If you want to import pet supplies, you might be getting into a market that’s bigger than you think it is. It’s no secret that Americans love their pets like family, but did you know that they spend more than $70 billion on their beloved dogs and cats each year? Over the years, people have become more willing to spend extra money on quality products, to ensure longer, healthier lives for their pets. Importing quality wholesale pet supplies could make you a lot of money, but there are lots of important regulations to consider when bringing anything into the U.S.
Since there are many different types of pet supplies, the rules and regulations for importing will vary. For example, pet food products need to meet FDA requirements, while pet pesticides, like flea and tick medicine, are subject to regulations by the EPA and FTC. Before you import pet supplies, it’s important to be sure your import meets all requirements. Many importers choose to work with a customs broker to manage this process.
Pet product importers have the potential to make a large profit off of their imports, as long as the import process goes smoothly and without problems. However, many people new to importing make mistakes that result in their shipments being detained, rejected, or even destroyed. Even a single typo in one of the shipping documents can create serious problems for everyone involved. In order to prevent costly delays, make sure you familiarize yourself with this process beforehand so you don’t have to fix any mistakes after your product arrives at the U.S. port of entry.
One of the most basic things you’ll need to know about importing is that every type of product has a specific code identifying it for tax purposes. Each code, published in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), is a 10-digit number assigned to goods depending on their name, use, and material. The first 6 numbers are globally applicable because they describe the actual product. The last 4 numbers vary depending on the country being imported to because they are determined by the individual duties that the different countries assign to those products.
It is very important to get this number correct. If the HTSA code on your shipment does not match the product it contains, then your shipment could be seriously delayed. You may even incur extra fees for improperly labeling your shipment and interrupting the flow of goods through the U.S. port of entry.
A commercial invoice is another important document for importing, that ensures that the importer paid the supplier for the goods being imported, and it acts as a receipt for customs to verify the sale. In addition to that, it lists the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the shipper and the consignee, along with other identifying information.
The total list of products and the weight and price of each unit is listed at the bottom of the page, along with the country of origin, to help customs agents determine the duties on the shipment. Being unable to provide the commercial invoice to customs might not mean that you get turned away from the port, but it is likely to slow down the process considerably and lead to additional fines.
The packing list is an important document that is needed by many different people, including the importer, the shipper, the bank, customs agents, and any other individuals involved with the process, like a customs broker. It is used to help shippers and customs agents verify the shipment and ensure that the cargo is correct, as well as indicate its weight and size. For this reason, you’ll need to print countless copies, including several spares to keep just in case.
This document is a lot like the commercial invoice, only the prices should not be listed on this document. Make sure that all of the information on the packing list corresponds to the information on the commercial invoice to avoid delays and other problems. Before shipping, a copy of the packing list should be attached to the outside of each shipping container, and be clearly identifiable.
You will need to provide a packing list in order to be issued a Bill of Lading and move on with your shipment, so it’s important to get it done right.
The Bill of Lading (BOL) is a very important document that covers many things all in one place. It ensures the appropriate taxing, handling, and payment of the freight. In addition to that, it also serves as:
If you don't have a correctly filled out BOL and something happens to your shipment, you will likely face a difficult legal battle when trying to get compensated for your losses.
If your import is valued at over $2,500 USD or is subject to other federal regulations, you’re going to need a customs bond. If you’re going to import pet supplies, you’re going to need to know which imports fall under this category. Some pet supplies like food, aquarium plants, wooden toys, and many others come with additional requirements, and will always require a customs bond regardless of the size or value of the shipment.
Let’s back up. What exactly is a customs bond, and why would you need one?
A customs bond essentially works like insurance on the shipment. It is an agreement between the importer, the insurance or surety company that issues the bond, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The purpose of the bond is to assure the CBP that they will get all the paid duties and fees for the incoming shipment no matter what, either from the importer, or if the importer cannot pay, from the insurance company.
Depending on how frequently you intend to import shipments into the U.S., there are two main types of bonds available to you:
The arrival notice, also called notice of arrival, is a document that is sent by the shipper or carrier to the consignee to let them know that their shipment has arrived at its designated port of entry. The shipper takes the information listed in the BOL to contact the consignee and any other parties that should be notified. This notice is typically sent through the mail, but it can also be received as a PDF to your email.
The arrival notice is sent out as a courtesy to the importer, so you can have time to make pick-up arrangements and finish up any customs documentation you might still have to complete. An arrival notice is not the same as a release form, and merely receiving an arrival notice is not enough to be able to pick up your shipment from customs.
Now that the generic import information is out of the way, you can learn about how to import more specific pet supplies. Pet food imports account for 40% of all pet supplies imports in North America, and it makes up the biggest section of the pet supplies market. With the promise of a huge payout, you’re probably tempted to jump right in, but you might want to hold on! Pet food is highly regulated, and you can get yourself in serious trouble with customs if you don’t follow the rules closely.
The most important thing to consider before choosing or manufacturing a product to import is the ingredients. With the health and safety of America’s beloved pets on the line, you should think carefully about what your import contains.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the ingredients that make up all pet food and animal feed must follow specific criteria, otherwise it will not be allowed into the U.S. This includes food, treats, water supplements, certain plants, or anything that is intended to be consumed by an animal, either by eating or drinking.
The ingredients must be:
In addition to those requirements, it should go without saying that the product cannot contain, be treated with, or contaminated by any substance that could be harmful. In some cases, substances like formaldehyde have been found in bone treats for dogs, to keep them looking fresh. Formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical, and even just being near it can cause severe irritation to the lungs, eyes, and skin, and dramatically increase your risk of cancer. Imagine what it would do when ingested by your furry friend!
