Bringing Animals to America Guide
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulations govern the importation of animals and animal products capable of causing human disease. Pets taken out of the United States are subject upon return to the same regulations as those entering for the first time.
The CDC does not require general certificates of health for pets for entry into the United States. However, health certificates may be required for entry into some states, or may be required by airlines for pets. You should check with officials in your state of destination and with your airline prior to your travel date.
Animals Regulated by CDC: What You Need To Know
NOTE: Other Animals... fish, reptiles, horses.
A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of pet dogs into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, pet dogs 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 dog appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner's expense might be required at the port of entry.
Proof of Rabies Vaccination
Dogs must have a certificate showing they have been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to entry into the United States. These requirements apply equally to service animals such as Seeing Eye dogs.
Importation of Unvaccinated Dogs
Dogs not accompanied by proof of rabies vaccination, including those that are too young to be vaccinated (i.e. less than 3 months of age), may be admitted if the importer completes a confinement agreement (see below) and confines the animal until it is considered adequately vaccinated against rabies (the vaccine is not considered effective until 30 days after the date of vaccination). Spanish, French, and Russian translations of form CDC 75.37 are available, but must be completed in English.
Translations of the form CDC 75.37 are also available:
Puppies that are too young to be vaccinated (i.e. less than 3 months of age) must be kept in confinement until they are old enough to be vaccinated, and then confined for at least 30 days after the date of vaccination.
Unvaccinated dogs must be vaccinated within 4 days of arrival at their final U.S. destination and within 10 days of entry into the United States, and must be kept in confinement for at least 30 days after the date of vaccination.
Dogs may not be sold or transferred to other owners during this period of confinement, and the person that signs the confinement agreement is responsible for ensuring the conditions of the agreement are met.
Importers must provide a contact address where the dog will be kept during the confinement period. If the importer will be housing the dog at several addresses or traveling with the animal, all points of contact must be provided.
Importation of Dogs from Rabies-free Countries
Unvaccinated dogs may be imported without a requirement for proof of rabies vaccination if they have been located for a minimum of 6 months or more in countries that are free of rabies.
Following importation, all dogs are subject to state and local vaccination or health certificate requirements. All pet 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. Additional information can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control.
Importation of Dogs for Commercial/Breeding purposes
There are no separate CDC regulations for dogs to be used for commercial purposes, rather than as pets. The rules for bringing domestic dogs into the United States are covered under U.S. regulation 42 CFR 71.51. When importing puppies, the importer is responsible for maintaining quarantine according to the vaccination and confinement agreement signed at the time of importation.
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.
Turtles, Snakes and Lizards
CDC does not regulate snakes or lizards, but does limit imports of small turtles. Those with a carapace (shell) length of less than 4 inches may not be imported for any commercial purpose. An individual may import as many as six of these turtles for noncommercial purposes. This rule was implemented in 1975 after it was discovered that small turtles frequently transmitted Salmonella to humans, particularly young children.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the importation of reptiles. Regulations regarding reptiles, fish, and endangered species can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service import/export website.
Certain animals, such as bats, insects and snails, are known to carry zoonotic diseases. Bats are known to carry rabies and histoplasmosis. Importing such animals for any reason requires permits from CDC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. CDC permits are issued by CDC's Etiologic Agent Import Program, whose guidelines and forms can be found on their website. Because bats can be infected with and transmit rabies, permits are not granted for importing bats as pets.
Etiological agents, hosts, or vectors of human disease, including microorganisms, insects, biological materials, tissue, certain live animals (e.g., live bats), and animal products may require a CDC permit for importation or transfer within the United States. CDC's Office of Health and Safety administers these regulations:
Although CDC has rescinded its restriction on the importation of birds and bird products, CDC supports USDA/APHIS in its ongoing regulations to prohibit or restrict the importation of birds, poultry, and unprocessed birds and poultry products (such as eggs and feathers) from countries where highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI H5N1) has been confirmed in poultry. For more information about CDC’s role, please see CDC Has Rescinded Embargo of Birds from Specified Countries on the CDC Flu site.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) implements regulations regarding the importation of birds. To import a pet bird of non-U.S. origin, meaning a bird imported for personal pleasure of the individual owner and not for resale, the owner must fulfill the following requirements:
- --o Obtain a USDA Import Permit [PDF - 74 KB, 1 page]
- --o Provide a current health certificate issued by a full-time salaried veterinarian employed for the agency responsible for animal health of the national government in the exporting country of origin.
