Photo: No Mas Perritos Community Spay & Neuter

Adopting A Pet from Mexico

Contributors: Laura Marriott, Sandra Train & Anna Krallis

This article addresses how to adopt a pet from Mexico. It discusses how to choose your rescue partners including what questions to ask, the costs, the vetting requirements and how to get your pet home. It also briefly discusses the options for adoption in Mexico or if you would prefer, from a rescue in Canada or the USA.


Deciding to adopt a pet is a big commitment. Deciding you want to adopt a pet from Mexico requires a little more work than adopting from a local rescue but is so rewarding. During the pandemic, there has been a significant increase in families wanting to adopt pets. Many are turning to Mexico as shelters in parts of the USA and Canada are empty and there are few animals available for adoption.

Finding a suitable Mexican rescue, to adopt your new family member from, requires some investigation on your part but it is critical to ensure success. How do you find a credible rescue to adopt from? Should you adopt directly from a rescue in Mexico or from a rescue partner in the USA/Canada? What if you find a dog or cat on the street or beach in Mexico that you would like to adopt? This article addresses some of the investigation that you should consider.

There are two primary ways to adopt from a rescue in Mexico:

1) you, or a friend, visit the rescue while vacationing in Mexico, and select the animal that you would like to adopt; or,

2) you are in your home country and see the animal on the rescue’s social media and choose the pet you would like to adopt.

Both are great ways to choose the new pet that will join your family. You will want to adopt from a rescue that has experience with the requirements to send pets to your country and have done their work to ensure the pet’s health and understand the pet’s personality and behavior.

There are thousands of rescues in Mexico — most are incredibly good but sadly, some are not, and we have heard of a few bad experiences. As such, it is important to do your homework!

Questions to Ask

· Determine if the rescue is credible. Do you have friends that have adopted from them or do they have positive references that they can share with you?

· Does the rescue have experience sending pets north? How many animals have they sent north and over what period of time? (obviously, the longer they have experience, the better)

· Does the rescue have positive social media reviews? Even one negative review could be cause to search for animals from another rescue. More than one negative review, go elsewhere!

· If you are contacting the rescue only over social media, does the rescue have references that you can contact in your home country?

· Has the rescue provided the animal’s medical history, socialization information and behavior profile?

· Has the rescue shared the necessary steps you will need to take to have the animal join your family?

· Does the rescue understand the vaccinations the animal needs to go to your home country? Has bloodwork been done to ensure optimal health — and have they provided you with a copy of this? Has the animal been spayed or neutered?

· Are communications with the rescue easy and straightforward? Are they communicating with you in your language or bringing a translator to assist? If there are any red flags for you, in any part of the communication, select another rescue no matter how much you have fallen in love with the animal.

· Do you understand all the costs involved in the adoption? Is there a refund available if the animal is not able to travel north due to health or lack of flight availability for transport? How and when is payment made? The rescue should provide you with a clear accounting of every cost involved in the adoption — and many will provide a detailed invoice.

· Do they have an adoption contract or documentation for the adoption?

· Are they classifying the adoption as a donation to their rescue or an adoption fee? PLEASE under no circumstance should you send money to anyone based on a verbal agreement!

· Does the rescue have the authority to be operating in the country?

Yes, there are a lot of questions and topics to consider but for your own peace of mind and to ensure a successful and painless adoption, do your homework.

What are the costs?

Adopting an animal from Mexico may include some of the following costs:

· Vetting: Sterilization, vaccines, blood work, medical exams, international health certificate required to travel to your country.

· Support: Some rescues ask for monthly fees for boarding and/or food if the animal needs to stay for many months prior to transport.

· Transportation: Airline fee, possible ground transportation costs to airport.

· Crate: Usually there is an option to buy a crate, which becomes yours, or the rescue will send the dog in the crate which will need to be returned.

· Adoption Fee: There may be an adoption fee, or voluntary donation.

· Import Tax: Some countries, like Canada, charge an import tax on all dogs coming into the country.

Understanding the fees involved in your adoption is paramount.

Why is vetting so important?

Most countries have rules and guidelines around what vaccinations and health screenings are required for animals to enter the country. At a minimum, these guidelines must be followed for any animal entering the country. Animals from Mexico may also have diseases that are not typically seen in Canada or the USA. As such, it is important to make sure your pet is healthy and disease free before they go home with you. No one wants the local animal population in your home country to be affected. Working with a reputable rescue or veterinarian will ensure the best health for your animal and ensure easy entry into your home country.

What are the options for adoption?

Now that you have selected the rescue organization(s) and understand a little more about what is involved, let us look at your specific options:

1) Adopt from a Mexican rescue/shelter:

a) When vacationing in Mexico
b) When not able to travel to Mexico

2) Adopt an animal you find on the street or beach in Mexico

3) Adopt from a USA or Canadian rescue/shelter that brings in animals from Mexico

1a) Adopt from a Mexican rescue shelter when vacationing in Mexico

You visit the local rescue/shelter and find the pet that you would like to bring home with you. You will get to know the animal while on vacation and determine if it is the right addition for your family.

The rescue will assist you with the required paperwork, vetting, crates, airport and customs process. When it is your time to return home, you may take the pet with you — or in some cases, due to the animal’s health or if your airline does not allow, you will look for a flight escort to assist.

Patience and great communication with your rescue are key.

