How to Import a Dog

May 4, 2018
Laura Isaacs
Importing a dog to the United States might seem like a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. The U.S. government outlines all regulations for how to import a dog under 42 Code of Federal Regulations 71.51.
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If you are a dog person, you know that dogs bring endless joy to the lives of their owners.

Regardless of whether you a bringing home a new furry friend from overseas or immigrating with your dog to the United States, you will need to follow certain rules and regulations to import a dog. Importing a dog to the United States might seem like a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be.

The U.S. government outlines all regulations for importing dogs under 42 Code of Federal Regulations 71.51.

Why Import a Dog?

Many pet lovers appreciate purebred dogs. Imagine owning an English Bulldog truly from England, Belgian Malinois from Belgium, a German Shepherd from Germany, or a French Bulldog from France. This gives pets unique pedigrees and can enhance the breeding stock in the U.S. Additionally, international travel with your pet can make you subject to dog import rules and regulations. Read on to learn about the import requirements for dogs.

What are the Requirements for Importing a Dog?

According to information from the Centers for Disease Control, there are several requirements to import a dog. All imported dogs must meet these requirements, regardless of whether they are entering the country for the first or fiftieth time. The CDC requires that all imported dogs must be healthy. Additionally, dogs imported to the U.S. must be vaccinated against rabies and have a valid certification of their rabies immunization. Imported dogs must have a current rabies vaccination or health certificate to prove the vaccination. The health certificate must include information, such as:

  • The dog owner’s name and contact information.
  • The dog’s breed, color, markings, sex, age and other identifying information.
  • The date the vaccine was given and the name of the vaccine administered.
  • The date the vaccine expires.
  • The name, contact information, license number, and signature of the veterinarian who gave the dog the vaccine.

Dogs will likely be denied entry to the U.S. at the port of entry if proof is rabies vaccination is unavailable or insufficient. Dogs will also be denied entry if they appear sick at the time of arrival. Dogs that appear sick at the time of arrival in the U.S. might be subject to further veterinary inspection by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense. Dogs refused entry to the U.S. may be sent back to their country of origin.

dogs imported to the us

Dogs and puppies can receive rabies vaccinations when they are three months of age. Puppies must be at least four months old to be imported into the U.S, as it takes 30 days for the first rabies vaccination to take effect and protect the dog.

It’s important to note that many states have requirements for imported dogs. For example, Hawaii requires all imported dogs to have a blood test within 36 months to 120 days of arrival; requires up-to-date flea and tick treatment; and requires a quarantine of five days or less.

Is a Permit Needed to Import a Dog?

According to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you will need a permit to import live animals, including dogs. To obtain an import permit for a live animal, you’ll need to complete application for VS-129. This form asks for data including the importers’ contact information, the animal’s country of origin, a physical description of the animal, the reason for import and more. You can either mail or email the completed application.  

This form is required to import a dog, in addition to other CDC requirements.

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Can I Import an Unimmunized Dog?

An unimmunized dog can be imported under certain circumstances.  According to the CDC, an unimmunized dog has not received the rabies vaccination, was initially vaccinated when less than three months old, or was vaccinated less than 30 days before arrival in the U.S.

You must apply for a special import permit to bring an unimmunized dog into the U.S. The CDC might issue an unimmunized dog permit only if certain conditions are met. The permit allows unimmunized dogs to enter the U.S. According to the CDC, the permit includes a confinement agreement. This makes the permit a legal document stating that you will keep your dog confined until he is fully vaccinated against rabies. Confinement, as defined by the CDC, means keeping the dog indoors and isolated from people or other animals. The dog must also be kept on a leash and muzzled any time he leaves isolation.

dog permit online

You can apply for an unimmunized dog permit online through the CDC. You need to file for one permit per dog imported. You must apply at least 10 business days before your dog’s arrival into the U.S. No permits are issued upon arrival, so it’s a good idea to request the permit when you arrange travel for your dog. Make sure you allow enough time to receive the permit.

The CDC will only grant the permit for an unvaccinated dog if certain conditions are met. Criteria include where the dog lived before, the number of dogs being imported, the frequency at which the importer imports dogs, the length of time the dog will stay in the U.S. and other factors. It is important to know that the CDC will only grant permits for unvaccinated dogs to U.S. residents and visitors staying in the country more than 30 days. The CDC will not issue a permit for dogs staying in the U.S. less than 30 days, as it takes 30 days for a dog to become fully vaccinated against rabies.