If you intend to import cat or dog treats that contain real meat products, like pig ears, bones, and certain bagged treats, make sure you speak with your supplier about how those products are preserved and stored. If your import is found to contain improper or dangerous ingredients, you are the only one that would be held accountable by the CBP, and you will be the one to pay for the mistakes.
The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 created new regulations for anyone importing food products, including pet food and animal feed. It requires importers to give prior notice to the FDA when to expect food shipments, through the online FDA Prior Notice System Interface. This online system allows for importers to submit their prior notice form online, to save both time and resources. In addition to that, the system saves your information on a personal account, to make future imports easier.
The Bioterrorism Act also requires all food facilities involved in the manufacture, packaging, storing, transportation, and sale of food products to register with the FDA. By registering, these food facilities agree to regular inspections from the FDA, and admit liability to any failure to follow food safety regulations. You may need to provide documentation that proves that the manufacturing facility supplying you with the import is registered and compliant with the rules.
Although this might sound like a pain, importers have to pay special attention to the labels on pet food. There are numerous regulations in place for appropriately labeling pet food, and failure to follow any of these guidelines could lead to trouble at the port. These rules are in place to prevent consumer misinformation about what they are feeding their pets. If you want to import pet food, you’re going to need to familiarize yourself with these labeling rules.
Importing pesticide products can often be a confusing process. Some chemicals are tightly regulated, while several others are exempt from those regulations. With so little information online, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to do. Fortunately, it isn’t as confusing as it might seem.
Pesticide products are more than just the spray you use to keep bugs out of your garden. The term “pesticide” can also refer to any pet product that gets rid of pests like ticks, fleas, and mites. This includes both treatment and preventative products like certain pet cleaning products, pills, sprays, flea collars, and even aquarium pest control products.
Products need to make a claim on the label in order to be considered a pesticide product. These claims could be that the product effectively prevents, treats, kills, or repels some sort of pest. However, once a product has made a claim and been labeled as a pesticide, then the claims it makes must be proven to be factual. For example, if pet shampoo claims to be able to kill fleas but has not been proven to do that, it will not be allowed through the port unless it is relabeled as normal shampoo.
It’s important to understand that not all pesticides are regulated by the same government agency. Depending on the type of pesticide you want to import, your product may require different considerations.
For external pesticide products like flea collars, shampoos, and sprays into the U.S., you need to have them registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In order to be registered, the products must pass the EPA inspections.
To pass, the product must NOT:
However, products that are intended to be swallowed or injected fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA, and have a different set of regulations that apply to them. Most of the safety regulations are the same as for the EPA, however, the FDA also requires that all pesticide products be labeled using the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) labeling regulations.
In order to comply with the FTC labeling requirements, the product must:
Although pesticide products have a lot of regulations, those rules are important to ensure the health and safety of your consumer’s beloved pets, and the seamless import of your product.
Some pesticides that are deemed to pose little threat to people, pets, or the environment are considered “minimum risk pesticides.” These pesticides are exempt from inspection and registration, as long as they meet the right criteria for being considered minimum risk. The conditions for being exempt are as follows:
As long as those conditions are met, the pet pesticide product can safely be imported and distributed without being registered or regulated by the EPA and FDA.
There aren’t really any specific regulations in place for the import of plastic toys, food bowls, however, some manufacturers and larger companies have started using internal quality testing procedures. These testing procedures typically imitate those used to test children’s toys, but sometimes inspectors utilize more aggressive tactics to simulate the daily use a toy might experience from a big dog. Even toys for smaller animals like rodents and birds could undergo testing like this. This way, the toys can be guaranteed to not chip or splinter, or have any sharp edges that could harm pets. However, as stated above, these quality control tests are non-mandatory, and not having them won’t prevent you from importing your goods.
Many cat and dog products like toys and food bowls are imported from China, which qualifies them for additional regulatory requirements. All products from China must be clearly labeled with the statement “made in China” permanently attached to the product, in order to be sold in the U.S. In addition, all plastic products being imported should be inspected to ensure that they are free from toxins, such as lead, chlorine, mercury, and arsenic, which can be damaging to pets and their owners.
If you want to import pet supplies made out of wool or fabric, like pet beds, pet clothes, and stuffed pet toys, you’re going to need to follow some additional regulations for textile labeling. If you’ve ever seen that tag on a mattress, cushion, or blanket that says “do not remove,” then you’ve already seen what those labels are supposed to look like. Even dog beds need to come with those tags.
The tag on any textile product is often jam-packed with tiny text, but what really needs to be labeled on it? According to the FTC, all textile labels must contain the fiber composition of the product, the country of origin, and the company information or Registered Identification Number (RN).
The label tag must be firmly attached to the product, and must not be removed for any reason until it reaches the final customer. The placement of the tag is also important. The tag must be positioned where it can be easily seen and accessed. Under no circumstances should the tags be positioned out of sight, or obscured in any way.
If you want to import pet supplies, import dogs and more, you know now that there’s a lot of things you need to keep track of to clear customs. With so many different documents and regulations to worry about, there’s a huge margin for error, especially if you’re new to the business of importing. Since all this information is probably overwhelming, you can reach out to us through the chat in the bottom right corner of the screen to clarify anything, or ask us any questions.
If you have more questions, or you need more hands-on guidance, you could schedule a meeting with one of our import consultants. If, after all that, you still aren’t feeling confident, don’t give up. You can hand over the majority of the responsibility for your import to a licensed customs broker, who can walk you through the customs bond verification process and take care of any documentation and customs paperwork on your behalf.