Good news dogs and cats are not required to have visas to enter the United States, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must be examined and each state has its own rules, some are stricter than the federal government rules. To check the animal import requirements for your destination state, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) U.S. State and Territory Import Regulations website.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires that pet dogs and cats imported into the United States be examined at the first port of entry for evidence of diseases that can be transmitted to humans. If a dog or cat appears to be sick at the port of entry, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required. Quarantine for pets is not required by most U.S. states and territories; however, Hawaii and Guam do have quarantine requirements for pet dogs and cats being imported into the United States. Pets excluded from entry into the United States must be sent back to the country of origin. While awaiting disposition, pets will be detained at the owner’s expense at the port of arrival.
CDC requires rabies vaccination for all dogs entering the United States from a country where rabies is present. These requirements apply to all dogs including puppies and service animals.
Proof of rabies vaccination
Dogs arriving from a country where rabies is present 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
Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age. Dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days before entering the United States. These vaccine requirements mean that the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States from a country where rabies is present is 4 months of age. Adult dogs with a history of two or more rabies vaccinations are considered fully vaccinated if the vaccination date is current. NOTE: Some certificates say the vaccine is good for 3 years. Dogs should not get re-vaccinated if they are within the dates of the certificate.
Importing Unvaccinated Dogs
Importation of unvaccinated dogs is allowed on a limited basis. Unvaccinated dogs may be imported if they are arriving from a rabies-free country (where they have lived for the past 6 months or since birth) or if they are being imported for use in scientific research where rabies vaccination would interfere with that research.
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
Dogs that arrive in Hawaii or Guam, both of which are free of rabies, are also subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements.
Dogs imported from countries or regions where “screwworm” is known to exist may be imported if the dog is 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 prior to 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 held in quarantine and treated until free from screwworm prior to leaving the region.
Owners of dogs imported from countries or regions affected with Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) are advised to take the following precautions to prevent the introduction of FMD from pets entering the United States:
- The feet, fur, and bedding of the pets should be free of any excessive dirt or mud.
- The pet’s bedding should be free of any straw or hay, or other natural bedding.
- The pet should be bathed as soon as it reaches its final destination.
- The pet should be kept separate and apart from all livestock for at least 5 days after entry into the United States.
Dogs and cats that are pets are free of customs duty.
Purebred animals other than domesticated livestock that are imported for breeding purposes are free of duty under certain conditions. A declaration is required to show that the importer is a citizen of the United States; that the animal is imported specifically for breeding purposes; that it is identical with the description in the certificate of pedigree presented; and that it is registered in the country of origin in a book of registry recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Collies, shepherds, and other dogs that are imported from any part of the world except Canada, Mexico, and regions of Central America and the West Indies and that are to be used in the handling of livestock must be inspected and quarantined at the port of entry for a sufficient time to determine their freedom from tapeworm.
Geygan & Geygan, Ltd. Offers a Free Consultation to Discuss Your & Your Pets Immigration Needs
Coming to the United Stated entails filling out what seems to be an endless amount of paperwork. It is very important to ensure you are filling out the forms correctly. At Geygan & Geygan, Ltd., our skilled immigration attorneys will provide you with one-on-one attention and explain to you how to bring your family, including the four legged ones. Our office will review your case with a free consultation and answer any questions you may have. To schedule your free consultation, contact Geygan & Geygan, Ltd. today by calling 513-791-1673.