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Relocating with Animals: Everything You Need to Know

Relocating with Animals: Everything You Need to Know

Immigrating to the United States is a process that contains a lot of bureaucracy - especially if you have a pet. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection department subjects entering animals to many requirements and prohibitions - both when immigrating and traveling. These requirements include meeting health, quarantine, agriculture and wildlife regulation and you have to make sure your that pets meet all of them.


A few things worth Knowing:


The U.S. Public Health Service requires that all pet dogs and cats imported into the country to be examined at the first port of entry for evidence of human transmissible diseases.


You must show a valid rabies vaccination certificate if your dog came from areas not free of rabies.


It is illegal to import, export, distribute, transport, manufacture, or sell products containing dog or cat fur in the US and would attract a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each separate knowing and intentional violation, $5,000 for each separate gross negligent violation, or $3,000 for each separate negligent violation.

Endangered and threatened animals and plant wildlife, migratory birds, marine mammals, and certain injurious wildlife may not be imported without special federal permits.


Dogs, cats, and turtles are free from customs duty, but other pets could be subject to a customs duty. Purebred animals, other than domesticated livestock, are also free from customs duty under certain conditions.


So what actually happens when you enter the U.S.?


Prior to the examination of your dog at the point of entry, you must provide an application to the Department of Agriculture on VS Form 17-338 for a certificate of pure breeding. During transportation, it is required these pets are under healthy, humane conditions, that is to say, use of a carrier of suitable cages, space, ventilation, and protection, proper cleaning, feeding, etc. Their containers should be plainly marked, labeled or tagged on the outside with your name and address and that of the shipper, and an accurate invoice stating the number of each species contained within the shipment. Ensure to check with your anticipated port of arrival before importing your pet to avoid unnecessary delays due to the difference from port to port in the hours of service and availability of inspectors. You would provide a declaration stating that you are a US citizen and that the animal being imported to be used specifically for breeding purposes is registered in the country of origin within a book of registry recognized by the U.S.


At the port of entry, all domestic cats on examination must be free of evidence of human communicable disease. If your cat is sick, you will be charged for further examination by a licensed veterinarian.


Domestic dogs must be free of any evidence of human communicable disease at the port of entry. If your dog is not in apparent good health, you will be charged for further examination by a licensed veterinarian. Collies, shepherds, and other dogs from any part of the world except Canada, Mexico, and regions of Central America and the West Indies must be inspected and quarantined duly at the port of entry to determine their freedom from tapeworm. Dogs (over three months of age) must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before entering the US.


Certain procedures are involved when you are importing your dog from an area that is not free of rabies:

-a valid rabies vaccination certificate in English signed by a licensed veterinarian to identify your animal, the dates of vaccination and expiration.

-Admission and confinement of your dog until proper vaccination, if too young to be vaccinated, but only after the importer has completed a confinement agreement. Your dog may be admitted if vaccination was performed less than 30 days before arrival but must be confined at your place of choice until at least 30 days.

- Confinement of your puppies at your place of choice until they are three months old, before vaccination. Thereafter, they are confined for 30 days.

Exemptions with the importation of dogs include:

-importing your dog from countries or regions where “screwworm” is known to exist, along with a certificate signed by a full-time salaried veterinary official of that region stating that the dog has been inspected for screwworm within 5 days prior.

-importing dogs from countries or regions affected with Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), and to help prevent the introduction of FMD:

-the absence of excessive dirt or mud from your pet’s feet, fur, and bedding.

-the absence of straw or hay, or other natural bedding from your pet's bedding.

-your pet should be bathed immediately after it reaches its final destination.

-separation from all livestock for at least 5 days after entry into the US.


Only importers who are registered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can import monkeys and other primates specifically on scientific, educational or exhibition basis. However, under no circumstances will they be imported as pets. Clearance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to import or export primates.


The CDC may issue a permit for importation of more than the permitted number if the importation is for a bonafide noncommercial scientific or exhibition purpose. Live turtles with a shell longer than four inches can be imported but on the other hand, live turtles with shells less than four inches along with viable turtle eggs can be only be imported, provided that for each arrival, there is no more than one lot containing fewer than seven viable turtle eggs, or any combination thereof totalling less than seven.


Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Ferrets, and Other Pet Rodents have no restrictions or requirements when they are pets.


Ensure to contact your local U.S. Customs and Border Protection office, the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy, U.S. Customs Port or the specific agency mentioned getting adequate information if you plan to enter the U.S. with a pet.


You can contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection using their phone lines: 1-877-227-5511 or (703) 526-4200

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