Taking Animals & Animal Products across International Borders
Traveling Abroad with a Pet
Travelers planning to take a companion animal to a foreign country must meet the entry requirements of the destination country and transportation guidelines of the airline. To obtain destination country information, travelers should contact the country’s embassy in Washington, DC or the nearest consulate (see www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/fco). Airline guidelines may be obtained from specific companies. Travelers should be aware that long flights can be hard on pets, particularly older animals with chronic health conditions, very young dogs, or breeds such as bulldogs that may be predisposed to respiratory stress. Additionally, upon reentering the United States, pets that traveled abroad are subject to the same import requirements as animals that have never lived in the United States.
Requirements for Entering the United States
CDC restricts the importation of animals and animal products that might pose an infectious disease threat to humans. Any animal or animal product can be restricted from entry if there is reasonable knowledge or suspicion that it poses a human health risk. However, CDC has explicit restrictions for specific animals such as dogs, cats, turtles, nonhuman primates, African rodents, civets, and bats, as well as products made from them. Importers must meet stringent requirements in order to import these animals and items into the United States. Many of these animals are also regulated by other federal agencies or by individual state governments. Travelers should check with the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and their destination state for specific rules about importation. Importers should research applicable requirements as soon as they know they will be importing an animal or animal product into the United States. Veterinary exams or certifications, vaccinations, or permits may be needed.
Animal Health Certificates
CDC regulations do not require general health certificates for animals entering the United States. However, some states may require health certificates for entry, and some airlines may require these certificates for transport. Before departure, travelers should check with the departments of health and of agriculture in their destination states and with the airline for any certificate requirements. The department of environmental protection or department of natural resources of some states and local governments may have additional requirements.
International Pet Rescue and Adoption
Although done with the best of intentions, rescuing and importing stray animals from foreign countries can create human health risks. Travelers are at an increased risk for possible bites and scratches from fearful and stressed animals, which may result in injury or exposure to infectious disease. Animals that are infected with zoonotic diseases might not show any outward signs of being ill. Therefore, all rescued animals should be examined by a licensed veterinarian both before departure and after arrival in the United States. If the intent of travel is to rescue animals, participants should discuss rabies preexposure prophylaxis with their health care providers.
Importation of Live Animals
Dogs are subject to inspection upon entry into the United States if they have evidence of being infected with a communicable disease or if they have not been vaccinated against rabies. If a dog appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required before entry is permitted. If necessary, this examination will be at the owner’s expense.
Rabies vaccination is required for all dogs entering the United States from a country where rabies is present. Dogs must be accompanied by a current, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:
- Name and address of owner
- Breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
- Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
- Date of expiration of vaccination
- Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian
- Rabies certificates have expiration dates that range from 1 to 3 years from the date of vaccination, depending on the type of vaccine given. All dogs must be ≥12 weeks of age before receiving their first rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccinations must occur at least 30 days before the date of arrival, as it takes 30 days for these vaccines to be fully effective.
- Routine rabies vaccination of dogs is recommended in the United States and required by most state and local health authorities in the United States. Check with state authorities at the final destination to determine any state requirements for rabies vaccination. State-specific information is found at www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/sa_import_into_us/sa_entry_requirements/ct_us%20state_and_territory_animal_import_regulations.
- People seeking to import dogs that do not meet CDC’s requirements should contact CDC in advance at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov to discuss their particular situation.
Cats are subject to inspection at US ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of being infected with a communicable disease. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required before entry is permitted. This examination, if necessary, is conducted at the owner’s expense. CDC does not require cats to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, many states have rabies vaccination requirements for cats. Check with state and local health authorities at the final destination to determine any state requirements for rabies vaccination of cats. For more information about importing cats, see www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/cats.html.
All dogs and cats arriving in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, even from the US mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements. For more information about animal importation in Hawaii, consult http://hdoa.hawaii.gov or call 808-483-7151. For more information about animal importation in Guam, see www.guamcourts.org/CompilerofLaws/GAR/09GAR/09GAR001-1.pdf.
Nonhuman primates can transmit a variety of serious diseases to humans, including Ebola virus disease and tuberculosis. Nonhuman primates may only be imported into the United States by a CDC-registered importer and only for scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes. All nonhuman primates are considered endangered or threatened and require additional FWS permits for importation. Nonhuman primates that leave the United States may only return through a registered importer and only for the purpose of science, education, or exhibition. Nonhuman primates may not be imported as pets. Nonhuman primates that are kept as pets in the United States and travel outside of the United States will not be allowed to reenter the United States as pets. For more information on CDC’s importation requirements, see www.cdc.gov/importation/bringing-an-animal-into-the-united-states/monkeys.html.
