Bringing A Pet Home From Guatemala: A Step by Step Guide

Bringing A Pet Home From Guatemala: A Step by Step Guide

Updated Spring 2021

Perhaps you traveled to Guatemala and want to adopt a street dog to take home with you.

Or maybe you traveled to Guatemala with your dog and want to bring him back home.

In any case, Guatemala has strict requirements for leaving the country with a pet.

Here is what you need to know to ensure a smooth departure with your dog.

Side note…

In our case we were in Guatemala for 3 months studying Spanish. Our dogs, Olivia and Sofia traveled with us.

After our VISA was up, we traveled to Mexico.

Below is an account of our firsthand knowledge of leaving Guatemala with a dog.

Required Paperwork For Leaving Guatemala With A Dog

First, let me just say that we have never had to provide the extensive amount of documentation in order to leave a county like Guatemala requires!

Fortunately, we found a veterinarian who knew exactly what needed to be done so we were compliant for our exit process.

Here is what you need to do…

  1. Get A Health Certificate

Your dog must have a health check exam from a licensed Guatemalan veterinarian.

Whether you are driving or flying out of Guatemala, the exam should be done no more than 15-days before your date of departure.

If you are driving out of Guatemala, north through Mexico, you have a 15-day window to cross the border into Mexico.

The dog must show no signs of contagious diseases and has been vaccinated with all the appropriate vaccines.

What the health certificate must include:

Keep in mind there isn’t a specific form for the health certificate (such as in the U.S.).

Therefore, the doctor must type up the information on company letterhead paper and provide the following:

a) The address of where you are living now (in Guatemala) and the address of where you will be taking your dog – your destination.

b) Record/listing of all vaccines, dates administered and expiration dates. This includes the DHPP booster, respiratory complex intranasal, rabies, plus dates of the last heartworm test, fecal exam and annual exam.

c.) Confirmation the dog has been treated against ectoparasites and endoparasites.
– Ectoparasites are: fleas, ticks, mites, and lice. Products such as Bravecto or NexGard prevent ectoparasites.
– Endoparasites are: heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Interceptor is a product commonly used for this.

Note: Inside the boxes of NexGard and Interceptor are stickers. These stickers are what the veterinarian needs to attach to the health certificate.

So, don’t throw them away!

If you are traveling to Mexico, as we were, the health certificate must provide the date that NexGard and Interceptor were given to the dogs.

It had to be within 30 days of entering Mexico, in our case.

d) Also required is confirmation that the dog’s rabies vaccines are up to date and meet importing country and airline requirements.

e) A photocopy of the veterinarian’s license.

If you are flying out, the health certificate must have the Guatemala government’s required 9 M.A.G.A. stamps affixed to it. (seriously, 9!)

If you are driving out, you do not need the M.A.G.A. stamps on the health certificate. So much easier and less money to have to spend.

MAGA = Ministerio de Agracultura Ganaderia y Alimentación.

Each stamp costs about 50Q.

  1. Rabies Certificate

If you brought your dog into Guatemala, you will have to provide the Guatemala veterinarian an original Rabies Certificate signed and stamped by the veterinarian who administered the rabies vaccine in the first place.

It’s always a good idea to ask your main veterinarian for several original copies of the rabies certificates before traveling.

  1. M.A.G.A. Export Certificate

Note: This only pertains to pets flying out. You can skip this if driving out.

Next you will need an export certificate from the Guatemala Minister of Agriculture.

In order to receive this, all the above paperwork must be sent to the government agency M.A.G.A. in Guatemala City.

There is a fee for submitting the paperwork and must be deposited into the M.A.G.A. bank account at the Banrural Bank.

Proof of payment must accompany all the paperwork.

There are two ways to accomplish all thisa) Do it yourself and hire a “tramitador” or facilitator to do this step, as it involves waiting in long lines in Guatemala City and two trips on two different days.

b) Have a Guatemala veterinarian send in all the paperwork for you. Make sure the Vet is familiar with the entire process before hiring them.

Fortunately for us, the veterinarian we worked with in Xela (Dr. Miguel de Leon Regil of Zoo Mozcota Vet, email) was very familiar with the M.A.G.A. export certificate process as well as what Mexico required. His WhatsApp is: +502.553.7938

He took care of it all. One stop shop!

Olivia and Sofia had a heath check with him within 15 days of leaving Guatemala.

His office emailed all the paperwork to the M.A.G.A. agency plus deposited the fees for us.

We received all the officially stamped export certificates well within our departure date. We were good to go!

Note: make at least 3 photo copies of everything.

Example of MAGA stamps on the export certificate

Airport Check-in with your dog

Fortunately, the airport in Guatemala City is not very big and there are a few grassy areas for your dog to use before heading into the building.

At the check-in counter the airline representative will ask for all the paperwork for your dog.

Then they will call over a government official (not airline official) to view the paperwork.

The export paperwork has a duplicate carbon copy.

They will take the top copy and leave you with the carbon copy.

Once it is determined everything is in order the airline official will make copies of all the documents and begin the check-in process.

I have heard stories of folks who did not get all the required paperwork for their dog and were not able to board the airplane with their pet. 

It is important to be informed before you go!

Airlines flying to Guatemala that accept Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

Avianca: The transport in cabin of the service dogs, rescue dogs, guide dogs or emotional support dogs has no additional charge.

Aeroméxico – accepts emotional-support pets onboard their flights, in compliance with Air Carrier Access Act.

Volaris – ESAs can travel at no cost on flights within Mexico and from/to Central America only.

COPA – Emotional support dogs will only be accepted on routes where they are recognized in the country’s regulations: to or from Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Mexico.

Requirements for bringing your dog to the U.S.

Here is a link from the CDC about bringing your pet to US.

As always… Safe Travels!

You may also be interested in…

U.S. airlines no longer allow Emotional Support Animals. Read more and learn what other airlines do support ESAs.

Read about Pet Friendly Spanish schools in Guatemala

Crossing the border in Texas? Checkout this pet friendly (and kid friendly) road trip itinerary with cool places to visit and lodging suggestions.  Pet Friendly Mexico Road Trip

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Maritza Estrada

Hello from Chicago! I am planning to adopt a dog in Guatemala while I visit my family there. Thanks for the information.

Maritza Estrada

Thanks again, I just looked them up! Interesting how I never knew about the animal rescues in Guatemala. Stay safe and be happy 😉