By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
Bringing your dog or cat into Mexico to be part of the family vacation is easy, certainly if crossing the border overland, as well as if flying, as long as your dog doesn’t have a flat-ish nose which can present breathing problems (i.e. pug, boxer). Get the shots and a bilingual veterinarian certificate, and you’re golden. In fact, often papers are not even asked for. The same holds true for acquiring a Mexican pet and taking it back to Canada or the US. Our daughter did it both ways and was amazed at the laxness of regulation enforcement at both borders, though there was a kennel issue at the Oaxaca airport just prior to boarding for Canada with her one Oaxacan and her other Toronto-born cat. But why bring your dog or cat to Oaxaca with you for what is supposed to be your vacation? Is it to appease your insistent children who exert a ridiculous amount of control over you? Is boarding in your hometown too expensive? Or do you really think that your pet will enjoy the vacation with you more than being with other pets at a boarding facility or being with a neighbor or dog walker once or twice daily?
While we have currently suspended our B & B operations in the city of Oaxaca, we still receive inquiries from travelers wanting to stay with us and are intent upon bringing their dog or cat. We refer them to lodgings which accept pets, but there aren’t that many, and they can be expensive. A writer for this magazine recently wrote to me about finding a hotel in Huatulco which would accept her dog, and lamented that it was a “real pain” and that she had to rent a house nine km east of the city on 1.2 acres of land, rather expensive. Why dramatically restrict the pool of hotels and bed & breakfasts from which you can choose? I’m not a pet psychologist, nor do I profess to intimately know what’s right or wrong when it comes to decisions about the family dog or cat. However there are certain factors which ought to be considered prior to deciding to bring Fido or Tabby along for the trip.
Yes, Some Lodgings Accept Pets
Like other major tourist destinations throughout the world, the odd hotel and guest house in Oaxaca accepts pets, including a couple of members of the Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast Association. But most shun the thought of even the possibility of contending with meowing or barking or soiling the lawn and therefore having to deal with irate pet-less guests. Many lodging owners have their own pets which enjoy having the grounds to themselves exclusively and do not take kindly to sharing the premises with other four-legged friends. Of course there are exceptions, but what does it say about the quality of lodging if the owner is struggling to rent out rooms to the extent that he feels compelled to accept dogs, cats, rats, parrots, snakes and lizards? The main point however is that with the pool or prospective lodgings being dramatically reduced, do you want the vacation for your feline or canine, or for you the Homo sapiens sapiens?
Think of Your Poor Pet
Family pets are indeed different from the human members of the family, no matter how much we might treat them the same as we treat ourselves and our children, no matter that they sleep with us in our beds, no matter that they pick up on our emotions and thoughts. After the first couple of hours of the car trip down to Huatulco, Puerto Escondido or Oaxaca, will the pet not be more impatient than the kids? Is he capable of playing Scrabble or Geography in the car? Would he not be happier being boarded in a quality facility back home where he can frolic with his own? When we vacation we often board our boxer, Tito, with his trainer. Now, when we begin to gather up his choke collar and his food and water bowls for the ride, he becomes unimaginably excited, knowing that he’s off once again to the “country club.” Sure, when we leave him home while friends are looking after the house he sulks for the first couple of days, but then he adjusts.
Pet Owners with a Dog or Cat Accompaniment in Oaxaca Are Otherwise Restricted
Many archaeological sites, restaurants, museums and other cultural highlights in the state of Oaxaca do not permit pets, leashed or otherwise. Another person who writes for this magazine has told me that most Huatulco beaches do not permit dogs. Yes, of course your dog or cat can be left in the car; but do you want to run the risk of returning to the parking lot and finding that Fido has flown the coop with the help of a Oaxacan wanting to turn your pet into pesos? Or leaving him in a hotel room only to return and find damaged linens or sofa, or a lodging manager livid because he has had to appease other guests complaining about incessant barking?
Do you want to continually be obsessed with considering the possibility of something going wrong, rather than expending your energy enjoying Oaxaca’s exquisite, world renowned cuisine, the ruins, and craft demonstrations? Bringing along your pet might dramatically restrict your ability to enjoy a number of priority destinations you have set for your vacation.
Still Not Convinced?
True enough, the boarding costs in cities in First World countries are prohibitive for many. As a last-ditch effort to address the still unconvinced, consider boarding the beast at your final Oaxacan destination. Among the advantages: price is roughly a quarter or a third of what it is back home; your vacation will be restriction-free; on balance you should not be obsessing about how your dog or cat is doing since your pet will be with professionals; he will still be able to spend quality time with you and the rest of the family while driving to Oaxaca; while at your final destination you can drop by to see him daily and exchange stories about how the day has been spent; he’ll be having the vacation of a lifetime, and maybe even pick up a bit of doggy Spanish; you won’t have any restrictions on which lodging you can choose, and accordingly your vacation will be that much more enjoyable.
Alvin Starkman is a pet lover, having had dogs, cats, iguanas, snakes, birds, rabbits, frogs, mice and more, all as pets (and in the case of mice, also as food). Alvin operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca (www.mezcaleducationaltours.com).