Dock Lines

Dock Lines – Cruising with pets

Dock Lines – Cruising with pets

With the holidays past and the San Diego Sunroad Boat Show approaching, my husband and I are planning our 2015 boating adventures.

High on our list is a return to Mexico, including an extended stay in Ensenada, where we plan on exploring the wine region and dining at local haunts — along with a haulout at Baja Naval’s boatyard. This voyage, we plan on taking our cats.

We secured a 10-year, multi-entry import permit on our initial arrival in Mexico, and now that our papers are in order, we’re preparing for our first foreign voyage with our two pusses. Amy and Alexander (officially “Admiral of the Fleet”) are microchipped and have PFDs — high-quality dog life jackets specially tailored for their feline physiques, plus much-despised harnesses and leashes. Both cats will need a vet visit to secure health certificates and receive necessary vaccines, essential for entry into Mexico. As indoor-only cats, they’ve never had rabies shots, but this will soon change.

Every country has different regulations governing pet entry. offers a quick overview of rules for specific countries. Always verify entry requirements on each country’s website to receive up-to-date information and changes.

Also check U.S. regulations governing pet travel, specifically returning to the states and especially changes regarding importation of human and pet food. The Department of Agriculture rules restrict food imports to protect against introduction of foodborne diseases and pests — and may be revised with infestation alerts. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) website,, offers links to sites with current information.

Mexico and Canada’s pet entry requirements are straightforward and clearly defined. Mexico requires a signed health certificate from a licensed veterinarian authenticating the pet’s health, including dates of the pet’s most recent rabies vaccination. Mexico’s agriculture department, SAGARPA, explains the essentials on its website,, under “bringing a pet.” Different rules may apply to animals other than dogs and cats.

Cats and dogs may enter Canada with a current rabies vaccination certificate from a veterinarian but do not require a health certificate. Complete rules regarding pet and pet food importation are available from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at (search “traveling with pets”).

Upon returning to the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which governs animal importation, dogs but not cats, must have a valid rabies vaccination certificate, but neither needs a health certificate. Any animal appearing to be sick may be denied entry or directed to a veterinarian.

Hawaii’s much tougher quarantine rules, designed to avert introduction of rabies in the islands, prevented fellow cruiser Andy Nemier (owner/captain of Vancouver-based Nordhavn 62 Infinity) and his family having Harley, their Silky terrier/Pomeranian, join them in transit to Oahu. Harley had to remain dockside before Infinity’s Hawaii departure, while the Nemiers filed official paperwork and waited for Harley’s authorization. For Hawaii’s requirements, visit; click on “animal quarantine information.”

Nemier reports customs officials rarely examine Harley’s up-to-date papers when they board Infinity for inspection.

Both Mexico and Canada allow limited quantities of pet food imported for immediate use. But bringing even American-origin pet or fresh food back into the U.S. can be tricky.

The U.S. restricts admission of some meat products, including by-products often used in kibble, which means customs inspectors may require disposal of meats, including open bags of kibble. It’s best to travel with only sealed, unopened bags of kibble and canned food — and limit the amount of frozen raw pet food stocked in your freezer.

With careful planning your pets can enjoy sharing your boating adventures.

Share This:

Capt. Nicole Sours Larson

Capt. Nicole Sours Larson has spent more than 25 years boating in Southern California and Mexican waters as well as throughout the East Coast's Chesapeake Bay. A freelance writer, she holds a USCG captain's license and has been writing about boating since 2009. Previously she lobbied on boating safety and education issues for boating organizations at the federal, state and local levels.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *