Steps for Bringing a Pet into the U.S.


Immigrating to the U.S. can be a long-term or even permanent commitment. You’ll probably want to take your favorite clothes, legal documents and other things that are important to you. For pet owners, their pets might be the most important of all.

Animals must meet specific regulations to be allowed into the U.S. Your pet will be inspected when you come to the U.S. The U.S. government won’t let your pet into the country if it has a disease that could infect people.

Government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have different rules for bringing pets into the U.S. These rules depend on the species or breed of your pet. They can also depend on where your pet is from or what part of the U.S. you’re bringing your pet to. Be extra sure that you’re following all of the necessary rules to bring your pet to the U.S.

What Are the Rules for Bringing My Dog to the U.S.?

Dogs are among the most popular pets brought into the U.S. The U.S. government will want to see that your dog doesn’t have any diseases that could spread in the U.S.

Vaccination Against Rabies

  • Your dog must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before it comes to the U.S. However, dogs that lived in place that is free of rabies for at least six months before they come to the U.S. don’t need a rabies shot.
  • Unvaccinated dogs must be vaccinated within four days after you arrive at your new home and within ten days after you came to the U.S. You must keep your dog in your home for at least 30 days after the vaccination. Don’t let it come into contact with other animals or people who don’t live in your home.
  • Puppies that are less than three months of age are too young to be vaccinated. They can enter the U.S. without a rabies shot, but you must bring a completed Form CDC 75.37, Confinement Agreement, to the U.S. port of entry. By filling out this form, you promise that you will vaccinate your dog and keep it in your home and away from people and other dogs until it’s old enough to be vaccinated and then for 30 more days after the vaccination. A U.S. government official will have to approve your Form CDC 75.37 at your port of entry.

Requirement for Certificate of Health

  • The U.S. government doesn’t ask you to get a certificate that proves your dog is healthy, but your airline might. Be sure to check the airline’s pet policy.

Checking for Tapeworms

  • Dogs that work with livestock must be inspected for tapeworm and quarantined at the U.S. port of entry unless they’re from Canada, Mexico, certain Central American countries or the West Indies.

Unique Guidelines

  • Dogs coming from a country where screwworm flies live must have a certificate signed by a full-time veterinary official from that country. The certificate must say that the dog has been inspected for screwworm within five days before it leaves for the U.S. The certificate must also say that the dog doesn’t have screwworms.
  • Your dog will be quarantined for 130 days if you bring it to Hawaii.

Important Tips

  • Don’t use straw, hay, grass or any other natural bedding for your dog. They aren’t allowed into the U.S. because they can be infested with pests that harm plants. Bringing them may slow down your entry.
  • Pets from areas with foot-and-mouth disease must not be dirty or muddy when they come to the U.S.. You should bathe your dog as soon as you get to your new home and keep it kept away from livestock for at least five days after you come to the U.S.

What Are the Rules for Bringing My Cat to the U.S.?

The U.S. government doesn’t ask you to get a certificate that proves your cat is healthy. It doesn’t ask you for proof that your cat got a rabies shot either. But you should check with both your airline and the U.S. state where you’ll be living to see whether they have different rules.

Like with dogs, your cat will be quarantined for 130 days if you bring it to Hawaii.

What Are the Rules for Bringing My Bird to the U.S.?

Because birds from certain countries can have bird flu, there are stricter rules for bringing your bird to the U.S. You must:

  • Get a USDA import permit
  • Have a health certificate from a full-time veterinarian who works for the government agency in charge of animal health for the country that you’re coming from.
  • Quarantine your bird for 30 days at a USDA animal import center. You will have to pay all of the costs it takes to quarantine your bird. You can find a USDA animal import center near you here.

What Are the Rules for Bringing Other Pets to the U.S.?

You can check the CDC’s website for the rules for bringing turtles, monkeys, bats, civets and African rodents to the U.S. here.

Immigrating to the U.S. doesn’t mean you have to part with your pets! The rules are simple and will help you protect the health of your pet and your future neighbors. Be sure to check with the state, county and local authorities in the place that you’re moving to see whether they have specific rules for bringing pets to the U.S.