Importing Pets and Wildlife

While many departments of the U.S. government share in monitoring the importation of pets and wildlife, the 1976 amendment to the Animal Welfare Act stipulates that the Department of Agriculture is responsible for establishing the standards for transporting, handling, and treating imported animals.

International Moving of Pets

The U.S. Public Health Service requires that all imported pets be examined for evidence of any disease that can be transmitted to humans, and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires that animals and birds, both domestic and wild, be free from any disease that could threaten our country's livestock and poultry industry.

It is important to note that the United States restricts the importation and exportation of many animals and birds protected by the international treaty of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). For the applicable restrictions and the documentation required for your animal's admittance into the States, contact the U.S. Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, Division of Quarantine, Main Stop E03, Atlanta, GA, 30333, U.S.A.; phone (404) 639-8107; Fax (404) 639-2599. You may also contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, who's address appears at the end of this guide.

Importing Pets and Wildlife
Importing Wildlife

The transport of any animal takes considerable planning by the pet owner. For example, you may be able to expedite the clearing procedure by writing to the veterinarian at the port of entry and notifying him of your pet's flight number and expected time of arrival. It's also a good idea to schedule the animal's arrival for a weekday when the personnel necessary to clear the animal are on duty.

Before attempting to import a pet, check with authorities from your state, county, and municipal governments for any restrictions they may have in place. Pet birds brought into the United States from foreign countries other than Canada are quarantined at the owner's expense for at least 30 days in a USDA-operated import facility. These USDA facilities are located in New York, Laredo, San Ysidro, Honolulu, Miami, El Paso, Los Angeles, Brownsville, and Nogales. Prior to accepting a bird for quarantine 1, the USDA requires payment of a fee that will be applied to the cost of quarantine services. Since space at the USDA quarantine facilities is limited, make a reservation for your bird prior to your arrival. (To reserve space, contact the USDA, or an American consulate or embassy and ask for VS Form 17-23).

You will also be required to present a health certificate signed - within 30 days of arrival in the United States - by a government veterinarian from the bird's country of origin, stating that the bird has been examined and is free from disease. This document will also attest to the fact that the bird is being exported in accordance with the laws of the country.

Importing Pets - Importing Dogs and Cats

Dogs and Cats

At the port of entry, dogs and cats are examined to determine if they are free from any disease communicable to humans. A vaccination against rabies is not required for cats; however, dogs must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to entry into the United States. A valid rabies vaccination certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian must include the dog's name and the dates it was vaccinated, and when it expires, it should go with the pet.

If the dog's vaccination was administered less than one month before its arrival, the pet will be admitted into the country but will be placed in quarantine by the owner until the required 30 days have expired. There are special guidelines for importing puppies, so check with the U.S. Public Health Service for specific details.

Other Animals

There are no public health restrictions on importing live turtles with a shell length of more than 3 inches. While smaller turtles may also be imported, customs
regulations limit their entry to one lot of fewer than seven live turtles or fewer than seven viable turtle eggs, or any combination of the two.

Monkeys, lemurs, baboons, chimpanzees, and all other non-human primates may not be imported. The only exceptions are those primates imported for scientific, educational or exhibition purposes by an importer registered with the Centers for Disease Control.

Game birds and animals may be imported if accompanied by the necessary documentation. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the restrictions placed on importing wildlife and for clarification of the documentation required.