If the CDC approves your unimmunized dog permit, they will email the certificate to you. Note the expiration date on the certificate. If your travel or import itinerary changes, you must notify the CDC so they may change your certification.

What About Dogs from Rabies-Free Countries?

There are some countries that are considered free of rabies by the CDC. In these countries, studies show that rabies does not exist in land animals. You’ll find more than 100 rabies-free countries across the globe, including countries in:

  • Africa
  • America and the Caribbean
  • Asia and the Middle East
  • Europe
  • Oceania
  • Antarctica

These countries have not had any reported cases of rabies in recent years and meet CDC requirements for monitoring rabies.

Still Have Questions

Are There Other Health Concerns for Imported Dogs?

Dogs from countries where screwworm is present have special guidelines to follow for importation. Screwworms, sometimes called New World Screwworms (scientific cane Cochliomyia), are blowfly larvae that affect warm-blooded animals, including livestock, dogs, and even people. They are generally found in South America. Screwworms are a serious health threat to animals and people, as they can eat flesh and cause severe infection.  Imports of animals that might be impacted by screwworms have been regulated since the 1950s, with a hard barrier established by the U.S. and Panama governments in the 2000s.

If you are importing a dog from a country where screwworm is present, the dog must be inspected for screwworm within 5 days prior to shipment to the U.S. The inspecting veterinarian must provide certification. There are two certificate options, depending on circumstance. If the dog is found to be free of screwworms, it must be certified. If the dog is found to be infested with screwworms, it must be certified that the dog was held in confinement until the screwworm was treated before the dog leaves the region for the U.S.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is also a concern for imported animals. FMD is a very contagious virus found in more than 100 countries around the world. FMD is mainly a concern for livestock with cloven hooves, including:

  • Cattle
  • Sheep
  • Goats
  • Swine
  • Deer

Dogs, horses and cats and other animals can’t get FMD. Though they can’t get the disease, they can spread FMD. Despite this, there are no special CDC regulations regarding importing a dog from a country where FMD is present. However, it is recommended that all imported dogs from a country where FMD is present follow the following precautions to help curb the spread of FMD:

  • The dog’s feet, fur, and bedding should be clean and free of any dirt or mud for import.
  • No straw, hay or natural bedding should be used.
  • The dog should get a bath before it reaches its intended destination.
  • The dog should be isolated from all livestock for at least 5 days after entering the country.
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According to the USDA, there are additional rules for importing dogs from countries where tapeworms are present. Shepherds, collies and other dogs used to handle livestock that are imported must be inspected and quarantined to make sure they are free of tapeworm before they are allowed to enter the country. This rule does not apply to dogs coming from certain countries in Central America, Mexico, Canada and the West Indies.

Can I Import a Dog for Commercial Sale?

The import of dogs for sale, adoption and commercial purposes is regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Congress passed this legislation in 2008 and the USDA published it’s specific rules around the AWA in 2014. According to AWA regulations, all dogs imported for commercial sale or adoption must be:

  • Healthy
  • At least 6 months old
  • Vaccinated against rabies and diseases including parainfluenza virus (DHLPP), distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and leptospirosis.

Additionally, dogs imported for commercial sale must be accompanied by some important documents. This paperwork includes a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian in the country of origin and an import permit issued by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The application for the permit requires information including the name and contact information for the person importing the dog, the number of dogs, the reason for importing the dogs and the date. To obtain the required permit, dog importers will need to contact the USDA or APHIS.

If you plan to resale the imported dog, you’ll need to follow other necessary rules under the AWA. Depending on the circumstances around the sale of dogs, you might need a special permit. The USDA issues three kinds of permits for the resale of dogs. A Class A License is for breeders;  a Class B License is for brokers; and a Class C License is for exhibitors who show dogs. Situations in which you might need a license to sell imported dogs might include:

  • Importing dogs for wholesale for breeding, security or hunting.
  • Retail sales of dogs where the buyer, owner, and dog are not present together.
  • Sales of dogs for research purposes.

You won’t need a license if you plan to sell the imported dog at a place where you, the buyer and the dog can be together.

