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November 13, 2013

Traveling with Your Pet to Hawaii, Canada, or Mexico

Plan ahead to make your pet's trip safe

  • It's usually best not to take your pet on trips. But if you do bring your pet along, plan ahead to make it a safe trip.  istockphoto.com

If you decide to travel with your pet to Hawaii, Canada, or Mexico, you'll need to make some plans and preparations before you leave. It might take a little research, but it's worth it to ensure a smooth trip for your pet with no last-minute surprises. Note: If you are traveling with a bird, be aware of a special U.S. requirement.

Think twice about taking your pet

Please note that The HSUS discourages transportation of animals in the cargo hold of planes. You should carefully consider whether taking your animal to another country is in the best interest of your pet. 

If a family member or good friend can care for your pet while you are gone, you might decide to spare your pet the undue stress and risk which air travel for animals creates. You may also wish to consider finding a foster home with a humane/rescue group in your area which can care for your pet temporarily. If you choose this option, form a written agreement with the group stating how long you will be gone, who should be contacted in an emergency, etc.

Research pet-travel laws

If you plan to travel with your pet to Hawaii, Canada, or Mexico, be sure to learn the animal quarantine policies long before you pack your bags. You may be able to find out a country's legal requirements through your veterinarian (who may refer you to other resources), on the Internet, or by contacting the embassy for that country.

Taking your pet to Hawaii

Although pets may travel freely throughout the continental U.S. as long as they have proper documentation, Hawaii requires a 30- or 120-day quarantine for all dogs and cats. Hawaii's quarantine regulations vary by species, so check prior to travel.

Taking your pet to Canada

If you and your pet are traveling from the U.S. to Canada, you must carry a certificate issued by a veterinarian that clearly identifies your pet and certifies that he or she has been vaccinated against rabies during the preceding 36-month period. Different Canadian provinces may have different requirements. Be sure to contact the government of the province you plan to visit.

Taking your pet to Mexico

If you and your pet are traveling to Mexico, you must carry a health certificate prepared by your veterinarian within two weeks of the day you cross the border. The certificate must include a description of your pet, the lot number of the rabies vaccine used, indication of distemper vaccination, and a veterinarian's statement that your pet is free from infectious or contagious disease. This certificate must be stamped by an office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There is a fee for this stamp.

Bringing your pet back to the continental U.S.

The USDA has a policy that all dogs imported from screwworm-affected countries into the U.S. must have a statement on the import health certificate that states specifically that the dog has been checked for and found to be negative for screwworm. The certificate must be issued within five days (most airlines require that the certificate be issued within 10 days of travel). For more information and to see which countries are affected by screwworm, visit The USDA's website.

If you are traveling with a bird

If you are transporting birds out of the U.S., record the leg band or tattoo number of each bird on the USDA certificate and get required permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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