Cities and Towns in the United States > Expats > Bringing A Pet Into The US From Another Country


Bringing a pet into the United States is becoming increasingly common. But, it can be a complicated venture and requires careful planning. Among other things, vaccination, import permits, and health certificates may need to be organized. This article will delve into the requirements to bring a pet to the United States.

How To Bring Pets Into The USA From Overseas

Importing Pets To The United States

Animals imported to the United States from foreign countries will have to meet regulations set out by the:

The owner needs to ensure the pet meets the entry requirements. Otherwise, it could lead to difficulties, including entry refusal. Given that multiple agencies manage the importation of pets, it's the responsibility of the pet owner to coordinate and notify the different agencies concerned. In the rest of this article, we'll examine the import requirements of some of the most popular pets.

Entering The United States With Pet Dogs

APHIS and CDC have distinct rules for pet dogs entering (i.e., importing) the United States from countries with a prevalence for diseases such as:

  • Screwworm,
  • Rabies, and
  • Foot and mouth disease.


Screwworm is known to exist in numerous countries worldwide (you can find a list of countries affected by Screwworm here on the APHIS website). Pet dogs from these countries can be imported to the United States if they have a certificate signed by a veterinary practitioner from the region stating the following:

  • • Inspection for Screwworm has taken place 5 days before shipment and,
  • • The dog is Screwworm free or
  • • The dog was infiltrated with Screwworm, held in quarantine facilities, and treated for the parasite until free from infestation.


In July 2021, the CDC temporarily suspended the admittance of dogs from countries at high risk of rabies, with the suspension set to continue until July 31, 2024. The list of countries affected can be found on the CDC website here. Dogs from low-risk countries but have visited any high-risk countries in the last 6 months are also prevented from admittance. Any dog from a country not in the high-risk category can enter the US. The dog must look healthy, and the owner must provide a travel history statement for the last 6 months.

Though according to CDC guidelines, no rabies vaccination is required, each State may have differing rules. For example, Iowa requires all dogs over 4 months of age to have been vaccinated against rabies. For further guidelines, click the "State Requirements" on the APHIS website here.

Foot And Mouth Disease

Countries affected by Foot And Mouth Disease are listed here on the APHIS website. If the pet dog is coming from a country that is not declared free from Foot And Mouth Disease, the following must be met:

  • • The dog's fur and bedding must be free from excessive hay, straw, or dirt.
  • • The dog is required to be bathed after reaching the destination, and kept away from livestock for at least 5 days.
  • • Suppose the dog is to be used for livestock handling: There must not be any indication of tapeworm (Canada, Mexico, the West Indies, and certain parts of Central America are exempt ).

Entering The United States With Pet Cats

APHIS and the CDC do not have any requirements or health certificates for importing cats into the United States. However, airlines and individual states may have specific demands.

Cats are inspected at all US ports and may be refused entry if there is any evidence of infectious diseases that can be passed onto humans. If a cat seems ill on arrival, further inspection by a licensed veterinarian will be conducted (at the expense of the cat owner).

There is no need for proof of rabies vaccination, though it is recommended. All cat owners should check the "State Requirements" section of the APHIS website here for specific rules for their State. Holding a pet passport will make things easier when entering the United States with your cat or any other pet.

Entering The United States With Pet Ferrets

There are no health requirements in place for importing ferrets into the USA. Ferrets can be imported freely from foreign countries. However, not all States allow for the importation of ferrets.

It is best to contact the Department of Agriculture for the State you are traveling to for further information and guidance. The "State Requirements" section of the APHIS website (here is the link) is a good place to start.

Entering The United States With Pet Birds

An import permit is required to bring birds into the United States. Click the "Live Animals Tab" on the Veterinary Services Permitting Assistant (VSPA) here for information on the import documents, certificates, and permit applications.

If 5 or fewer birds are imported into the country, it is considered a shipment of pets (as long as they will not be resold). Bringing in birds to the country involves multiple agencies such as:

  • • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),
  • • US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and
  • • US Fish and Wildlife Service (who are also responsible for issuing fishing licenses).

The requirement depends on the export country and whether the bird is of US origin (i.e., the bird was previously a pet in the United States). Pet birds weighing more than 100 grams must be quarantined in a federal quarantine facility. Exceptions are made if the bird is of US origin and can be identified by:

  • • A microchip,
  • Tattoo,
  • Leg band.

In such a situation, the imported bird(s) can be quarantined at home instead of a federal quarantine facility.

Entering The United States With Pet Amphibians and Rabbits

There are no special requirements by the APHIS or the CDC concerning the import of pet Amphibians or Rabbits. Anyone wishing to import Amphibians or Rabbits to the United States should click this link and check the "State Requirements" for their particular State.

Entering The United States With Pet Hedgehogs or Tenrecs

Bringing Hedgehogs or Tenrecs into the United States is not a straightforward process. It will involve:

  • • Obtaining an import permit from the Veterinary Services (VS),
  • • Obtaining a health certificate from a veterinary officer recognized by the local government in the country of export,
  • • Examination at the entry point in the United States.

Hedgehogs or Tenrecs from New Zealand or countries affected by Foot and Mouth Disease (see here for the list of countries free from the disease) cannot be imported to the USA. Additionally, certain states do not allow the importation of these creatures. They include:

  • • All 5 boroughs of New York City,
  • • California,
  • • Georgia,
  • • Hawaii,
  • • Washington,
  • • Pennsylvania,
  • • DC.

The importation of Hedgehogs or Tenrecs is an extremely lengthy process. Read this guide from APHIS for a detailed explanation.

Entering The United States With Pet Reptiles Such As Lizards, Iguanas, And Turtles

There are some limitations and exclusions when importing pet Reptiles to the United States. The following types of turtles cannot enter the United States:

  • • Bell's hingeback tortoise,
  • • African spurred tortoise, and
  • • Leopard tortoise.

Rules state that no more than 6 Terrapins, Tortoises, and Turtles or the eggs of these creatures (as a combination) can be brought to the United States in one shipment. Other types of reptiles can enter the United States freely. That means there is no need for quarantine, blood tests, or import permits. However, each State has its own pet laws and regulations, and it is best to check with the State you are traveling to. By clicking "State Requirements" on the APHIS website here, you can find the specifications for each State.

The Importation Of Pets

There are rules in place for importing pets into the United States, these rules depend on the pet and the country of export. Read the guidelines and requirements before bringing your pet into the United States. If the conditions are not met, it can lead to entry refusal.