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Most people want to bring their pet with them when moving to a new country. It is the responsibility of the pet owner to make sure their pet has met the U.S. entry requirements. Be sure to consult both your airline and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to review the regulations for your pet prior to travelling.

Procedures

Different airlines and U.S. states may have different requirements for importing pets. Most states require that dogs and cats have a health certificate from an accredited veterinarian, a microchip ID, and a rabies vaccination. The certificate of vaccination against rabies must include identification of the dog, the date of vaccination, the expiry date of the vaccine, as well as the name and licence number of the administering veterinarian. Dogs from rabies-free countries who have not been vaccinated against rabies may be imported if the owner can provide proof that they were born and have remained in that country for at least six months.

 Important: The U.S. has additional requirements for dogs travelling from countries affected by specific diseases such as screwworm and Foot and Mouth Disease.

The United States has strict regulations on which birds qualify as pets. Non-pet birds (such as doves and pigeons) are subject to specific poultry laws and require involvement with multiple agencies. Anyone wanting to import a bird of non-American origin must obtain a certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture and provide a health certificate from a certified veterinarian in your home country. Imported pet birds will be quarantined for 30 days.

Travel considerations

Pets can be transported by plane in-cabin, in the cargo hold, or via a licensed commercial shipper. The size and breed of the pet will determine the method of shipping. Be sure to check travel restrictions with your airline or your travel agent as special conditions could apply to the number and type of animals allowed on the flight. In general, a place for your pet should be booked well in advance of your move date.

Take special care to make sure your pet is installed in a comfortable cage as per the animal’s size and airline requirements. Make sure as well that your pet will have ample access to water and even food, and consult with your veterinarian if a relaxation aid is recommended.

On arrival

On arrival in the United States, you must declare your pet on your customs form. When you go through customs, an official will review your paperwork and inspect your pet. The U.S. authorities may deny entry to your pet if it lacks proof of necessary vaccinations or shows signs of an infectious disease. Further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at your expense.

 Good to know: All cats and dogs arriving in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements.

 Useful Links:

APHIS pet import page
CDC pet import page
US Department of Agriculture
Guide to flying with pets in the US 

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