Still Have Questions

What is the Most Common Way to Ship a Dog?

Importing a dog to requires special care. The most common way dogs are shipped is by air. If someone is traveling with the imported dog, they will likely me on the same flight. This can be less stressful for the dog. If you need to ship your imported dog, there are several things to keep in mind.

In addition to meeting CDC requirements, it’s wise not to ship a dog that is:

  • A Pug or other snub-nosed breed, as these dogs can have trouble breathing on airplanes.
  • Elderly
  • Not used to being crated for long periods of time.
  • Aggressive toward strangers

Most airlines and shipping companies require proof of health and vaccination for dogs traveling by air. Paperwork should be accessible, up to date, and signed by a licensed veterinarian.

If you are shipping your pet by air, you will need a crate or kennel. It should be big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down. Make sure the following items are packed with your dog for shipping:

  • A collar with ID tags and registration information
  • A leash
  • A small bag of dog food
  • A small dish with ice
  • A picture of your pet with your contact information

Working with a logistics or shipping professional can help you manage shipping a dog.

Can I Travel Internationally with a Dog?

If you are leaving the U.S. with your dog, you’ll have to follow CDC import regulations when returning to the country. There are many circumstances in which you might cross the border with your dog. Maybe you are planning a family trip to Canada and would like to take the dog. Maybe you need to bring your service dog on an international trip.

The CDC recommends checking with the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country you are visiting to make sure you are following all of that country’s rules and regulations. Additionally, the CDC recommends checking with the USDA to follow proper export procedures before you leave the country with your dog. These rules are in place to protect your pet and prevent the spread of disease.

Are you driving across U.S. borders into Canada or Mexico with your dog? You’ll need to follow the same import rules set by the CDC regarding proof of rabies vaccination and a health certificate upon your return.

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Are you flying with your dog? Again, you’ll need to follow the same CDC regulations regarding rabies vaccines and certification. Dogs that travel by air are usually transported as baggage. If your dog doesn’t require quarantine at entry, you would pick up your dog with your luggage at baggage claim. You would then go through customs, and if necessary, recheck the dog and baggage for the flight to the final destination. When going through customs, you must declare your dog on your declarations form.

Do I Need a Customs Bond to Import a Dog?

You might need a Customs Bond to import a dog to the U.S. According to information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), you are required obtain a customs bond when you are importing at least $2,500 in goods or when the imported items are subject to another agency’s requirements. Purebred dogs can be pricey, so it’s possible you might reach this monetary value when importing a dog. Additionally, imported dogs are subject to the rules and regulations of the CDC and USDA. This means a customs bond is likely required when importing a dog.

A customs bond is an import bond that promises payment of duties and taxes to the U.S. government upon the import of goods and commodities.

You can choose between two kinds customs bonds. The option you select will likely depend on how often you import goods, in this case, dogs.

Custom bond types include:

  • Single entry bonds.
  • Continuous entry bonds.

The differences between the bonds are fairly straightforward. A single entry customs bond covers one import shipment into the U.S. On the other hand, a continuous bond is valid for one year and covers all imports into the U.S. within the year. The type of bond you choose to import a dog depends on how often you plan on importing.

If you are working with a Licensed Customs broker to import a dog, it’s important to note that you might be eligible to use the broker’s bond. You Licensed Customs Broker can answer any questions you might have about single entry and continuous bonds.

Can I Register my Imported Dog with the AKC?

If your purebred imported dog meets special qualifications, your dog might be eligible for registration in the American Kennel Club stud book. This can help breeding dogs maintain pedigrees. According to the AKC, dogs can be eligible for certification if they:

  • Are of a breed that is eligible for registration. You can view official AKC dog breeds online.
  • Were registered in their country of birth with an approved Foreign Registry Organization.
  • Their application is accompanied with an official copy of the dog’s three-generation pedigree.
  • The foreign registration and AKC registration shows identical ownership.
  • The dog has been identified with either a microchip or tattoo before it can be registered.

The CDC does not have any additional regulations for dogs to be used for breeding or commercial purposes.

Still Have Questions

Can I Import Dog Food and Dog Products?

can I import dog food

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  oversees the import of animal feed and pet food into the U.S. Shipments of dog food must be examined by the FDA. Dog food will be detained if the examination proves that the imported food is in violation of FDA rules and regulations.

