By Elyn McEvoy I wanted to let you know all about our adventure of bringing my horse to Mexico. I have written it in two parts. This first one is all about the paperwork, contacts and information you need before even considering bringing your horse. I’m hoping you’ll benefit from our research and our mistakes! The second tells about the actual adventure itself, which it truly turned out to be!First, my key sources of information were the APHIS (USDA Animal-Plant Health Inspection Services) website, as well as several phone conversations with the USDA veterinarian assigned to the border where my horse will be crossing ( Dr James Schlinke and his assistant Dianna Montemayor of the Laredo APHIS-VS office).I started my search at the APHIS site and I suggest others do the same. To go directly to the animal travel page, the address is http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ncie/exp-pets.html...a page entitled “Taking Your Pet Animal to a Foreign Country.”On that page, select the link entitled “Animal Export Regulations.” The next page will allow you to search by country of destination. Once you select “Mexico,” you need to scroll down, find and select the file entitled “Horses-non slaughter.” Click on the PDF to open it up…this document has the protocols for the necessary health certificates and health requirements.Caution: Some information contained on the APHIS site regarding completion of the health certificate is in error and a phone call to the Federal Veterinarian at the border (in my case, Dr. Schlinke) was exceedingly valuable in identifying the errors and outdated information. It is absolutely imperative that contact be made with the border vet to obtain current information.To get the contact information for the USDA border vets, go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ncie/portlist.html. You will find a list of Mexican Border Ports. Select your port of entry and it will give you all the information you need to contact the correct veterinarian…as I said, since we were crossing at Laredo, I was given all the contact info for Dr. Schlinke.Here are the requirements:1. Mexican regulations require the horse’s crossing be facilitated by a customs broker. There will be plenty to choose from at the various border crossings. Again, the USDA vet’s office was kind enough to fax me a list of Laredo brokers and I am in the process of contacting one. ( more about this later)2. A Mexican permit—your customs broker obtains this.3. A United States Origin Health Certificate (also known as a VS-17-140 ) filled out by a Vet (usually your local vet who treats the horse) and validated by a federal USDA APHIS vet. There is a federal vet assigned to every state. The local vet will probably have the form or can get it from the federal vet. Quite likely the local vet will know who that is but if not, go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/area_offices.htm . The U.S. Origin Health Certificate affirms that certain tests and vaccinations have been done on the horse and that the horse is healthy. There are some timelines for when the tests/vaccinations have to be done, but the completed health certificate cannot be older than 30 days at the time of the crossing.IMPORTANT NOTE: One would think that filling out this certificate would be pretty straight forward, but you know what happens when you assume. I was told, everything must be typed, no erasures, cross-outs, misspellings, whiteouts, etc. Also the manner in which some boxes on the form must be filled out (consignor/consignee) is a little tricky. Some of the information has to supplied by the customs broker. This is why it is crucial to talk to the border vet.4. An Appendix to the U.S. Origin health Certificate lists the major health requirements of the U.S. health certificate in a series of narrative statements in English and Spanish.This must also be signed by your local vet and endorsed by the federal vet assigned to the state of the horse’s origin. The Appendix and the U.S. Origin Health Certificate go together. They are carried by your transporter to the border.About the broker: Once you’ve retained a broker, you should make contact with him or her often. Keep yourself fresh in his mind…let him know (in a diplomatic way, of course) that you want him to treat your horse as importantly as you do! The broker’s responsibility is to..*Get the Mexican permit, which he will have for you when you arrive at the border. You arrange to meet him before crossing and then the whole process of crossing and presenting the papers and the horse to the Mexican vet becomes the broker’s job.*Give you information to fill a few required fields on the U.S. Health Certificate.And, last but not least, if I understood the border veterinarian’s instructions, the customs broker is also supposed to assist the transporter in completing his/her personal and vehicle entry requirements. Read how that turned out in Part 2!
