 30 days have passed since the vaccination.”
  • “Young puppies must be confined at a place of the owner’s choosing until they are three months old, then they must be vaccinated. They must remain in confinement for 30 days after the vaccination.”

Do you have a pet-at-the-border story? What’s your experience been like?

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One response to “Pets at the border: A Tijuana dog’s cross-border tail, er tale

  1. Good to see you back in action!

    My pet experience is with Koya, the giant Newfoundland. She is super friendly though and once the locals got over the shock, they finally would pet her. It was funny watching the people walking by who didn’t see her at first then got extremely surprised when they finally noticed the bear right next to them. It always gets a few jumps.

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