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Travelers frequently ask about taking their pets with them to the United States. All such importation is subject to health, quarantine, agriculture, wildlife, and customs requirements and prohibitions. Pets taken out of the United States and returned are subject to the same requirements as those entering for the first time.


Sadly, pets excluded from entry into the United States must either be exported or destroyed. While awaiting disposition, pets will be detained at the owner's expense at the port of arrival.


The U.S. Public Health Service requires that pet dogs and cats brought into this country be examined at the first port of entry for evidence of diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Dogs coming from areas not free of rabies must be accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate. Turtles are subject to certain restrictions, and monkeys may not be imported as pets under any circumstances.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned with the importation, trade, sale, and taking of wildlife and with protecting endangered plant and animal species. Some wildlife species of dogs, cats, turtles, reptiles, and birds, although imported as pets, may be listed as endangered. Endangered and threatened animal and plant wildlife, migratory birds, marine mammals, and certain injurious wildlife may not be imported without special federal permits.


You should also check with state, county, and municipal authorities for local restrictions on importing pets.


Transportation & Handling


All birds and animals must be imported under healthy, humane conditions. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations require that careful arrangements be made with the carrier for suitable cages, space, ventilation, and protection from the elements. Cleaning, feeding, watering, and other necessary services must be provided. Under the Animal Welfare Act, the Department of Agriculture is responsible for setting the standards concerning the transportation, handling, care, and treatment of animals.


Every imported container of pets, or package of animal parts or products, must be plainly marked, labeled or tagged on the outside with the names and addresses of the shipper and consignee, along with an accurate invoice specifying the number of each species contained in the shipment.


Since hours of service and availability of inspectors from the other agencies involved may vary from port to port, you are strongly urged to check with your anticipated port of arrival before importing a pet or other animal. This will assure expeditious processing and reduce the possibility of unnecessary delays.



Customs Duty


Dogs, cats, and turtles are free of duty. Other pets imported into the United States, if subject to a customs duty, may be included in your customs exemption if they accompany you and are imported for your personal use and not for sale.



Purebred Animals


Purebred animals other than domesticated livestock that are imported for breeding purposes are free of duty under certain conditions. A declaration is required to show that the importer is a citizen of the United States; that the animal is imported specifically for breeding purposes; that it is identical with the description in the certificate of pedigree presented; and that it is registered in the country of origin in a book of registry recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.





All birds -- those taken out of the country as well as those being returned -- are subject to controls and restrictions. In addition, nearly all birds coming into the country require a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.





All domestic cats must be free of evidence of disease communicable to humans when examined at the port of entry. If the animal is not in apparent good health, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at the owner's expense.





Domestic dogs must be free of evidence of diseases communicable to humans when examined at the port of entry. If the animal is not in apparent good health, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at the owner's expense.


Dogs must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before entering the United States. This requirement does not apply, however, to puppies less than three months of age or located for at least six months in areas designated by the U.S. Public Health Service as being rabies-free.



The following procedures pertain to dogs arriving from areas that are not free of rabies:


A valid rabies vaccination certificate should accompany the animal. This certificate should be in English or be accompanied by a translation. It should identify the animal, the dates of vaccination and expiration, and be signed by a licensed veterinarian.


If a vaccination has not been performed, or if the certificate is not valid, the animal may be admitted if it is confined immediately upon arrival at a place of the owner's choosing. The dog must be vaccinated within four days after arrival at the final destination, but no more than 10 days after arrival at the port of entry. The animal must remain in confinement for at least 30 days after being vaccinated.


 If the vaccination was performed less than 30 days before arrival, the animal may be admitted but must be confined at a place of the owner's choosing until at least 30 days have passed since the vaccination.


Young puppies must be confined at a place of the owner's choosing until they are three months old, then they must be vaccinated. They must remain in confinement for 30 days.


Dogs that arrive in Hawaii or Guam, both of which are free of rabies, are subject to the state's or territory's quarantine requirements, in addition to whatever other Public Health Service requirements, above, apply.