According to FDA rules and regulations, pet food imported to the U.S. must be wholesome and safe and must be truthfully labeled. It also must not contain harmful or unapproved ingredients. Additionally, imported pet and dog food is usually subject to the rules and regulations of the USDA because pet food is often made of animal and plant products. A USDA permit is generally required to import pet food.

You’ll likely find fewer regulations when importing dog toys and pet supplies. Commonly imported dog supplies include:

  • Dog crates
  • Dog collars and leashes
  • Dog toys
  • Dog bowls and feeding accessories
  • Dog travel accessories
  • Dog grooming brushes
  • Dog beds and sofas
  • Dog clothing

Though there are few federal regulations in place for imports of dog supplies (aside from food), some states have proposed regulations. These laws might require that dog supplies and toys are:

  • Free of heavy metals and other dangerous materials
  • Labeled properly and in English
  • Tested in laboratories for safety

You might need a customs bond to import dog food or pet products. You can choose between a single entry or continuous bond, depending on how often you plan to import.

Can I Import Other Pets?

In addition to overseeing the import of dogs, the CDC and USDA regulate the import of other pets and animals, too. Regulations exist to help prevent the spread of disease to other people and animals. Here are some general guidelines for how to import pets to the U.S.:

  • Birds: Birds are imported as pets and livestock. USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) oversee the import of birds and bird products, like feathers and eggs. To import a pet bird into the U.S., the owner must get a USDA import permit; provide a health certificate for the bird from a licensed veterinarian in the country of export; and quarantine the bird for 30 days at an approved USDA animal import center. 
  • Cats: Unlike dogs, cats are not required to have a proof of rabies vaccination to enter the U.S. However, some states require the vaccination of cats against rabies. Pet cats might be inspected at the port of entry. If a cat looks sick during the inspection, a more thorough examination by a licensed veterinarian might be required. This exam is usually at the expense of the owner. Cats may be denied entry if they appear to have a disease that may harm people. Some states and territories require quarantine for imported cats, including Guam and Hawaii. 
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  • Civets: Kept as pets in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, civets are small, cat-like mammals. Civets are banned from import into the U.S. because they are known to carry the SARS viruss 
  • The FWS oversees the import of fish
    Fish:
    The FWS oversees the import of fish. Imported pet and commercial fish are only allowed to enter the country through designated ports of entry. A declaration form is required to import fish. 
  • Hedgehogs: According to the USDA, pet hedgehogs imported to the U.S. are required to meet a few different health requirements. A Veterinary Services import permit, a health certificate from a veterinarian in the country of origin, and an exam at the port of entry are all required. 
  • Monkeys: Though they are sometimes kept as pets, monkeys and non-human primates cannot be imported as pets under any circumstances. The Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, a division of the CDC, oversees the importation of monkeys and apes for permitted purposes. Monkeys and non-human primates are not allowed to be imported as pets because they are known to carry some diseases, including Ebola, tuberculosis, monkeypox, yellow fever and other unknown illnesses. To import monkeys and primates, importers must register with the CDC and may only import the animals for proven educational, exhibition or scientific purposes. 
  • Rabbits: There are no health requirements for importing a foreign rabbit into the U.S. There might be state requirements, so it’s wise to check with the state you plan to keep the imported rabbit before arranging transport. 
  • Reptiles and Turtles: According to CDC rules, the import of snakes and lizards are not regulated. On the other hand, the import of turtles, terrapins and tortoises and their eggs are regulated by the CDC. Individuals may import either six turtles or six turtle eggs, or a combination of six turtles and turtle eggs. Turtles with a shell smaller than 4-inches in length may not be imported under any commercial circumstances, according to CDC regulations.This is because small turtles are known to transmit Salmonella bacteria to people, especially young children. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) oversees the import of reptiles. 
  • Rodents: The USDA has no health requirements for bringing a pet rodent into the U.S., however, the CDC has a few rules for the import of rodents. According to the CDC, any rodent of African origin is banned from entering the U.S. This includes rodents native to Africa that were born in other countries. African rodents may still be imported to the U.S. for non-pet purposes, including education, exhibition or scientific reasons. It is also important to check with the FWS, as they also have rules related to the importation of rodents into the U.S.

