State/National/WorldEl Reporte

New Rules on Boat Dogs Begin August 1

Before taking your beloved pooch cruising in Mexico, make sure right now that Fido’s old microchip ID implant complies with the latest version of microchip, and that you have completed Fido’ new CDC version of doggy paperwork.

Compliance can take several days and require at least one trip to your dog’s U.S. veterinarian’s office, all to be finalized before you depart the U.S. Otherwise, you might not be allowed to bring Fido back into the U.S. with you! Yikes!

The U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) issued these new canine requirements last month. They affect ALL dogs entering the U.S., and they will go into effect on August 1, 2024. For more information, visit

As many of 350 U.S. West Coast recreational vessels can be expected to have at least one pet dog onboard as they head south this fall, based on past years’ casual surveys of recreational boaters. Southbound boaters can easily comply with the CDC’s new rules, but they should do so well before they actually cross the line in the water between California and Baja California Norte.


Yes, these new rules affect all privately owned dogs, even your beloved old Fido that you of course plan to take south with you this fall – and that you had previously thought would of course return north to the U.S. with you aboard your boat eventually.

However, if you haven’t complied when you try to return home, Fido could legally be refused entry by the CDC, removed from the boat, and sent back Mexico or the last country of departure, not where Fido was born or where he lives. Fido could be held at a veterinary impound kennel until he has completed the CDC’s thorough health inspection.

Poor old Fido! If he’s eventually given a clean bill of health, receives his new CDC paperwork and is about to be released, get out your credit card, because this whole doggy detour will all be at Fido’s owner’s expense.


The CDC intention is to prevent the spread of Canine Rabies, and fortunately Mexico is considered a low-risk country for this dreaded disease. However, Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are among the many high-risk countries. If you and Fido have visited any of them in the last six months, Fido’s U.S. reentry procedure will be a bit more complicated. Knowing this, some boaters might alter their future itineraries.


For pet dogs like Fido returning from only Mexico, the complete details of the CDC’s new rules are found at Meanwhile, here are basic reentry rules, very briefly paraphrased:

Pet dog must be at least 6 months old, and must have an implanted International Organization for Standardization (ISO)-compatible microchip that was previously implanted (i.e. prior to any newly required rabies vax), and that microchip number must be documented on all required forms and in all accompanying veterinary records.

Also, two to 10 days before arrival, you must complete the new online CDC Dog Import Form, which also requires you to upload a recent photo specifically showing your dog’s face and body, like the one shown here. The CDC website has a bot to help assist you in filling your dog’s forms and printing them out.

Also, at arrival you must present either (a.) a Certificate of U.S.-issued Rabies Vaccine that was endorsed by the USDA before the dog departed the US for Mexico, or (b.) a USDA-endorsed Export Health Certificate showing the dog is now at least 6 months old, and which also lists the microchip number. If it’s the USDA Export Health Certificate, it must either (c.) be for a country that is either dog rabies-free or low-risk (Mexico in this case) where the dog’s return itinerary originated (this form will be valid for only 30 days if it does not contain rabies vaccination information), or (d.) it must document a valid (unexpired) rabies vaccination administered in the U.S. (that form will be valid for the duration of the particular rabies vaccination of either 1 or 3 years.)

Also, you and Fido must arrive at the location listed on your CDC Dog Import Form receipt, which can be any international airport, land-border crossing or seaport, but you must select this location when you complete the CDC Dog Import Form.

Most airlines have specific pet-crate requirements, which might be hard to find in Mexico. Some airlines prohibit pets from flying during May through September, the hottest months. Get it all in writing from your airline in advance.


If you and Fido are already aboard a boat in Mexico, know that Fido’s old USDA Health Certificate won’t get you across the U.S. border after midnight, July 30, 2024. In that case, visit for the CDC’s new alternate documentation that you can probably accomplish through a good vet in Mexico. But you must complete it before you and Fido attempt to cross back north after August 1, 2024.


I’ve sailed Mexico with four different dogs over the years. I once rescued an orphan pup from coyotes near Puerto Escondido. With inexpensive vaccinations from a Loreto vet, I eventually brought little “Pecos” back north to a wonderful life. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

With your patient training sessions, most dogs eventually adjust their poop and pee habits and adapt to a safe and happy life aboard with you. The variety of poop pads is endless.

For Mexico cruising, boat-dog safety items might include mesh netting to secure inside the boat’s life lines, a neon K9 PFD or float coat with chin pillow and lifting handle, a dog-specific boarding ladder to hang off the swim step, an inflatable SUP for beach trips to keep the dinghy cleaner, comfortable booties for exploring strange new beaches or hot sidewalks, and “My Dog Nose It” sun block for Fido’s vulnerable sniffer.

To share ideas with other dog boats, check out Facebook groups like “Dogs Who Sail” and “Sailing and Cruising with Pets.”


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