Bringing a Horse to Mexico - Part 2
Tuesday , July 24 , 2007
By Elyn McEvoy Since I was already living in Mexico, I was lucky enough to have friends (one of whom happened to be a veterinarian) who agreed to transport my horse for me. Although they were experienced horse people and have transported horses throughout the southeast, they had never crossed a border with a horse. For that reason, I did as much research as I could to help them prepare. (If you haven't already, please see the first part of my "Bringing a Horse to Mexico" for information on completing the Health Certificate and the importance of contacting the U.S. veterinarian at the border crossing you will be using.) In my case, the Laredo U.S. vet's office was extremely helpful and was able to give me a list of horse/cattle customs brokers working the Laredo border. I passed all that information on to my friends. Timelines for Health Certificate Knowing the date (within a day or two) that you will be crossing the border is very important. (Suggestion: If at all possible, avoid crossing on a Friday because if any problems or unforeseen circumstances arise, you don't want the weekend staring you in the face.) Important: The health certificate is only good for 30 days from the date the local vet first fills it out, so you have to make sure that it will be valid on the crossing date. Before you can complete the health certificate, you have to have the results of the horse's Coggins test*, which I believe cannot be older than 45 days. So, just to be safe, have the Coggins test done no more than 45 days from the crossing date. While you are waiting for the results, contact a customs broker and go over your plans with him/her. There is a section on the Health Certificate that requires information from the customs broker, so you must start working with one in order to be able to complete the certificate. When the test results return, (but, again, no more than 30 days before your crossing), have your local vet fill out the Health Certificate including the information the broker gives you and then send it to the State Veterinarian. (Suggestion: use priority mail or Fed Ex to save time). Once the State Vet has endorsed the health certificate, you are ready to travel. As I said earlier, it is advisable to have a few contacts with the customs broker even if just to ask a question or two (just to keep you on his radar!), but certainly call him a few days before leaving and let him know the day on which you will be arriving at the border and how they can contact you. Arriving At The Border and Clearing Your Horse My friends arrived in Laredo on a Wednesday evening and checked the horse into a "horse hotel" right in Laredo. If you have ever traveled with your horse, you probably know these types of hotels are just about everywhere. In an earlier phone conversation with the broker, it had been decided that the he would meet my friends at the horse hotel the following morning at 9:00. Never having done any of this before, we foolishly thought it would take an hour or two and then my friends would be on their way. WRONG! Of course we also didn't realize that although Laredo, technically, is in the United States, it seems to use the Mexican standard of time (translate - mañana).Anyway, the broker showed up at the horse hotel at 10:30 a.m. and told them it would take until mid-afternoon before they would cross the border. The broker went over the health certificate and did a pre-inspection of the trailer and all its contents and the horse. Important Note: you cannot take hay or feed across the border, nor can you take any medicines, supplements, etc. You would be well-advised not to try to hide these things in your personal belongings, because when the Mexican veterinarian checks out your trailer, it could be very bad for you if you had any of these items present. The trailer also must be clean (within reason). By the way, you can bring your saddles, tack box, etc. After looking at the health certificate and trailer, the broker asked my friends some questions such as the horse's exact destination, i.e., stable, farm or property; where the horse will live (a name and an address is needed, so make sure you and your transporter have that info), as well as whether or not the horse is returning to the U.S.The broker then left my friends and went away for a few hours to do "paperwork" before returning around 1:30. At that point, it was the broker's job to drive my friends to the Mexican vet's office and present them to the vet for the official inspection. I don't know where the vet's office was, but it is not right at the border crossing. Once the vet completed his inspection, he "sealed" the trailer with a bar-coded plastic band on the trailer door. I believe that the seal was not to be broken until the horse reached its final destination. At this point, my horse was officially cleared to travel in Mexico. However, my friends still had to go to the Mexican immigration office to get their tourist cards and vehicle permits. The customs broker indicated that his job was over and he did not normally go any further with his clients, but my friends explained to him they had no idea how to get to the immigration office. Their pleading and an additional $20 USD convinced the broker to take them! LESSON LEARNED: Clarify with your broker exactly what his duties are. If necessary, make sure he knows you expect him to take you to the immigration building and discuss upfront whether it's included in the usual cost or will it be an extra charge? My friends told me since the immigration building was not conveniently located near the Mexican vet, they would have had a hard time finding it on their own. They finally arrived at the immigration building around 5:00 p.m. As you can see, one whole day was spent getting the horse cleared and, thank goodness, most of that time he was grazing at the horse hotel. It was very fortunate for him that my friends chose to use the horse hotel; otherwise he would have stood in the trailer all that time. AT IMMIGRATION - Tourists cards and vehicle permits Fortunately, I was able to make the trip to the border. My friends and I kept in constant cell phone communication beginning Wednesday night...when I arrived in Nuevo Laredo and they arrived at Laredo. Because we didn't know how long the process would take and we foolishly thought the broker would actually be on time, my friend (who drove me up from Ajijic) and I went to the Immigration building bright and early. I thought all my hard work and research beforehand would stand us in good stead! Ah-h-h-h...hope springs eternal! We stayed in contact all day until I met my friends (two-legged and four-legged!) at the immigration building in Nuevo Laredo. My purpose in meeting them was to guide them down to Ajijic and also to bring water, hay and feed for the horse since we knew their supplies would be have to be surrendered.
