Moving a Pet to the United States
Rules and Regulations for International Pet Shipping
- Pet Travel Documents & Requirements
- Pet Restrictions for the United States
- Microchip for Pet Travel to the United States
- Quarantine for Pet Travel to the United States
- Area Specific Information
- Top Destinations in the United States
- How Starwood Can Help
What Pet Travel Documents Are Needed to Travel to the United States?
The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) both regulate cats, dogs, and other pet animals entering the country. However, many individual states also have specific rules you’ll need to follow. You can check on that by visiting the USDA’s page for dogs or cats and clicking on your destination state from the drop-down menu.
Don’t overlook this step, because some states require a health certificate, whereas federal agencies do not. For that matter, most airlines also require a health certificate for traveling pets.
USDA/CDC rules depend on where your pet has been living. If you don’t comply with these import requirements, there will be delays and headaches when your pet tries to enter the US.
Dogs arriving from countries with a High-Risk for rabies are required to travel with a valid rabies vaccination certificate.
Dogs arriving from low-risk or rabies-free countries are not required to have proof of rabies to enter the United States. However, most individual states require dogs to be vaccinated for rabies.
Cats are only required to have proof of rabies vaccination for specific states. You can learn about state-specific regulations for cat pet travel here.
Dogs used in handling livestock and being moved from anywhere besides the countries below must have a tapeworm treatment administered by a licensed veterinarian before entering the United States. They are also subject to inspection and possible quarantine. Here are the areas excluded from this treatment: Canada, Mexico, regions of Central America, and the West Indies.
Foot and Mouth Disease
Pets being imported from countries affected with foot and mouth disease need to meet the following requirements:
- Paws, fur, and bedding should be free of any dirt, hay, or straw.
- The pet should be bathed as soon as they arrive.
- The pet should be separated from any livestock for at least 5 days after arriving in the US.
- They should have no signs of a tapeworm infection.
Here you can find a list of countries that may be affected by foot and mouth disease.
If your dog is traveling from a country where screwworm is present, they will need a certificate verifying that they have been inspected for screwworm within 5 days prior to departure and that they: are free from screwworm OR were infested, but have since been quarantined and treated until free from screwworm prior to departure.
The certificate must be signed by a full-time, salaried veterinary official in the country of export.
Dogs coming from high-risk rabies countries will require a rabies titer blood test if the current rabies vaccination was administered outside the USA. The rabies titer test must meet the following criteria:
- The blood sample must be tested at an approved laboratory
- The blood sample must be drawn at lest 30 days after the rabies vaccination
- The rabies titer test must be completed at least 45 days prior but no more than 1 year prior to arrival to the US
- The results are valid for 1 year from the blood draw date
Dogs coming from lower-risk countries are not required to have a Rabies Titer Test for travel to the United States.
Cats are not required to have a Rabies Titer Test for travel to the United States.
Cats do not require an import permit.
Dogs entering the United States from a high-risk rabies country are required to have an import permit. They must be at least 6 months old, have an ISO-compatible microchip, have a valid rabies vaccination certificate, have a valid rabies titer blood test from an approved lab, and arrive at one of the approved CDC quarantine airports. You can view more information about the CDC import permit here.
You may import 1 or 2 dogs per person and the import permit is valid from 14 days before the planned date of arrival until 90 days after the planned date of arrival. If your dog's travel plans change and arrival will be outside this window, you must notify the CDC right away. They can be contacted via email: CDCanimalimports@cdc.gov.
If your dog has a valid rabies certificate that was issued in the USA before moving abroad, they will not require an import permit.
*Do note that it can take anywhere from 30 business days to 6 weeks or more for the CDC to process the import permit application. Plan ahead and don't wait until the last minute!
While the CDC or USDA do not require a health certificate for eligible dogs to enter the US, nearly all airlines and many exporting countries do require one. This may also be needed for customs clearance upon arrival and is usually completed within 10 days prior to travel. As stated above, if you happen to be coming from a country where screwworm or foot and mouth disease exists, this will be required.
Although the Veterinary Services division of USDA/APHIS does not require a general health certificate or a rabies vaccination certificate, the CDC reserves the right to visually inspect your cat at the port of entry. The CDC’s primary concern is preventing infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans from coming into the country. Similar to dogs, many airlines and exporting countries will still require a health certificate for cats, usually within 10 days prior to travel.
Photo of Pet
You're not required to have a photo of your pet to transport them to the United States. (We bet you have plenty of those on your smartphone should you need one!)
What Are the Pet Restrictions for the United States?
Age Restrictions for the United States
If your dog is traveling from a high-risk country, they must be at least 6 months old to enter the United States.
If your dog is arriving from a low-risk or rabies-free country, there is no restriction on age. These dogs must be accompanied by a statement that the dog has been a resident of the country of origin for at least six months or since birth. However, many airlines and exporting countries have their own age restrictions for transporting puppies.
There is no restriction on a cat's age for traveling to the United States. However, many airlines and exporting countries have their own age restrictions for transporting kittens.
The United States does not ban any breeds. However, restrictions on certain breeds may be present in some cities or housing areas. Please make sure you check with the local government before you move your pet.
Do I Need a Microchip for My Pet to Travel to the United States?
The United States does not require a microchip for cats or dogs unless you have a dog that is coming from a high-risk rabies country. In general, a microchip is strongly recommended for cats and dogs who are traveling. In some cases, exporting countries may require a microchip to leave their country.
What Are the Quarantine Requirements for a Pet Traveling to the United States?
If your destination is the state of Hawaii or the territory of Guam, your pet will have to spend time in quarantine before they can be released to you. (This is true even if you’re traveling from within the US mainland).
The mainland US does not require quarantine for cats and dogs unless you have a dog coming from a high-risk rabies country and have not completed the proper microchip, vaccination, and rabies titer test requirements.
Are There Any Area Specific Pet Requirements in the United States?
Top Destinations in the United States
- Colorado Springs
- Ft. Lauderdale
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
- New York City
- Palm Beach
- San Antonio
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- St. Louis
Our Top Blogs About the United States
Our United States pet shipping services include:
- Door-to-door transport
- Assistance with health certificates, import certificates, and other travel documents needed for animal transport to the United States (outlined above)
- USDA endorsement and consular legalization (when needed) of all relevant documents where required
- Airline-approved flight kennels provided with personalized labels, identification
andemergency notification instructions
- Customs clearance and delivery to your home
- Local pet taxi service to and from the airport, your home, veterinarian, kennel, or groomer – available in major US cities as well as their surrounding areas
- Travel consultation and flight reservations
We will inform you of your pet's full itinerary before the trip and we will update you as your pet travels to the United States.