TAKING YOUR DOG TO MEXICO
by David Eidell (10/09)
The very first thing that you should look for when reading any article about taking a dog to Mexico is whether the author has ever owned a dog and if they like dogs in general. Dog lovers tend to trivialize the effort needed to make a pet happy and secure while those individuals who don’t care for canines tend to offer information that makes it sound like taking a dog is akin to taking along a rogue elephant. Even though I confess to being a dog lover I’ll do my best to present a balanced and factual list of do’s and don’ts:
Formal entry regulations are seldom enforced coming and going at the border but it is an excellent idea to create an information folder on your pet with the assistance of your veterinarian. Certificates of vaccination should be photocopied. Your vet can write a letter on business letterhead stationary describing the animal in detail. A separate paragraph should clearly and simply state that the dog is in good health. You can photograph your dog at home which would clearly prove that its origin is from the United States.
JUST IN CASE
Nothing would ruin a trip faster than having to chase around searching for a lost dog. Small purebred pets are highly sought after in Mexico and chances are you’d have to post a substantial reward in the neighborhood to have any chance at all of getting it back. It my seem a bit gruesome but advance preparation for such a nightmare would be a godsend. Take front and side digital color images of your pet and then create several high quality color copies on glossy photo paper. Tip: If you show the dog’s new reflective collar, and include a separate image of an enlarged view of the dog’s identification tags it will all serve to help identify your lost dog. Offering a substantial reward in pesos is absolutely necessary. A two hundred dollar reward would be equivalent to $2,500 pesos. Realize however that coveted breeds sell for five hundred dollars in Mexico so in a crisis you’ll have to bite the bullet and up the ante. Entitle the reward page GRAN RECOMPENSA and enter the reward amount. List the name of your RV Park and license number of your rig.
FLEAS AND TICKS
Ask your vet about various treatments that you can give your pet to control fleas and ticks. Both are a real problem in Mexico and the last thing you’d want to have happen is to suffer a midnight flea attack in bed. Carpet is especially handy for fleas to hide and breed in so be sure to take along an adequate supply of flea powder that is scattered on carpet and then vacuumed. I’ve found that those behind-the-neck drops to work very well but if your dog is going to swim, get rained on or take baths, you’d better plan on bringing an adequate supply. Veterinarians sell prescription flea bath soap that also works wonders.
Putting a reflective collar on your dog is a good idea not only to make it easier to spot in the dark, but it also clearly differentiates it from other similar looking pets. A special name tag can be added to the collar specifying your name, make and model of RV, or license number. Don’t forget a rabies inoculation tag.
Almost no Mexican RV Park allows a dog to be off a leash. But if your canine isn’t grouchy or a biter it may make sense to fashion a dog-run cable that you can fasten to your rig and to something else like a tree or hookup post. This allows the animal freedom to run or relax. I wouldn’t do this with anything other than a larger breed because a dog-run prevents a small dog from escaping the clutches of a roaming cur. Smaller dogs should be hand-walked using a leash. Temperamental dogs really shouldn’t be taken to Mexico; a dog bite creates immediate legal problems for the owner which at the least is going to cost a lot of money and possibly the services of an attorney to afford release of the animal (and a demand that it be immediately removed from Mexico). Bear in mind that female dogs in heat are as common as coconuts – a neutered male pet is much easier to control.
MORE ON RV PARK RESTRICTIONS
Some parks flatly refuse to admit dogs and cannot be sweet talked into changing their mind. I’ve found that in those RV parks who might be swayed into letting a dog stay, that formally presenting your dog to the park management (on a leash) is a step in the right direction. When visiting the office take along your pooper-scooper and make it clear that you intend to keep your site and the park scrupulously free of pet waste. A real no-no is an animal that barks especially at night. Allowing a dog to bark even once-in-awhile invites an impromptu posse to form figuratively carrying torches and pitchforks – many an unwelcome wagon has forced an owner of a noisy dog to mosey on down the road. Therefore very vocal canines need to remain at home.
MEXICANS AND DOGS
Dogs are still considered to be a nuisance in Mexico and a large percentage of Mexicans greatly fear strange dogs. A dog on the loose invites someone to stoop for a throwing stone. It’s not really humorous as such but it used to be that the presence of a dog on board at the border invited the customs inspector to peek through a door barely cracked open and then give a fast “O.K.”