Owners of those importing animals are to be responsible for meeting all requirements. If any of the requirements are not met, there will likely be problems at the port of entry.

Want to Know How to Import a Horse from Europe
Want to Know How to Import a Horse from Europe?

Importing a horse from Europe has a few different rules than importing a dog or other pets. Like dogs, horses are subject to veterinary checks before import. A health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian is required. The USDA’s APHIS oversees the import of horses into the U.S. Learn how to import a horse from Europe to the U.S.

Generally speaking, those seeking to import a horse from Europe work with a licensed broker or shipper to bring a horse into the U.S. While APHIS does not require horse importers to work with a broker, this often makes the process easier. A broker will make sure the animal stays safe during travel, passes customs clearance efficiently and arrives on time. Brokers are familiar with import and export regulations. It is wise to put a broker’s expertise to use when importing a horse from Europe.

All horses imported to the U.S. must be free of four diseases under rules called Contagious Equine Metritis Protocols. These diseases are Dourine (a venereal disease that can be fatal); Glanders (an infection that can be passed to humans); Equine Infectious Anemia; and Piroplasmosis (an illness from ticks).

Still Have Questions

There are more specific regulations about how to import a horse from Europe depending on the animal’s country of origin. A few common European countries of origin and requirements include:

  • Horses imported from Holland are subject to a three-day quarantine. No signs of screwworm, FMD, and African Horse Sickness may be present.
  • Horses imported from Spain are also subject to a three-day quarantine. Additionally, no signs of screwworm, FMD, and African Horse Sickness may be present.
  • Horses imported from Ireland are subject to a three-day quarantine as well. The horse must also pass inspection for screwworm, FMD, and African Horse Sickness.

Owners seeking to import from Europe are responsible for meeting all entry requirements. If any of the requirements are not met, it is likely there will be delays and problems at the port of entry.

What About Internet Scams for Imported Animals?

The CDC warns consumers to be aware of scams and fraud about the commercial trade and importation of animals. Scams usually involve the notion of imported dogs, cats, horses, or monkeys. In many of these scams, consumers reply to online classified ads that offer pets for adoption or sale in exchange for rehoming costs and other fees. In some cases, the scammer claims to be looking for a new home for the animal or offers a purebred animal for sale at a discounted price.

In some of these scams, the perpetrators ask victims to wire money to a foreign country to adopt or purchase an animal. The victim then gets a call or email telling them the imported pet or livestock is being held at a CDC quarantine station and fees must be paid to release the dog. The scammer then collects the money and the victim never receives the animal. In some cases, the scams involve animals illegal to import as pets. In many cases, the animal was never real.

The CDC offers those seeking to import dogs a few tips to avoid internet scams:

  • Be very cautious of offers of animal adoptions or sales from overseas.
  • Check all the references that the importer gives you.
  • Verify all information the importer gives you, including regulations.
  • Try to avoid paying for the dog’s adoption fees before shipment.
  • Learn about the rules and regulations required for shipping the animal in question to make sure the information provided.
  • Report all suspected and proven scams to the website posting the suspicious classified advertisement, and think about reporting Internet Fraud to the proper federal authorities.
  • Remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Keeping these basic tips in mind can help you stay safe and avoid scams when importing a dog or other animal.

Ready to Import a Dog or Other Animal?

Though USA Customs Clearance does not supply the clearance to import a dog, they can help you can help you navigate the import process for dog supplies and accessories. They can ensure you have the proper documents in place to make the import process seamless and easy. Our value-added services can simplify the importing process and make importing a headache-free experience. Have questions? Click the chat window below to get the information you need and start the import process!

6 comments on “How to Import a Dog”

    1. All you need to do to purchsae a bond is go to our homepage (https://usacustomsclearance.com/) and click the orange button that says "BUY A CUSTOMS BOND with condfidence today!". That'll take you to the cart and you can pay with your credit card. If you have any questions, you can always click on the chat button at the bottom right corner of the screen and one of our import specialists will be happy to help.

  1. Can you provide me with an email address to send my completed VS-129 application please. Thank you.

    "According to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you will need a permit to import live animals, including dogs. To obtain an import permit for a live animal, you’ll need to complete application for VS-129. This form asks for data including the importers’ contact information, the animal’s country of origin, a physical description of the animal, the reason for import and more. You can either mail or email the completed application. "

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