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Bringing a Dog into the United States

Dogs are subject to inspection at ports of entry.

CDC regulations require that dogs imported into the United States are healthy and are vaccinated against rabies before arrival into the United States. These requirements apply equally to all dogs, including puppies and service animals.

If your dog is imported from a rabies-free country, CDC does not require rabies vaccination. However, every state requires that dogs be vaccinated against rabies, and all pet dogs arriving in the state of HawaiiExternal Web Site Icon and the territory of GuamExternal Web Site Icon, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements depending on their rabies vaccination status.

Dogs may be denied entry if they look like they are sick with a communicable disease or if proof of a valid rabies vaccination is not provided. If a dog appears to be sick at the port of entry, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the dog owner’s expense might be required. See International Travel with Your Pet for more information.

Proof of Rabies Vaccination

Rabies vaccination is required for all dogs entering the United States from a country where rabies is present. Dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to arrival. Adult dogs older than 15 months of age that have previously received a rabies vaccination given no earlier than 3 months of age and that has since expired may be imported immediately following booster vaccination, without the need to wait for 30 days.

Dogs must be accompanied by a current, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:

  • Name and address of owner
  • Breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
  • Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
  • Date the vaccination expires
  • Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccination

These requirements apply to all dogs, including service animals such as guide dogs for the blind. Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age, so the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months of age.

Importation of Unvaccinated Dogs

Importation of dogs that are not vaccinated against rabies is allowed on a limited basis. Unvaccinated dogs may be imported if:

Importing a puppy purchased outside of the United States does not meet the criteria for a confinement agreement. Importers are expected to exhaust all other reasonable options for delaying the importation of dogs until they are fully vaccinated against rabies before being considered for a confinement agreement. Unvaccinated dogs that arrive in the United States from countries that are not considered rabies-free may be denied entry to the United States and returned to the country of origin at the importer’s expense. Questions about importing unvaccinated dogs may be directed to CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov.

New! Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements

On July 10, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted guidance on the Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements. This guidance describes the factors that HHS/CDC will consider in deciding whether to issue a dog confinement agreement or deny entry of a dog being imported into the United States that has not been adequately vaccinated against rabies. Dog confinement agreements are covered under 42 CFR 71.51. This guidance became effective on August 11, 2014 (30 days after publication).

New! Frequently Asked Questions about the Federal Register Notice, Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements »

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Importation of Dogs from Rabies-free Countries

Unvaccinated dogs may be imported without proof of rabies vaccination if they have lived in a country that is considered free of rabies for a minimum of 6 months or since birth.

Following importation, all dogs are subject to state and local vaccination or health certificate requirements. All pet dogs arriving in the state of HawaiiExternal Web Site Icon and the territory of GuamExternal Web Site Icon, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements. Additional information can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and ControlAdobe PDF file[PDF – 20 pages].

Importation of Dogs from Countries Where Screwworm is Present

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), requires that dogs that are being imported from countries or regions where screwworm is known to existExternal Web Site Icon meet the following requirements:

  • The dog must be accompanied by a certificate signed by a full-time salaried veterinary official of the region of origin stating that the dog has been inspected for screwworm within 5 days before shipment to the United States.
  • The certificate must state that the dog is either free from screwworm or was found to be infested with screwworm and was held in quarantine and treated until free from screwworm before leaving the region.

Please refer to the USDA APHIS websiteExternal Web Site Icon for further information.

Importation of Dogs for Commercial/Breeding Purposes

There are no separate CDC regulations for dogs to be used for commercial purposes, rather than as personal pets. The rules for bringing domestic dogs into the United States are covered under U.S. regulation 42 CFR 71.51External Web Site Icon. Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age, so the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months of age.

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Bringing a Cat into the United States

Pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry.

A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of pet cats into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.

Cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.

All pet cats arriving in the state of HawaiiExternal Web Site Icon and the territory of GuamExternal Web Site Icon, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements.

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Rabies-Free Countries and Political Units

Unvaccinated dogs may be imported without proof of rabies vaccination if they have spent the previous 6 months in a country that is free of rabies, as listed below.

Following importation, all dogs are subject to state and local vaccination or health certificate requirements. All pet dogs arriving in the state of HawaiiExternal Web Site Icon and the territory of GuamExternal Web Site Icon, even from the US mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements. Additional information can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and ControlAdobe PDF file[PDF – 20 pages].

Countries and political units considered rabies-free for the importation of dogs into the United States1
RegionCountries/Localities
AfricaCape Verde, Mauritius, Réunion, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles
AmericasNorth: Bermuda, Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts (Saint Christopher) and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands (UK and US)
Asia and the Middle EastHong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia (Sabah), Qatar, Singapore, United Arab Emirates
Europe2Albania, Austria, Belgium, Corsica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway (except Svalbard), Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (except Ceuta and Melilla), Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
Oceania3Australia3, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Micronesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu
  1. Global surveillance efforts and reporting standards differ dramatically, conditions may change rapidly because of animal translocation, and bat rabies may exist in some areas that are reportedly “free” of rabies in other mammals.
  2. Bat lyssaviruses have been reported throughout Europe, including areas that are reportedly free of rabies in other wild mammals.
  3. Most of Pacific Oceania is reportedly “rabies-free”, with the exception of Australia, where lyssaviruses in bats have been reported, as well as fatal human rabies cases.

 

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USDA Establishes New Health Requirements for Dogs Imported to the U.S. for Resale

 

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2014—The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has amended Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to require that dogs imported to the U.S. meet stronger health and safety standards to protect Americans and Americans’ pets. The new rule ensures that dogs imported for resale are vaccinated and in good health, and required to be over six months of age.

The new regulations are authorized under section 18 of the AWA, which Congress added in the 2008 Farm Bill. In September 2011, APHIS published and took comments on a proposed rule in the Federal Register addressing the requirements of the new section of the AWA.

“This rule implements new requirements in the Animal Welfare Act to ensure dogs imported for resale are healthy and vaccinated,” said Kevin Shea, Administrator for APHIS. “This will help safeguard the imported dogs, the public, and our pets and other animals.”

The final rule applies to dogs imported into the continental U.S., (including Alaska) and Hawaii, from other countries and from U.S. territories to the continental U.S.

This final rule applies to dogs intended for resale. It does not apply to dogs that are imported for research purposes, veterinary medical treatment, or for personal companions.

With Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, APHIS works tirelessly to create and sustain opportunities for America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. Each day, APHIS promotes U.S. agricultural health, regulates genetically engineered organisms, administers the Animal Welfare Act, and carries out wildlife damage management activities, all to help safeguard the nation’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries. In the event that a pest or disease of concern is detected, APHIS implements emergency protocols and partners with affected states and other countries to quickly manage or eradicate the outbreak. To promote the health of U.S. agriculture in the international trade arena, APHIS develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners to ensure America’s agricultural exports, valued at more than $137 billion annually, are protected from unjustified restrictions.

View the final rule here.

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