Adoptable dogs, SPCA Puerto Vallarta

1b) Adopt from a Mexican rescue shelter when not able to travel to Mexico

In this scenario, you have selected a pet from the rescue’s website and like what you read on its bio. There is more to it than that, since you cannot meet the pet in person, you want to ensure you will bond when you do meet. Ask the rescue for additional information on the pet’s temperament and social behavior. Is the animal shy or outgoing? Dominant or submissive? Active or laid back? Cat or dog tested? Ok with children? Ask for a video when possible, or to speak with the foster parent, if there is one. If a puppy, ensure you get insight into its parents, so you have a guesstimate at an approximate full-grown weight. Note: Many of the puppies are born on the street and their parents may not be known.

Once you have selected your pet and agreed to the adoption with the rescue, then the next step is to work with the rescue to find a flight angel. While the rescue has volunteers who offer to escort animals to their forever homes, it always helps to use your own social media and network to find a flight angel. The rescue should be willing to help you with the wording. If all else fails, many adopters have flown down themselves to pick up their pet. The rescue will work the flight escort to give them the required health certificate vetting, paperwork, crates, airport and customs process.

As the adopter, you will still be expected to pay the airline fee, any Canadian import taxes assessed, and meet the escort at the arriving airport to greet your new family member.

Puppies, Costa Maya Beach Dog Rescue

2) Adopting an animal from the street or beach

You are sipping a margarita at a roadside taqueria and meet the most beautiful dog that you must have join your family. You take it back to your Airbnb and then what?

1.Ensure the animal is not owned by anyone. Many pets in Mexico do not have collars and are not in their owners’ yards. Before you take the animal, ask around to ensure it is truly a street cat or dog. Many times these animals are owned by a family and often, no one will claim the animal if they think they may get in trouble. If the dog is living happily and everyone looks after it, ask for permission before taking it home with you. And always, if the dog or cat is in good condition or wearing a collar, it is most likely owned.

Remember, many dogs and cats are savvy at showing up at your rental or favorite restaurant, and if you keep feeding them, they will return, even if they have a happy home. Animals are allowed to roam around the streets and they all go home after their excursion.

If the animal is in a poor condition, take the animal to the vet or contact the local rescue to alert them to an animal in need.

Phoenix, before and after, Project Home Sweet Home

2. Take the animal to a local vet or the local shelter/rescue to have its health assessed and begin the vetting process. This can take up to 30 days or longer, depending on the animal’s health. If you do not have the time in your trip, you may need to find a local rescue partner to agree to help take care of the animal until it is cleared to travel. This is not necessarily an easy option as space and foster homes are limited, and the dog will need to be quarantined until deemed healthy. You will be expected to cover the costs of the care, while the animal is getting ready to travel.

3. Once the animal is healthy and fully vetted, you will either be able to take it home with you — or, if you have already left, you will need to find a flight angel to escort it to your home. Again, this could be immediate or take a few months. Patience and great communication are key to success. Many times, adopters will travel back to the area to pick up their pet and return to their home country.

How do I get my pet home?

Every airline has different rules on when and how your pet can travel on their aircraft. Pets can be sent in cabin, in hold or by cargo. The cost varies by airline and by mode.

In cabin: Your pet travels in the cabin of the plane in a ‘sherpa bag’ under the seat. Carry on animals generally need to be under 20lbs and fit in the travel bag. In cabin pets must travel with you or a flight escort/angel.

In hold: Your pet travels under the plane in a hold especially designed for animals — which is climate controlled. There is a limit to the number of animals an airplane can take at any time. In hold pets are also restricted by the weather and the type of aircraft. These rules change constantly so it is best to always check with your carrier. In hold pets must travel with you or a flight escort/angel.

Cargo: The most expensive means to ship your pet is via cargo with the airline. This is when the pet is not traveling with an individual and is shipped as cargo. In almost all cases, cargo requires a broker which adds to the expense.

Another option is to drive your pet home — or hire a transporter to bring your pet to your home country. While more complicated, this is also often an option when the weather does not cooperate (many airlines have embargos during holiday times or when the weather is too hot or too cold).

Flight Angel/Escort: Often, flight angels or escorts are used to help bring pets to their adopters. These are volunteers who agree to transport the pet on their airline and bring the pet to their new home.

In cabin: Greta from Isla Animals; In hold dogs with AeroMexico

3) Adopting from a rescue/shelter in USA & Canada

If all this sounds like more than you want to take on, you can also find a local rescue in your area that brings in animals from Mexico and other countries. There are some in every community. They do amazing work and all the heavy lifting to select their own credible rescue partners in their chosen countries. They will select the animals to bring north, ensure they are vetted and arrange the transport. Finding one of these rescue partners is a great way to add a new pet to your family without doing it all yourself.

Remember to do your due diligence when selecting a local rescue as well!

Adopted cats from the Yucatan living their best life in USA

Summary / call to action

We wish you luck on your mission to add a Mexican rescue animal to your family. They make the most amazing family pets. Doing the right homework from the start, will ensure you find the right pet for your family and reduce any issues, headaches and heartache that you might experience.

Remember, if something feels off anywhere in the process, trust your gut.

Good luck!

About the contributors
The article contributors are animal rescuers based in Mexico, Canada and the United States and currently, have a combined 11 rescue animals between them — along with countless foster animals that continue to grace their lives and families. There has been a significant increase in inquiries for pet adoptions, due to the pandemic, and helping to ensure the success of these adoptions is their reason for this article.