- --o Quarantine the bird for 30 days, at the owner's expense, in a USDA animal import center (listed on the APHIS website).
In the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulates the importation of birds [PDF - 57 KB, 2 pages] protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (WBCA). These regulations are part of an international conservation effort to protect exotic wild birds subject to trade. Most exotic pet birds, including parrots, parakeets, macaws, lories, and cockatoos, are affected by CITES and the WBCA. However, the budgerigar, cockatiel, and rose-ringed parakeet are exempt. According to the WBCA, to import a pet bird of non-U.S. origin into the United States, you must have continuously resided outside the United States for at least one year. In addition, the WBCA limits the number of pet birds that can be imported to two birds per person, per year. All required WBCA and CITES permits must accompany the bird while in transit. Visit the FWS Wild Bird Conservation Act website to obtain more information and the permit application.
Civets may not be imported into the U.S. They are prohibited because they may carry the SARS virus.
About civets: A civet is a meat-eating mammal. In general, a civet has a somewhat cat-like appearance with a small head, long body, and long tail, although a civet is not in fact a cat. Its muzzle is long and often pointed, rather like that of an otter or a mongoose. Excluding its tail, a civet ranges from about 17 inches to 28 inches long, and weighs between three to 10 pounds. There are several species of civets; they are native to most of Africa, the Spanish peninsula, southern China, and Southeast Asia.
For more information about the prohibition against importing civets, please read Questions and Answers on the Embargo of Civets on the SARS site.
Civet oil is often requested for import into the United States for use in the perfume industry. Please see Bringing Animal Products into the United States for more information.
Monkeys and other nonhuman primates (NHP) may not be imported as pets under any circumstances. Importation for permitted purposes is strictly controlled through a registration process. CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine administers these regulations.
These regulations are in place to protect U.S. citizens from severe infections that can spread from monkeys to humans. These diseases include—
- --o Ebola Reston,
- --o B virus (Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1),
- --o monkeypox,
- --o yellow fever,
- --o simian immunodeficiency virus,
- --o tuberculosis, and
- --o other diseases not yet known or identified.
Since 1975, the Federal Quarantine Regulations (42 CFR 71.53) have restricted the importation of NHP. Importers must register with the CDC, implement disease control measures, and may distribute NHP for only bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes, as defined in the regulations. These restrictions also apply to the re-importation of NHP originating in the United States.
- --o Foreign Quarantine Regulations Relating to NHP (42 CFR 71.53)
- --o Other Federal, state, and local authorities may have regulations that apply to NHP.
A person may not import into the United States any live or dead rodent of African origin, including any rodents that were caught in Africa and then shipped directly to the United States or shipped to other countries before being imported to the United States. The ban also applies to rodents whose native habitat is in Africa, even if those rodents were born elsewhere. These animals may still be imported for scientific, exhibition, or educational purposes with a valid permit issued by CDC.
There are no CDC regulations regarding the importation of live fish. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service might have requirements, especially if an endangered or injurious species [PDF - 8 pages] is involved. The National Marine Fisheries Service may also have regulations.
USDA regulations for importing equines can be found on their Veterinary Services, Import/Export website.
If the horse is not known to carry any diseases transmissible to humans, no CDC regulations would apply. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires various periods of quarantine depending on the country of origin of the horse. In countries with prevalent screwworm, the quarantine period is 60 days.
Snakes and Lizards
Small Mammals and Non-African Rodents
However, state or local regulations may apply. Pet ferrets, for example, are prohibited in California. Any animal known to carry a disease that can be transmitted to people (zoonotic disease) is subject to regulation 42CFR71.54.
Additionally, animals carrying diseases of risk to domestic or wild animals are subject to regulations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as they may be considered injurious species [PDF - 8 pages].