Spaying and neutering are still almost unknown and very rude population control still prevails outside of RV parks. When too many dogs start running around, someone purchases a package of hot dogs and then sticks a cyanide capsule inside a piece of hot dog and then casts it in gutters, open lots and whatever. This is a very real concern for dog owners and yet another reason why you should have your pet on a leash. Really open areas like beaches are safer but Mexican neighborhoods aren’t. Don’t allow your pet to consume anything off the ground.
I am not overly fond of the current rage both in the USA and Mexico to purchase tough-guy pure bred canines like rottweilers and pit bulls. Most such animals cost an arm and a leg and are impounded within a fenced yard to prevent theft but occasionally you’ll see one patrolling someone’s yard that isn’t fenced. It would be a good idea to first scout out a prospective dog walking route before actually taking your animal along.
If you’re really set on purchasing a dog for security in Mexico you can take a chance on getting a German shepherd with a black face. For some reason Mexicans regard such dogs as being more effective personal protection than any pit bull or rottweiler. But German shepherds are notorious biters and you may end up having to keep a tight reign on it. Being a shepherd lover I can’t help but remind prospective owners to check animals for genetic hip deformities and guarantees before buying.
PET FOOD AND SUPPLIES
Forget about what you’ve read in travel guides about dog food being hard to find – that was true years ago but today supermarkets not only carry dog food, but in a very wide selection of dry and canned varieties. Specialized brands like Science Diet however should be brought from home. Warehouse membership stores like COSTCO and Sam’s Club also carry an impressive lineup of dog food. Pet Shops are now starting to appear but only in larger towns and cities.
The new-wave of boutique dog-ownership in Mexico has afforded the growth of the number of vets. Like in the states the quality of service varies all the way from dismal to brilliant – don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Most long term residents in RV parks can offer a recommendation. Many Mexican vets are as good as the very best in the United States.
DOGS CANNOT REMOVE THEIR FUR COAT
Much of coastal Mexico is hot and sometimes humid. Take along an outside thermometer and monitor the temperature of where your pet is resting. Too many cherished pets have perished from heat stroke to trivialize this requirement. Inversely much of interior Mexico can get bitter cold on a winter’s night – temperatures in the twenties. For carousing on the beach you may want to get your long hair pet a clip job before you leave home. Lastly be religious about maintaining your pet’s water dish – it should be checked at least twice a day and sterilized every third day. Use a solution of dish soap and bleach and thoroughly scrub the dish. If you are lax about maintenance the water is going to turn green fast and your pet is going to get sick. By the way I’ve found that many of my dogs demonstrably appreciated quality drinking water – the bottled kind.
Mexico’s coastline is dotted with estuaries, lagoons, and river mouths. Many of these harbor crocodiles. Lucky for us humans that Mexican crocs tend to avoid contact but the same cannot be said for dogs. Every year several pets are lost to crocs and the best way to protect your dog is to put it inside at night, or maintain a minimum camping distance of two miles from the nearest lagoon.
ADOPTING A MEXICAN STRAY
I’ve lost track of how many times that I’ve seen a Mexican stray adopted by a compassionate RVer. The usual candidate is a young dog or puppy. A quick bath and visit to the local vet for inoculations and checkup (plus spaying or neutering) is indicated. To me there are few things as touching as watching an adopted stray showing astounding loyalty and gratefulness toward its new owner. The animal instinctively understands that it has been saved from a miserable existence and fallen into a bed of deep clover. My own personal opinion is that this exuberance and loyalty is worth an awful lot – certainly more than the seeming indifference shown by many domestic breeds in the United States. I like the idea of a canine displaying definitive behavior showing man is positively its best friend. Women prefer to adopt a female stray – you can tell it’s an adopted Mexican stray if it never wanders more than six feet away from its new owner.
A NOTE ABOUT CATS
Just a few years ago I watched an RVer's cat stalk and then pounce upon a favorite hummingbird before I could run to the scene. Cats are a lot easier to maintain as a traveling pet but almost all are habitual predators. I beg all cat owners to put a bell on their collar to help save wildlife. It makes little sense to allow the destruction of dozens of birds, lizards, and squirrels at every travel stop. Crocodiles prey on cats so beware especially at night.