I had explained to them what documentation they needed and how many copies were required but one little slip-up almost ended in a huge problem. Important: I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have all the necessary documents: passports, title, truck and trailer registrations, car insurance, notarized letter of permission to travel from any lien holder, credit card, etc. My friends even had to produce a marriage certificate because the trailer was registered in her name and the truck in his.In our instance, unfortunately, my friend brought the wrong registration card for the horse trailer! She tried to pass off the registration card that she had and she actually got the vehicle permit. However, when we got to the 15-mile customs booth, they were stopped and searched, and the official saw that the VIN number of the trailer did not match the VIN number on the permit and they (me, too) had to turn around and go back to the immigration building. At this point, I was certain everything was going to fall apart.
I thought I might have come all that way just to visit with my horse for a few hours in a parking lot. I almost cried, because I was terrified that they would have to turn around and head back to the USA. Fortunately with cell phones and fax machines and a very good neighbor back in South Carolina, we were able to get things turned around.Normally, however, the rule is they have to see the original, but I guess we all looked so pathetic, they took pity on us and at 9:00 that evening they accepted the faxed registration and issued a new vehicle permit. Thank goodness! If we had not been able to get our paperwork in order, we would have been in a huge mess. Not only would we not have been permitted to go any further into Mexico, we also would not have been allowed to return to the USA without having the horse taken into quarantine. It was a very stressful time, to say the least!A word to wise: make sure your paperwork is in order...make a checklist, record everything you need and check it off the list...double-checking all dates and registration numbers! It may seem like a lot of work, but if you want your horse in Mexico, it's easier to do in your home town than at the border, believe me! Spending the Night in Nuevo Laredo: Since it was 9:00 in the evening, we decided to spend the night in Nuevo Laredo. Unfortunately there weren't any horse hotels, but there was a little motel with a big parking lot that allowed us to park the horse trailer overnight. The next morning we started out at 7:00 and made it to Ajijic at 9:30 p.m. For travelers who think they want to do the trip in two days, please be advised there are no horse hotels in Mexico. However you might be able to make an arrangement with a motel such as we did in Nuevo Laredo. Anything is possible for a few extra dollars. Be prepared to be stopped and searched as horse rustling is prevalent, and horses and horse trailers are frequently used for smuggling. It is also possible to be stopped by an agricultural official and have your paperwork inspected. I'm so happy to finally have my horse Chip home with me. It's a lot of paperwork and it was very stressful at times, but it was all worth it. If you're looking forward to bringing your horse with you, as many people do, I'm hoping that the information I've given you will save you a little frustration. If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to help you out. Please don't hesitate to email me at email@example.com. *COGGINS TEST: To insure that an animal is not harboring the virus a simple test is performed...the Coggins test. The Coggins test checks for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) antibodies in the horse's blood. Blood samples must be sent to a state approved laboratory. This test is often needed to take your horse to a show and whenever you transport your horse across state lines or borders. It is to prove to others your horse is safe to be around their horses. Some states now require a negative Coggins test on a horse before he can be sold. Before you travel check to see how recent a test is required because it differs from place to place.