Although often kept as pets, turtles can transmit Salmonella to humans. For this reason, CDC restricts the importation of some turtles. A person may import up to 6 viable turtle eggs or live turtles with a shell length of <4 in (10 cm) for noncommercial purposes. More live turtles or viable turtle eggs may be imported with CDC permission but only for science, education, or exhibition. CDC does not restrict the importation of live turtles with a shell length >4 inches. Check with USDA or FWS regarding additional requirements to import turtles. More information is available at www.cdc.gov/importation/bringing-an-animal-into-the-united-states/turtles.html.
African rodents are a known source of communicable diseases, such as monkeypox. Thus, CDC does not allow the importation of these animals. Exceptions may be made for animals imported for science, education, or exhibition purposes, with permission from CDC. Check with USDA or FWS regarding additional requirements to import African rodents. For additional information, see www.cdc.gov/importation/bringing-an-animal-into-the-united-states/african-rodents.html.
Civets and Related Animals
To reduce the risk of introducing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, civets and related animals (family Viverridae) may not be imported into the United States. Exceptions may be made for animals imported for science, education, or exhibition purposes, with permission from CDC. Check with USDA or FWS regarding additional requirements to import civets and related animals. For more information, see www.cdc.gov/importation/bringing-an-animal-into-the-united-states/civets.html.
Bats and Other Vectors
Bats are reservoirs of many viruses that can infect humans, including rabies virus, Nipah virus, and SARS coronavirus. To reduce the risk of introducing these viruses, the importation of all live bats requires a CDC permit. Many bats require additional permits issued by FWS. The application for a CDC import permit for bats can be found at www.cdc.gov/importation/bringing-an-animal-into-the-united-states/bats.html.
In some circumstances, known vectors of human disease such as ticks or mosquitoes may be imported into the United States with a permit from CDC for science, education, or exhibition. For additional information, see www.cdc.gov/phpr/ipp/index.htm.
Travelers planning to import horses, ruminants, swine, poultry or other birds, or dogs used for handling livestock should contact National Import Export Services, a part of USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, at 301-851-3300 or visit www.aphis.usda.gov to learn about additional requirements.
Travelers planning to import fish, reptiles, spiders, wild birds, rabbits, bears, wild members of the cat family, or other wild or endangered animals should contact FWS at 800-344-9453 (toll-free general number), 703-358-1949 (FWS Office of Law Enforcement), or visit www.fws.gov/le/travelers.html.
Importation of Animal Products
Trophies and Animal Products
Travelers often want to import animal skins, hunting trophies, or other items made from animals when returning from a trip. Many of these items must either be rendered noninfectious (see www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/animalproducts.html) or be accompanied by an import permit. CDC restricts products made from nonhuman primates, African rodents, civets, and bats. These products may also be regulated by other US federal agencies. CDC has the right to restrict other items known to carry infectious diseases. For example, CDC restricts goatskin souvenirs, such as Haitian goatskin drums, from entry into the United States because they have been associated with cases of anthrax in humans. Travelers who want to import hunting trophies or other products made from animals should check with CDC, USDA, and FWS to make sure they are complying with federal regulations.
Animal products may also include items intended for human consumption. Bushmeat, for example, is an animal product that is an important aspect of West and Central African culture. This product, generally raw, smoked, or partially processed meat from wild animals, might harbor infectious and zoonotic agents that can cause human and animal disease. Bushmeat has been linked to deadly diseases including Ebola. Recent studies have found evidence of simian foamy viruses, which are known to cause infections in humans but have not been associated with human disease. As people migrate around the world, bushmeat has become a growing commodity in the global wildlife trade. CDC prohibits the importation of bushmeat into the United States from CDC-restricted species. Bushmeat importation may also be restricted under USDA or FWS regulations. In addition to the human and animal health risks, many of the wild animals commonly hunted for bushmeat are threatened or endangered species protected by international wildlife laws and treaties such as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
For additional information about importing animals and animal products into the United States and for permit applications, travelers should visit www.cdc.gov/importation/index.html or contact 1-800-CDC INFO (1-800-232-4636). To request CDC permission to import a CDC-regulated animal or product, send a message to CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov.
G. Gale Galland, Robert J. Mullan, Heather Bair-Brake